Several years ago, when I was responsible for providing leadership to the Christian education program of one of our Assemblies of God colleges, I developed a definition of the teaching ministry:
Teaching is the process whereby qualified leaders in the church, guided by the Holy Spirit and using Scripture as their authority, creatively structure and manage formal and informal learning experiences in such a way that students are:
1. Led to discover what Scripture says, what it means, how it applies to their lives, and to respond appropriately to its message.
2. Guided in the formation and expression of godly character qualities and essential Christian attitudes in keeping with scriptural emphasis.
3. Directed in the development of a distinctly Christian lifestyle in obedience to the will of God and the pattern of Christ, and encouraged to live it in the power of the Holy Spirit.
Several key elements in this definition deserve emphasis:
Teaching is a process.
Effective teachers understand that spiritual transformation is not a crisis event; it takes place over time. They do not expect a single lesson to accomplish all that God desires in a student’s life. Aware that Christian maturity is a lifelong process, they exercise patience and faithfulness in ministry week after week to see lives formed in the image of Christ.
Effective teaching requires qualified leaders.
Teachers in our public schools and universities must be qualified to teach — we insist on it! Churches with effective teaching ministry likewise insist that Christian educators be trained. Training must be educationally sound, comprehensive, ongoing, and practical with an emphasis on spiritual dynamics. Staying fresh and relevant is a requirement for the teacher who desires to make a difference in today’s world.
Effective teachers facilitate learning.
Teaching is more than talking, and learning is more than listening. The teacher’s challenge is to create and manage student learning experiences that lead to understanding and applying God’s Word. Effective teachers understand that their ministry is not limited to the classroom. Teaching involves making the most of informal opportunities that lead to spiritual discovery and growth.
Effective teaching in the church emphasizes the Bible.
Did you notice how often the Bible is mentioned in the definition I have provided? It cannot be overemphasized. The Bible is the most important curriculum for faith formation. We must study the Bible in our churches. The curriculum for every age group must be Bible-based and Bible-centered. Every elective must ultimately be a Bible study. We cannot make disciples without getting them into the Bible (2 Timothy 3:14-17).
Effective teaching ministry is holistic.
The teaching ministry of the church must include mind, emotions, and lifestyle. In educational terminology, these are the cognitive, affective, and psychomotor domains. We want students to understand and apply the Bible. Additionally, we want them to develop godly character and Christian attitudes. Finally, we want to help them exhibit a distinctly Christian lifestyle. Christian education is ultimately lifestyle education!
Effective teaching ministry is dependent on the Holy Spirit.
Discipleship is the goal of the teaching ministry of the church. That involves a defined process, but also we must depend on the Holy Spirit in every aspect of teaching: Bible study, development of the lesson plan, and management of learning experiences. We must invite the Holy Spirit into the entire teaching/learning context. Life transformation is the need, Christ-likeness is the goal, and the Holy Spirit is the key dynamic.