By Hal Snyder
Over the years people have identified three kinds of teachers, each of which are remembered (or forgotten) for different reasons.
– There are teachers who are never remembered because they influence their students so very little.
– There are teachers who are never forgiven (unless it’s after they’ve passed away) due to their harshness and failure to communicate concern.
– There are teachers who are never forgotten because of their care and effectiveness in helping their students grow.
The story is told of James Michner, the author, who once declined an invitation from President Eisenhower for dinner at the White House because it was scheduled for the same evening that Michner’s high school teacher was being honored. It seems that the author would not be missed at the White House, but he would be dearly missed by his teacher, to whom he owed such a debt.
There are several qualities we must possess if we are to be effective teachers of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
1. Effective teachers must know God and his Son, Jesus. “This is eternal life, that they might know the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent” (Jn. 17:3). Many of us have not had a new thought about God since we were children. An effective teacher evaluates his concepts of and about God constantly (to be sure they are both complete and accurate).
2. Effective teachers must know the message they desire to communicate. A farmer once remarked, “You can’t no more teach whatcha don’t know than you can come back from where yah ain’t been! ” Unfortunately some people have developed the concept that one must be suspicious of an “educated” preacher, as if he is not “called by God” and cannot be trusted. This presumes the claim of continued guidance and revelation, neither of which arrangement is Bible taught (Gal. 1:8; 2 Jn. 9-10). It is imperative that the teacher of the gospel be properly prepared (Eph. 6:15), which preparation is gained through diligent study (2 Tim. 2:15).
3. Effective teachers must know the mission and the true nature of the church. The church is the “body of Christ” (Col. 1:18). Its mission is the same as was Christ’s when he walked this earth. Notice that Christ evangelized saint and sinner alike (Lk. 19:10); and stressed edification (strengthening the saved, Luke 22:32), individual responsibility in benevolence matters (Matt. 25:34-46), and worship and devotion to God (Lk. 4:16-21; Jn. 4:23-24). Our mission is to do the same and to give the world the opportunity to be Christians only. We do not need to restore the Restoration, so much as we need to restore the church of the New Testament. Understand that most religious groups teach and practice some truth. The primary difference between the denominations and the churches of Christ is that we seek to practice all of the truth at the same time. Knowing this difference and communicating this difference well is what makes a teacher effective.
4. Effective teachers must know human nature. The parable of the sower describes four different kinds of soil: wayside, rocky, thorny, and good (Matt. 13:3-8). Even the good soil was varied, some bringing forth 100, 60, and 30 fold (Matt. 13:23). People have varying temperaments and God recognizes this (Rom. 12:18). We are asked to give some thought as to how to answer everyone (Col. 4:6) and to “speak the truth in love” (Eph. 4:15). The content of our message will be more readily received if it is accompanied by love, tact, respect, and sincerity, especially if we arc recognized as having integrity. The Roman poet Cicero once remarked that an orator was “a good man speaking well.”
Conscientious Christians often excuse themselves from teaching because they feel unworthy and inadequate to attempt such a serious task (presumably because the consequences of eternity, are so far reaching). It should be stressed, however, that ones who have the talent and opportunity (Matt. 25:15-30) will be held responsible for the failure to teach (Jas. 4:17; 2 Cor. 5: 10), even as one must answer for a defective effort at teaching (Rom. 14:12).
Our Lord depends upon the preaching and teaching of his word for the furtherance his kingdom (Matt. 28:18-20; Mk. 16:15-16; Acts 20:20). If we fail, he has made no other provisions.
Guardian of Truth XXXIV; 9, p. 271
May 3, 1990