Lately I have been thinking about the strategy that the church uses as a means to encourage the spiritual formation of others, specifically children. The following is the fifth article of a series of articles that attempts to understand how we can do this. You can find all the articles at www.drewboswell.com.
Evaluation is a means to make a poor teacher, adequate, an adequate teacher, good, or a good teacher, exceptional. Ephesians 4:11â€“13 states, â€œIt was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare Godâ€™s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built upâ€ (NIV). These verses show that it is the responsibility of those who are in a churchâ€™s leadership position to train and equip those who teach the body of Christ.
While the Bible commands all Christians to â€œgo and make disciples,â€ which involves â€œteaching them to obey everything I have commanded youâ€ and all parents are given clear mandate to teach their children the ways of the Lord, should anyone or everyone teach in the church? In 1 Cor 12:4â€“7 it teaches that all Christians have been given a spiritual gift but that not all Christians have the same gift. These spiritual gifts are not for their own benefit but for the edification and common good of the church body. The verse states, â€œThere are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men. Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common goodâ€ (NIV).
Later in verse 12 Paul adds, â€œThe body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body,â€ and he continues this line of thought in verse 14, â€œNow the body is not made up of one part but of manyâ€ (NIV). Therefore, if the church is to be seen allegorically as a body, which is made of different parts performing different functions, the answer to the previous question is no, not everyone should seek to teach but only those who have been given this gift from God. Romans 12:3â€“6 teaches that even among those who have the spiritual gift of teaching, this gift should be exercised in humbleness and love;
For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you. Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given us (NIV).
James 3:1 warns that there will be an ultimate evaluation of the teaching ministry within the Church; â€œNot many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictlyâ€ (NIV). Those that presume to teach should be evaluated in order to determine if they have the gift of teaching, and if they are exercising this gift with humility and love, so that when their ultimate evaluation before God is given they will hear the words, â€œWell done, good and faithful servant!â€ (NIV).
But even if a person has been given the gift of teaching, there are other things to consider. Philippians 3:12â€“14 says,
Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus (NIV).
Therefore, a teacher is to be an example of a person who is â€œpressing onâ€ and growing and maturing in their own faith. They recognize that even though they are an example that their students are to follow, they are not perfect and have areas of their own lives in which they need to grow.
God requires that teachers be faithful and 1 Cor 4:2 says, â€œNow it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithfulâ€ (NIV). Eldridge says, â€œThose in a Bible study class need to know that a teacher will be consistently present, adequately prepared, and personally interested in their lives.â€ If studentsâ€™ lives are to be changed because of the teaching in the classroom, they must respect and trust their teachers. Teachers must also be faithful to following the leadership that is over them, to remaining faithful to Godâ€™s Word, and to the church as a whole. Bruce Wilkinson has said,
If the truth has already transformed the teacher, then the truth has a far greater chance of transforming the students. Thatâ€™s why teaching other peopleâ€™s material often lacks power. Unless your presentation has your fingerprints on it, and has made a difference in your life, you can almost count on it not to compel you students to make changes in their lives.
The Bible has to move the teacher and change her heart before it can ever move the studentsâ€™ hearts toward obedience and love for God.
1 Corinthians 13:2 says, â€œIf I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothingâ€ (NIV). The apostle Paul gives another evaluative component of those that should teach within the local church, love. If a teacher lacks love for his students, but is brilliant in subject matter Paul says that he is â€œnothing.â€ Superior knowledge cannot replace love in the classroom. This is not a mushy sentimentality, but a genuine concern for anotherâ€™s well-being.
Continuing to address the question of who should teach in the church, there is another area to be evaluated. Does the proposed teacher know how to study the Bible? While churches often give their teachers curriculum to follow, the Bible is ultimately the core of what is being taught. Eldridge states that it is hard to teach a lesson from Scripture if one only relies on other peopleâ€™s understanding of the text. When a teacher personally studies and wrestles with the concept in her own mind, it will enhance the teaching time far more than a skim through a teacherâ€™s guide to a curriculum. Along this same line of thought is the teacherâ€™s ability to communicate what he has learned or studied in such a way that the students understand. Even though the teacher may be well prepared and the text may have moved him greatly, he still needs to be able to show the students how to apply it to their lives at a level that they can understand. Besides knowledge of the subject matter, teachers need to understand the learning process.
Lastly, following the thought of evaluating who should teach, an administrator should look for a person who understands the importance of developing relationships both within and outside the classroom. The teacher has a very special opportunity to foster and cultivate a relationship that no one else can. It is through this relationship of love and understanding that the most dynamic teaching and learning can take place. It is during this most influential time that students need teachers who love and desire to teach them in such a way that their lives will be changed.
 Matt 28:19â€“20
 Deuteronomy 6
 Matt 25:21
 Eldridge, The Teaching Ministry of the Church, 298.
 Bruce Wilkinson, The Seven Laws of a Learner (Sisters, OR; Multnomah, 1992), 157.
 Eldridge, The Teaching Ministry of the Church, 299.