By Hal Snyder
The Great Commission requires that Christ’s disciples teach others (Matt. 28:19-20; Mk. 16:15-16; also read Jn. 6:45). Christianity is certainly a “taught” religion. People will not be converted without teaching, for none will be saved against their will or by accident (Acts 2:40; Heb. 5:9). And, no one can remain faithful as a child of God without continuing to learn (2 Pet. 3:18). So long as we may live, we must keep on studying, learning, living, and teaching the word of God (Gal. 6:9).
The church’s primary mission is to save the lost (Lk. 19:10). This is accomplished by evangelizing (Acts 20:20), edifying (Eph. 4:11-16), and ministering to the saints (2 Cor. 9:1).
Our teaching involves saint and sinner alike – people learn from what we both say and do (Matt. 5:16).
Consider how the church teaches people:
1. From the pulpit. Still this is the most powerful means of emphasizing the word of God. It has the advantage of teaching many at one time (many can be persuaded by the same words) and people are in attendance because they choose to be there. But there are some disadvantages, too. The preacher relies on his judgment (or that of the elders) in the selection of material to be presented. Unfortunately such may not be what everyone needs and there is no opportunity to deal with questions or problems of audience. Yet pulpit preaching remains an effective means of reaping the fruits of the labors of the entire congregation.
2. Personal evangelism. This allows everyone in the congregation to get involved (not so much a collective work of the church, rather work by individual Christians – see Acts 5:42). This is the most effective method of teaching because it allows the teacher to deal with questions when they arise and many personal problems or misunderstandings can be dealt with immediately. No doubt this is the most effective way of reaching people with the gospel of Christ.
3. Bible classes. This is one of the most effective means of teaching. Most agree that 90 percent of our conversions come as a result of such public teaching. Its advantages are that many people can be taught the same thing at one time; it is a more direct method of teaching than from the pulpit; and the teacher can deal with questions as they arise. But the most serious disadvantage of this method lies in the fact that we can only teach those who are present (Acts 10:33). And often something else is needed to get people there in the first place.
4. Printed page. There is tremendous power in the printed page, be it a newspaper, periodical, or tract. One can study thoroughly the subject at hand; study can be accomplished at the reader’s convenience (when they are in the proper frame of mind); and it is comparatively inexpensive. To be effective, the printed message must be a high-quality product, well-written, and attractive to the eye. But, only where the interest has been aroused will the message be effective. Also the printed material should be given to the right person, in the right way, at the right time. Remember that tracts are effective, particularly in visitation work.
5. Electronic media. The mass media (especially radio and television) can be a means of reaching many people at the same time with a common message. In overall cost and potential audience it is relatively inexpensive at the per listener/viewer rate. On the other hand, it is all too easy to just turn off the radio or TV, or to even change stations/channels. These methods are not as effective because the message is not as direct. The mass media are best utilized to make contacts, which makes any follow-up work (personal visits) imperative. Remember that the one-on-one teaching is the most-effective. Any preaching by this method should involve the interests of the entire congregation. Members of the congregation know the interests and needs of their friends, neighbors, and relatives. This way members, of the congregation can talk to them about the broadcast (subject, questions about the topic, or what was or wasn’t said) in an attempt to involve the contact in the personal evangelism process, invite them to Bible study and/or worship services or, perhaps, give them a tract.
Whatever method we employ, our efforts are concentrated on taking the message to them – that’s the “go” part of Matthew 28:19.
Guardian of Truth XXXIII: 10, p. 308
May 18, 1989