TEACHING, A LITTLE PIECE OF HOLY GROUND
“I expected something much greater – an instructor of the young, training the mind in order to train the heart.” (Pere Girard 1894). Teaching is an awesome responsibility as a teacher moulds, equips and trains an individual to go out into the world with adequate knowledge on how to handle life.
“Teacher: one who imparts instruction and communicates knowledge of religious truth or other matters” (Merril C. Tenney, p. 600, 1967). A teacher is also a role model to the student. The greatest role model of humanity is Jesus Christ. He is the epitome of a teacher. “Jesus went throughout Galilee teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the Kingdom and healing every disease and sickness among the people.” Jesus is the epitome of a teacher who operated in all the spiritual gifts. “Teaching in the Christian faith was validated by Jesus who was called teacher or Rabbi.” (Jack W. Hayford, p. 777, 1995)
I Corinthians 12:28 says “And in the Church God has appointed first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles, also those having gifts of healing, those able to help others, those with gifts of administration and those speaking in different kinds of tongues”.
Summary of main issues from primary author: The author compares teaching, taking apostle Paul as an example, to a father instructing his children. “This sense of identity is helped along by fathering a mixture of warmth, instruction and expectation”. (David P. Gerhee and Walter Jackson, 1996)
The first skill in teaching that the authors put forward is attending; in other words attending is learning to listen and being attentive. The second skill they put forward is asserting. Being assertive is being able to put forward your own thoughts, being able to put your points across without manipulation. The author now illustrates teaching quoting I Thessalonians 2:1-11 where apostle Paul compares teaching to a mother and child. The mother sees her child as part of herself in the same way the teacher sees the student as part of himself/herself. “Teaching is that intimate encounter that recognises and affirms difference and distance.” (David P. Geshee and Walter C. Jackson, 1996). Now on the portion of learners on holy ground “what actually occurs in a learning setting differs sharply with what was planned because it gives attention to the learner’s experience of learning”. (Geshee and Jackson, 1996) Therefore the learning process has many dimensions. The learner has to concentrate on what the teacher is saying; the learner has to process the information and retain the information. Life also has a very significant part as the learner experiences the different aspects and the different stages he walks through in life.
Teachers on holy ground: Just as the learner goes through stages in his life where he goes through experiences that he learns from, the teacher on the other hand walks on the stage which is quite the contrary. The teacher is the ultimate performer to an audience who are the learners. “What teachers do speaks volumes about who teachers are.” (Gushee and Jackson, 1996) Teachers bring in their whole personality into the classroom and their conscious and unconscious body language plays a vital role in the classroom.
Grounded on holy ground: The learner now goes out into the world called a “learned” carrying a degree in hand; yet, on the other hand, faces life and still carries on the spiritual journey of learning.
Critical review of author’s ideas: “This sense of identity is helped along by fathering – a mixture of warmth, instruction and expectation”. (Gushee & Jackson, 1996) I believe a father is a father; a teacher can nowhere be compared to a father. God is our father and God is the ultimate father of the world; and second in the fatherly hierarchy, come our parents and our parents are individual role models to the children only then come the teachers. Yes, the teachers do have a vital role to play in a learner’s life but a teacher cannot take the place of a father.
“Attending is the first skill – learning to listen, praying close attention to the full context of the conversation.” (Geshee & Jackson, 1996)
I personally believe that attending is not the first skill. On the contrary, it is preparation and gaining knowledge of the material to be taught. For a counsellor on the other hand, attending becomes the first skill; but for a teacher there is nothing more important than preparation.
“Asserting is the other skill. This means presenting our own insights and beliefs forcefully but without manipulation.” (Geshee & Jackson, 1996) I believe that the teacher must also get ideas from the learners if a teacher has false beliefs and information, this can lead many learners astray. As 2 Pet. 2:1 says: “But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you”. Therefore if a false teacher is assertive, he could be imparting false doctrine in the mind of a learner.
“The mother and child model of interpersonal relationships has much to say about Christian teaching.” (Gushee & Jackson, 1996) A mother and child relationship is unique. Christian teaching enables a learner to comprehend the Scriptures and, unless in exceptions, it is good to advice a learner and listen to a learner; but it is wrong to get emotionally involved with a learner. Therefore, a mother/child illustration to Christian teaching is ‘NOT’ a reality, but on the contrary, a fantasy.
“There is one other issue that is critical to learning style – the role of life experiences.” (Gushee & Jackson, 1996) I believe life is the most significant learning experience for an individual. Life can also be a breaking experience for an individual, with God guiding the individual. Having the right people’s influence, the individual can learn from life; but if the individual becomes entangled in the wrong company and sin, life can break the individual and the whole personality of the individual is distorted.
“They see their work as a solo performance.” (Gushee & Jackson 1996) If a teacher sees his work as a solo performance, he would be so preoccupied with the theatrics of the performance that he would fail to realise that there are minds he has to nurture and provide knowledge to, and from whom he too can benefit intellectually.
Biblical Discussion: “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” Matt. 28:19,20
This verse tells us that God instructs us, His children, to go out into the world to be missionaries in the world, and teach others the word of God, not only through speech, but also through example. “He said to them, ‘Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation’.” (Mark 16:15) God instructs us as His children to go out and preach the good news. There is a difference between preaching and teaching the Gospel, but what ultimately counts is that others listen and put their trust and faith in God.
“You must teach what is in accord with sound doctrine.” (Titus 2:1) This tells us to teach in sound doctrine, to teach what the word of God teaches us. “In everything, set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching, show integrity, seriousness.” (Titus 2:7) This tells us not only to teach, but to be an example to other believers and non-believers so that we teach, not only though word, but also through action.
L. Richards says ‘ teach’ sound doctrine. This means ‘to speak, assert, proclaim’. What is to be the subject of this vocal instruction? Not ‘sound doctrine’ itself, but a lifestyle that is in harmony with the revealed truths that shape our understanding of God and of the meaning of life in this world. This is the reason apostle Paul urges Titus to teach sound doctrine and at the same time, to be an example to all believers.
“And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others.” 2 Tim. 2:2 This verse shows that even in the eschatological times of apostle Paul, there was a need for Bible teachers who would teach the word of God, not just through word, but also through example.
Integration of ideas on topic from other writers: “Within the gospels, one of the most frequently used designations is the teacher. It occurs forty-five times – fourteen times he is referred to as Rabbi. So it is obvious that one of the prominent functions of our Lord during his public ministry was teaching”. (Howard G. Hendricks, p. 13, 1988)
Jesus was a teacher not only through word, but also through example, and this awesome teacher, our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, is impacting the world today. “Good teaching, well done, is hard and satisfying intellectual, emotional and physical work. It is also socially responsible work.” (Susan Groundwater, Robyn Ewing and Rosie Le Cornu, p. 1, 1998) There is a lot of hard work that goes into good teaching and the teacher gives of himself/herself emotionally, psychologically and intellectually.
A teacher has to be reflective and analytical as he/she will have to make decisions on how to present the subject matter to the learners. (Kevin Barry, Len King, p. 4, 1998) The teacher is the one who educates the learner. The teacher is the one with all the information which he in turn passes on to the learner. The learner cannot gain these facts by himself. He relies on the teacher to be a walking computer. (Anne Forester and Margaret Reinhard, p. 32, 1994)
“At present, opinion is divided about the subject of education. People do not take the same view about what should be learned by the young, either with a view to human excellence, or a view to the best possible life, nor is it clear whether education should be directed mainly to the intellect or to moral character; whether the proper studies to be pursued are those that are useful in life or those which make for excellence; or those that advance the bounds of knowledge men do not all honour the same excellence and so naturally they differ about the proper training for it. (Aristotle)” (Christopher J. Lucas, p. 47, 1972)
“Then as Gentiles began to be accepted into the fold and the old Judaic law was abandoned, the need for a process of instruction in the rudiments of the faith became apparent.” (Christopher J. Lucas, p. 176, 1972) This portion tells us, just as in Biblical times there was a need for Biblical teachers with not just heart knowledge, but those who practise what they teach, there was and there is a need for teachers who are able to teach the rudiments of the Christian faith guided and inspired by the Holy Spirit.
“It seems to me very dangerous to apply the aims and methods of science to human beings as individuals .. teaching involves emotions, which cannot be systematically appraised and employed and human values which are quite outside the grasp of science.” (Higet, 1954)
In reply to Higet, Gorge replied “So it is with teaching. Although teaching requires artistry it can be subjected to scientific scrutiny”. (Michael J. Dunkin & Bruce J. Biddle, p. 18, 1936) Teaching is therefore an art and a science combined together to form an individual moulding the minds of other individuals. “Teaching is an activity designed to facilitate the process of learning by providing the desired information, by arranging circumstances, activities and opportunities that are likely to promote skill and knowledge acquisition, and by providing the necessary guides to keep the processes of learning on the desired track.” (Gavriel Solomon, p. 35, 1992)
This tells us that a teacher needs to prepare himself before teaching us that by good sound preparation he should be able to guide the learner on the desired track of learning. But the key for understanding this paragraph is preparation. “The teacher talks more than all the students combined. He manages class activities by giving directions. He expresses his ideas by lecturing. He stimulates student participation by asking questions. The first step toward systematic classroom management is made when a teacher understands how to control his verbal communication so that he can use his influence as a social force”. (Ned A. Flanders, p. 42, 1967) A teacher is in control of a classroom of learners (most often) and this teacher influences these learners through word; that is by teaching and asking thought provoking questions and by action or example.
Let us take the example of apostle Paul. Apostle Paul was not just a teacher of the word but he also practised what he preached. “As a Jew and a rabbi, Saul of Tarsus knew the Old Testament well. The similarities between Christ’s approach and Paul’s are not accidental. Undoubtedly Christ singled out relevant Old Testament passages and taught his disciples the principles by which they were to be interpreted.” (William Sanford, David Allan, Frederic Williams, p. 3, 1982) Paul, who was an example by speech and action to the followers of Jesus Christ, followed the example of Jesus Christ himself. Paul was a perfect teacher who had the gift of apostleship. When Mahatma Gandhi of India followed the example of Sathyagraha or non-violence, numerous Indians followed him. He was a teacher of action and example. He practised what he preached.
“An important part of the teacher’s work is to nurture students and to manage information in such a way that each student achieves maximum intellectual, social, physical, emotional and spiritual growth.” (Kevin Barry and Len King, p. 6, 1993)
Jesus, who is the epitome of a perfect teacher at the commencement of his public ministry, did a lot of teaching which equipped and enhanced the people as well as their comprehension of God. “He taught His disciples and the crowds that followed Him from a mountainside at the beginning of His public ministry.” (Matt. 5:1). The central theme of the sermon is summarized in Matt. 5:48, “You shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect”. The word ‘perfect’ does not refer to sinless or moral perfection. It indicates completeness, wholeness, maturity – being all that God wants a person to be”. (Thomas Nelson, p. 317, 1993) This indicates that a teacher in no way has to be perfect. No one is perfect except God, but a teacher has to mould the mind of a learner to bring it to intellectual and spiritual maturity.
In the same way, the word of God nurtures and matures our mind. When Jesus ascended to heaven He sent His Holy Spirit on the earth. The Holy Spirit is our Guide and our teacher. (Acts 2:3) “The promises of divine instruction given in these verses pertain to several areas.
- Instruction in “all things: (John 14:26);
- Recollection of Christ’s past utterances (14:26);
- Guidance into “all truth” (16:13);
- Declaration of future events (16:13); and
- Revelation of the “deep things” of God (1 Cor. 2:10).
Examining these verses will help us see how the Holy Spirit specifically conducts his teaching ministry.” (Roy B. Zuck, p. 36, 1978)
When did the real surge into learning come about? This occurred in the 13th century. The 13th century is called the “wonderful century of the medieval world”. It was in this century that universities were raised up and the scholars got the resources together. (Ellwood P. Cubberley, p. 241, 1948).
Ministry Application: “When we integrate all these terms and concepts into our notion of teaching, what do we discover. First the teaching ministry is one of shaping lives, not simply one of passing on even true information. Second, Christian teaching deals with every aspect of our lives.” (L. Richards, 1987)
To be a Christian Bible school teacher, one has to have a close relationship with God and His word. “It simply means bringing the insights of Scripture to bear on the daily lives of learners by modelling, instructing, encouraging, advising, urging, exhorting, guiding, exposing and convicting.” (L. Richards, 1987)
Therefore a Christian teacher has to know and apply the Scriptures in his own life so that he would be able to put forth what he has learned in his life to the life of the learners that he is called to encourage. Therefore, I believe that it is not just the teaching skills or just the knowledge of the word of God, but both these principles which complement each other, and guided by the holy spirit, that make a good teacher.
Conclusion: In conclusion, I would like to say that to be a Christian teacher is an awesome responsibility, not just for the learners, but also a responsibility before God and for God. “What really counts in the end is whether a person’s mind is radically transformed by Christ and so spiritually attuned to the mind of Christ, that he thinks instinctively from the depths of his mental being in a way worthy of God.” (Kenneth O Gangol, p. 74, 1988)
Therefore it is not just the learner, but also the teacher who benefits from the word of God. As the teacher equips the learner, the teacher’s life is enhanced by the word of God.
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