“And He went forth again by the sea side; and all the multitude resorted unto Him, and He taught them.” ~ Mark 2:13
A recent survey (conducted by Ligonier Ministries) has shown that there is much confusion in the church about what The Bible teaches about many issues of everyday life. It appears that many Christians have insufficient knowledge of truth to apply it consistently to their lives. It appears Christians lack a true Biblical worldview because they don’t know enough of The Bible to build one. It is hard to build a ‘widget’ if you don’t have any idea what that ‘widget’ is supposed to look like and how it is supposed to function.
Certainly, there is enough blame to go around. There is individual responsibility, brotherly responsibility, and pastoral responsibility. However, before assigning blame it may be helpful to just examine what has gone wrong, rather than who did it. And, to this end, our text sheds ample light on the problem.
Jesus spent most of His public ministry teaching. He healed many individuals, but a great majority of people experienced Him as a teacher. We know Jesus spent private time in prayer (Mark 1:35), and it is probably reasonable to assume that He sang psalms of worship from time to time, but the bulk of His ministry was teaching. Indeed, He began teaching at twelve (Luke 2:41-50), approximately eighteen years before performing His first (recorded) miracle (John 2:1-12).
As the Gospels show us, the crowds that followed Jesus were mostly interested in having Jesus minister to their physical needs (e.g., Mark 1:32-34). They brought their sick to Him to be healed; they followed Him because He fed them miraculously (John 6:26-27). The physical needs of the people were genuine: they needed help, and Jesus’ helped many. But, more than miracle-working, Jesus’ was devoted to teaching them.
Likewise, today we have real pressing physical needs that we rightly bring to Jesus. But, more than showering us with blessings, Jesus wants us to “learn of” Him (Matthew 11:29). He who is the Truth (John 14:6) wants us to know the Truth so that we can be set free by the Truth (John 8:32) so that we can walk in Truth (Psalm 86:11). The transformation to which Believers are called comes through a renewing of our minds (Romans 12:1-2), not our flesh, not our bank accounts, not our thrills. We are transformed by the renewing of our minds!
“Teach me thy way, O Lord; I will walk in thy truth…” ~ Psalm 86:11a
Jesus’ emphasis on teaching, as the core of the ministry of the Gospel, is made even clearer in “The Great Commission”; where the disciples (and thereby the church) are commanded (twice) to teach. (The only other ministerial command given in “The Great Commission” is to baptize.)
“Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you” ~ Matthew 28:19-20a
The primary ministry of the Church is therefore teaching. The church is called to teach.
It is clear that the twelve disciples/apostles got the message: they understood that teaching was imperative, for they committed themselves to the work of teaching above all other duties:
“Then the twelve called the multitude of the disciples unto them, and said, It is not reason that we should leave the word of God, and serve tables. Wherefore, brethren, look ye out among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business. But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word.” ~ Acts 6:2-4
The critical importance of teaching is amplified even further, where ALL Believers are instructed to prepare themselves to be able to teach if called on.
“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” ~ 2 Timothy 2:15
And, indeed, we are ALL expected to mature spiritually to the level of teachers.
“For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat. For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.” ~ Hebrews 5:12-14
In summary, every Believer, especially those in leadership roles, has responsibility to teach. Teaching is the primary ministry Jesus instructs us to use in the development of the Church. While we all can’t serve as teachers in any given Church, we are ALL expected to study God’s Word enough to become experts and thereby able to teach if necessary.
Lazy laymen do not bring glory to God through slothful study habits. Likewise, lazy leaders jeopardize the development of the Church when failing to provide instruction necessary to produce a healthy, well-fed flock who can stand strong in the whirlwind of false-teaching/un-truths swirling around them daily.
Church is not the place for motivational speaking, it is the place for nutritional teaching. A hungry man motivated is still hungry. Likewise, singing to a hungry man might help him forget his hunger for a while; but, when the music ends, his hunger remains. However, a hungry man fed and taught how to find food can help himself and other hungry men.
To be clear, there is nothing wrong with music ministries, exhortation ministries, and so on. God created these ministries; they are good and serve to edify The Church. However, as both Jesus and the apostles showed us, teaching God’s Word (which presupposes diligent study of God’s Word) takes a decided and definitive first place in the establishing of the Church.