If the title of this article was a little shocking please read the rest of this article.
A simple test of a good teacher is to ask what they teach. If their answer is Maths, English, Science, History or Geography, they probably don’t understand their role. If they say students, pupils, young people, or adults, there is a possibility that they know their trade. Of course, such a simple test is simplistic; word games are not reality. The answers would be different if the question was who they teach. Yet there is a truth in this little test; teaching is a relational activity.
Certainly teaching involves subject material; there is content to be conveyed. But the aim of the exercise involves conveying information from one person to another. The best teachers do more than convey information; they whet the appetite for learning, they develop the student’s capacity to understand, analyse, explore and discover other information. The well-taught student is not limited to the information their teacher has imparted to them. Good education is not really a curriculum matter but a teaching skill that relies heavily on the relationship the teacher can develop with the student.
Usually the teachers we remember and love the most did more than impart information to us. They were the ones who opened the world to us, taking us to places and ideas, understanding and critical thinking that we did not know even existed prior, to them taking an interest in us.
A pastor or minister is a teacher. Preaching is a particular form of teaching. Evangelism involves teaching. Paul described his ministry to the Ephesians as “teaching you in public and from house to house, testifying both to Jews and to Greeks of repentance toward God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 20:20-21). And he directs his protégé Timothy to “Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers” (1 Tim 4:16). In selecting elders both Timothy and Titus, are instructed to look for men who can teach (1 Tim 3:2; Tit 1:9) just as Christianity is learnt (Eph 4:21; Col 1:7).
There is an important difference between teaching the Bible and teaching people the Bible. It is easy to be so engaged in what we teach that we forget whom we are teaching. We can even be oblivious to the fact that we are not teaching anybody. This is particularly true of the sermon. The monologue engages the preacher’s mind but can completely miss the hearers’ thinking.