Tending to my knitting
1Timothy 4: Keep a firm grasp on both your character and your teaching.
A portion of the minister’s life is spent “up front.” The congregation gathers and the pastor opens the Word of God and begins to preach and teach from it. It’s tempting to come up with interesting stories or to ride whatever hobby horse is in play at the time, but instead, the minister is to keep his or her teaching in check. God doesn’t call people to the ministry to entertain with stories or to convince others that their political views are the same as God’s. The preaching and teaching is for the good of the kingdom and not an ego trip. Another portion of the minister’s (and everyone else’s for that matter) life is more private. The more successful the public ministry is the greater the temptation to cut corners when no one’s watching. If the minister drifts off from sound teaching, there’s a chance that someone will point that out. However, if character is lacking, things can get far out of hand before it’s found out. To some extent, ministers have a lot of help keeping a firm grasp on their teaching and preaching, but practically no help at all doing so with matters of personal character. Paul urges Timothy to tend to his knitting on both fronts. This is good advice for ministers of all times and places, and actually, good advice for all of us.
Take Away: The real “you” is the person you are in private when no one is watching.
Teaching on teaching
Matthew 13: Are you starting to get a handle on all this?
In this chapter Matthew gives us several examples of Jesus teaching. We hear about the sower and the seed, a series of stories about how, in the Judgment, the division of the human race will take place and stories that illustrate the growth of the Kingdom of God. Of course, each story is true and helps us better understand spiritual reality. However, the overall purpose of the stories is to teach the disciples how to teach kingdom truths. Jesus explains that the reason he tells stories is to “create readiness.” If he begins his teachings at the high school level, all those who are at the elementary level are left out. Therefore, he starts with stories that pry open some new small comprehension that wasn’t there before. As he concludes this “teaching on teaching” Jesus asks his disciples if they get it. I think “getting it” doesn’t necessarily mean that we Sunday preachers are supposed to always build our sermons around stories (although it’s not a bad idea). Instead, “getting it” means that we remember to start our preaching at the level of our listeners. Seasoned students of the Word tend to forget that things we take for granted are new territory for others. We also like “church words” and freely sprinkle them into our sermons. On one hand, we don’t want to show disrespect for people by talking down to them. On the other hand, we don’t want to be so “above and beyond” that the average person is untouched by truths that could transform their lives.
Take Away: We need to minister to people at their level of understanding.