Different images may come into your minds when I say you as a discipler need to teach.
One person may think of someone at school, another a coach.
There are at least two different kinds of teaching that I am convinced you need to pursue becoming better at if you are going to disciple others.
First, there is a more formal kind of instruction. And by formal, I don’t mean that you wear a nice outfit when you do it, but instead I mean, that you begin with the Bible and you intentionally and deliberately take someone through a certain body of truth or instruction in the Bible that they need to know and understand.
And then second, there is a more informal kind of teaching. And this is where you start with the person and what’s going on in their life and you help them learn to think and apply the Bible to their world and to the specific situations that are going on in their lives.
And the second kind of teaching, the informal kind of teaching, it almost seems sometimes like there are even more commands for us as members of the church to be doing this kind of instructing with the people we are discipling, and because it is such an important part of discipleship, we are going to take a whole Sunday I think to talk about how to do that, when we begin the new year.
But this first kind of teaching is also important; it’s important that we make systematic and specific intentional teaching of certain truths an integral part of our discipleship. What I am saying is there are certain fundamental truths in the Bible that every Christian needs to have taught to them and explained to them so that they can continue to move forward in their relationship with God and their life in Christ.
One way to think of it, like obviously with teaching children, there are certain basics they need to learn in grade naught, if they are going to move forward to grade 1, and if they don’t understand those fundamental concepts, they are not going to be able to learn what they need to in the next grade and there is a certain sense in which that is true spiritually as well.
I was reading a really sad story of a boy who was sold into slavery by his own father at the age of five after his mother had died, and this was in the early 1900’s in America, actually after slavery had been outlawed, it was still continuing in some places in the South and this boy, his mother was a believer and had taught him certain things, but he was so young when he was sold into slavery, and so when he was in this master’s house, they told him all kinds of wrong and evil things, like he didn’t have a soul and that if he did go to heaven, it would only be to continue being their slave, and he was so confused, because he knew his mother had told him that she would be with Jesus, and so he thought there must be another place where Jesus is besides heaven, and then you know, he was really proud of himself for figuring this out, until a little old grandmother took him under her wing, and she started instructing him in the basics of the Christian faith, and sorting out for him the lies he had been told and what the Bible taught instead.
And the point is, we all at some level need that; we grow up being told certain things and believing certain things, and we become Christians, but there is so much that we don’t know or understand still, or that we have figured wrong, and we need someone in our lives who will help teach us the basics, and we need to be that person in other people’s lives, helping them sort through what is true and what is not.
The church in the first few centuries after the Bible was written had a specific way of doing this, and some of you are even familiar with it to a certain degree, and that is something they called catechesis, which is a fancy sounding word, but it is not something very complicated, it is just where we in the church grab hold of our responsibility to systematically instruct and ground people in the fundamental doctrines of the faith.
What will happen so often, and we see this all around us, is that we will meet people who are sure they are Christians, and they will even say they have been Christians for like years, and then you ask them the most simple of questions, about what God is like or what happened on the cross, and they don’t have really any good idea, or what they say is a mix of truth and error and this is dangerous for them, for the people around them, and it is part of why people stay children so long, spiritually, because they don’t have the instruction they need to move forward and understand more about the Christian faith.
There are many passages in Scripture which indicate that this kind of systematic training was a normal part of what happened in the early church.
For example, 1 Corinthians 15:3. Paul says, “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.”
It is almost like we see a chain here, where Paul receives instruction in the most important doctrines, and then he delivers it to the Corinthians, who hopefully would deliver it to others.
We see a similar pattern back in 1 Corinthians 11:23, where Paul says, “For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you…” which tells us that Paul had the best teacher of systematic theology ever and that was Jesus, and that Paul took that teaching and delivered it on to others as part of his discipling ministry.
And this is how Paul exhorts Timothy to disciple others. 2 Timothy 2:2, “And what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others.” Paul learned truth and delivered it to Timothy who then entrusted it to faithful men who would teach it others.
Christianity is not just a doing religion, it is a religion based on certain truths, certain great realities, and if you don’t understand or believe those, you will never understand how God wants you to act or anything else about the Christian life; it is not just, Christianity, a certain experience or feeling, it’s very concerned with truth and that’s why it is so essential that we as disciplers help the people we are discipling understand what the Scripture teaches in a systematic and orderly way.
Now the next question of course is what is it that we should make sure to teach?
And again you remember I am talking about sort of formal instruction, and I am imagining you are looking at the person you want to disciple, and you are thinking what is it that they must absolutely know? And the thing here is that I want to be as practical as possible, so you can actually do something with this, and yet, I don’t want to be so rigid that we all do the same thing no matter who we are talking to.
So I started looking at Paul and the way he discipled and I think we can identify several basic fundamentals we need to make sure we teach or at least we make sure the people we are discipling understand which we will look at in the next post.