Think through those times when you are learning something you will practice. You’ll learn information, you’ll watch someone doing what you’re learning, you’ll try it yourself, you’ll receive feedback on how to do it better from someone more experienced, and you’ll keep this process going until you are able to do the skill on your own. This is how most everyone learns to play an instrument, cook, drive, speak a different language, build something, etc. You don’t really learn something until you practice it.
After you are comfortable practicing this skill on your own, you develop expertise as you grow over time in using what you learned.
The same principle applies to all the aspects of living our faith in the Lord. We understand that the Lord’s Word is powerful, and as a result we leaders spend a great deal of time teaching with words alone. We are right to focus on giving others a solid understanding of the Lord’s Word as revealed in Scripture in our teaching. However, we would be more effective in the way we train Jesus’ disciples if we taught the whole person.
A number of passages in the New Testament do tell us that we need to understand the Word correctly, but obedience involves much more than our minds. In the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20), Jesus does not tell us to teach correct understanding and doctrine. Jesus says we should teach disciples to “Obey all that I have commanded you.” This does involves understanding, but Jesus is primarily referring to the need to learn to live in a way that glorifies the Lord through our obedience.
The two greatest commands also call us to love in more than just our understanding.
Therefore, if we as the church are going to fulfill the Great Commission, then we need to teach and coach disciples for obedient attitudes and practices in addition to understanding. We do this by following the same practices we would in teaching other skills. This applies to prayer, Bible study, worship, serving, and all the practical ways of obeying Jesus. It also applies to how we express the Fruit of the Spirit, respond to difficult situations and temptation, follow the Lord’s guidance, and all other ways we express our Christian character.
Our teaching efforts will become significantly more effective when we focus on teaching the life of faith in Jesus to the whole person rather than just the mind. We’ll explore this further over time. There is no magic to this style of teaching, so you can begin trying it in your own community of disciples. Try it out, and send me a note letting me know of any challenges you experienced as well as new levels of success.
Blessings as we all grow in living as Jesus’ joyfully obedient disciples.