How We Do The Teaching Ministry

The American church is the source of much controversy.  Many have fled the church at eighteen just in time to move out of their parents’ house and start their adult lives.  On the other hand, naïve individuals have remained faithful to the church merely to say that they go to church thinking that they can earn their way into heaven.  We as the Church have become so ingrown that we’ve lost touch with the essentials of effective ministering that Jesus laid out for us.  Worst of all is that we’ve convinced ourselves that we don’t need to change. The bottom line is that the teaching ministry is the teaching of the gospel of Jesus.  The ministries need to stop progressing themselves and truly understand this simple truth before they do anything else.

In order to improve the teaching ministry the teachers need to be reassessed.  As Christians, it’s imperative that they have a personal and developing faith in Christ, recognizing Jesus as their savior and model.  If they have a weak base of faith, then their teaching is going to suffer, and inevitably the learning is going to limited as well.  This is why the teaching ministry is something every Christian should take seriously.  If the teacher lacks passion for growing and maturing spiritually, then the ministry will be impaired.

It’s important that the teacher has owned faith.  At some point there has to be a shift from the direction of one’s parents to the individuality of adulthood.  And, for one’s spiritual life, this involves a leap of faith.  What we believe about God becomes something personal, something we stake our lives on.  So, when non-believers ask us about our faith, about the nature of God, about whom Jesus was and is we have an answer that comes from our hearts because we have personally owned our faith.

Being a part of the teaching ministry is not an easy task.  One of the main reasons it’s so tough is because it requires one to love the unlovely.  God calls us to love everyone and not exclude anyone.  This means that lot of love is to be given out freely to people and that doesn’t guarantee that they’ll give you anything back in return.  Every Christian is called to bring a sense of harmony, of oneness into their interactions with others.  They should be giving off their persona, which says that they care about everyone they meet.  But, don’t be fooled, this may sound nice, but it’s not always rainbows and butterflies.  It gets tiring for one to pour out to others and not get anything back in return.  Too often Christians that are apart of church ministries or para church ministries operate out of a state of exhaustion or frustration as a result of being drained spiritually.  This is wrong.  It’s their job to refuel their souls.  The teaching ministry requires us to periodically take a step back and fill our cups back up so that we’re overflowing with the Holy Spirit—enough to go around.  There’s nothing wrong with shutting the door and having quiet time or going on a long walk alone to get reacquainted with the Lord’s vision.  In fact, it’s good and right to do so because it allows us to continue our ministry in the world even when it’s tough and messy, which happens to be eighty percent of the time.

Being an effective minister has a lot to do with being an able communicator.  It’s the job of the teacher to engage the learner.  Sometimes the people getting ministered to need someone to speak truth into their lives directly.  Keep in mind that people are severely turned off by American cultural Christianity, but not by the gospel.  Other times, the greatest way to minister to people is to show them love by listening intently to their stories and sympathize with them.  Showing someone sympathy for their struggles can be one of the greatest gifts you can give someone.  It’s important to know when to speak and when to listen.  Both are important.  And, listening is such an important part of communication.  It helps to personalize your ministry.  The better you know the people you are ministering to, the more you can engage them and facilitate effective learning.

Teachers teach by thought, word, and deed.  They need to realize this.  We’re all teaching out of our own life experience.  The way we speak is a framing of our lifestyle.  The way we live is a testament to our faith.  And, what we think internally has a way of manifesting itself on the outside for everyone to see.  We need the Holy Spirit more than we realize.  There are a lot of stories of people that were active leaders of various ministries that led destructive lifestyles outside of the ministry.  This cannot be.  God does not desire us to live for Him sometimes.  He calls us to fully give our entire lives to Him.  The first century church is a good example of how Christians should live out their faith.  Their lives were a testimony to their faith.  They were witnessing to the community with a dynamic explosive faith.  Where did we go wrong? We shoot our own in the back.  A pastor leaves the Church and we persecute them when we’ve got skeletons of our own in our closet.  We need to be able to talk about our own faith with people who don’t believe without judging them and becoming our own God.  Saying what we believe to a lost generation is part of the ministry of the Church.  I think the Church knows this, but do we know that spreading the gospel is more than just speaking about it? Teachers need to shut their mouths and open their lives.  We need to touch into the hearts and souls of those we are ministering to.  They deserve our time and love.  The more we know our students, the better we can relate to them and teach them.  It’s common sense.

The teacher needs to be aware of the chemistry of the audience he or she is engaging.  This is a bit like listening to the students, but instead you are listening to the nature of your audience.  Do the students want to be there? Do they want to be nurtured by you?  What’s the age group you are dealing with?  Study the age level you’re working with.  Use a vocabulary that fits the people you are speaking to.  If these things are done, then the students will be much more attentive to what you have to say.  Teaching is a methodical reality.  Everyone will teach differently based upon the nature of his or her students.

Here’s the bottom line, if you do not have a personal passion to see people come to know Jesus and walk in the faith, then don’t you dare go into the teaching ministry because that’s what it’s all about.  You need to have a passion for getting inside the message of salvation.  Teachers need to have the passion for conversion.  If you’re afraid to go all the way and bring your students to Christ, then your ministry serves little purpose.  The Bible tells us what the will of God is and what to do, which is to bring praise, honor, and glory to Him.  The way you do that is your avocational calling.  If you don’t like talking to people about their faith, then don’t go into the teaching ministry because, in the end, what would you be talking about?

Many Christians are not interested in reading the Bible.  This is wrong because the Bible is the very thing that shapes the content of the ministry.  The teacher must have a desire to be disciplined in study.  In reality, they have to be willing to study the word of God consistently and regularly throughout the week.  For example, pastors should not make their sermon Saturday night. So, in a way, teachers are learners as well because we’re never done learning about the nature of who God is, who we are, and what we are to do.  Our relationship with God is never meant to be stagnant; it’s supposed to grow and evolve as we journey from day to day.

In the whole of teaching, the teacher is a model.  It’s crazy if you think about it because that means that every single thing that you do and say has the ability to draw people in or push people away.  How Christ-like are we right now? Can we say that the whole of our lives is a journey towards holiness?  Without holiness, no one will see God.  That ought to scare us.  We should be living in a way that if someone is watching us, they say, “I want to be just like that person.”  God is calling us to something above culture, above ego, above this world.  If we were truly responding to His calling, everyone around us would know about it because we’d be living in a way that testified to Jesus Christ twenty four seven.  Our lives are supposed to be radical.  Your life can draw the people around you in to the kingdom of God or cause them to run in the opposite direction.  You are not responsible for how people respond.  You are always responsible for the way you pour out grace and mercy to others.  You are responsible for engaging people.  Don’t risk your learners going to Hell.  Yes, we have a lot of responsibility, but becoming a Christian has nothing to do with asking for an easier life.

The quality of the teaching ministry of the church all comes back to how passionate we are about teaching the next generation about God.  We certainly used to be because we used to die for this, for our passion for invitational salvation.  Is this present in the church today?  No.  Why do you think we were put in this world?  We’re supposed to be making an attempt to instill in people the passion to teach the next generation.  If we could picture ourselves post-resurrection for a moment, we’d gain a sense of how far we’ve come from living out the Gospel.  We have this perception of Jesus as an ordinary man who was kind of special in a way.  He doesn’t really fit us humans, but He’s human.  We tell stories of how he interacted with us, and how we just felt like he genuinely cared for us.  He was a great listener.  Maybe it seemed like he had nowhere to go because he was just were he needed to be.  Perhaps he healed us of an illness or maybe he ate dinner with us even though we were very poor.  Whatever it was, it remains with us because he did something to our soul.  He gave us life.  He gave us purpose.  He made us smile in the truest way.  See, the oral tradition and story built the early church.  Over time, less and less stories are being told about Jesus.  Have we been able to hold fast to the development of scripture, of canon?  We need people that say, “I own my faith and I want to give it away.”  People will come to us with heads hung low, and at times these broken skeletons will be our own.  We as the people of Christ say, “Go ahead and have your pity party, but don’t expect me to join it because I see you all as beautiful gifts from God who have so much to offer.”

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Hunger Pains in The Dark

I have insomnia when I’m sick, and I’m sick. So, here I am.

Tonight, I played a sold out Christmas concert in the beautiful Benaroya Hall. It reminded me of my deep connection to Christmas. I love it when trees start to go up and people decorate their homes with lights. My family has never been one to put up lights on the outside of our house, but I sure do appreciate it when other families do. My dad and I used to ride our bikes around Tacoma and into Browns Point to admire the colorful homes of Christmas. Something about those nighttime rides stuck with me. I wished that I could ride all night long looking at every house in the world with lights. Now look at me. I guess the “all night long” part of that wish was granted. [insert famous saying]

These nights get easier at some point. It varies. I’m handling it okay tonight. My cold isn’t getting to me right now.  It was just during the day when I had things to do, places to be. I saw this pretty girl today. She never even looked at me once. I kind of felt like a Charlie Brown character. You know, the sad one. I also had a nice conversation with my friend about how thrilling it would be to see Godzilla appear in the middle of the city. I caught myself though, because this friend of mine is a girl and I often start going off on some story or idea I think up out of much excitement just to realize that my listener is usually not a nerdy guy like I admittedly am on some level. Like the other day, I was on a bus going back to campus at night and I suddenly thought about how crazy it’d be if some guy pulled a gun on us and the man in front of us with a trench-coat was a real life superhero and he ripped off his clothes and was wearing this spandex outfit underneath and saved us and it turns out he’s like a professor from SPU and he’s also a legit superhero. But, what if there was this half alien half human sitting in the back of the bus, and the superhero stunt weirds him out and he goes all violent gremlin on the superhero professor guy, so ultimately there’s this really awkward fight on the bus that I have to break up. I literally said this to the girl sitting next to me, and she gave me the strangest look and was like, “Um… cool.” Anyways, it would be cool if Godzilla came to town. I mean scary, but freaking awesome. She agreed.

For dinner I ate a decent salad and drank two of those mini water bottles (the kind of dinner that makes me sad in the privacy of my soul) while everyone around me had yummy sandwiches and cookies. I was reminded of this girl at some church gathering dinner worship whatever you want to call it who said being gluten intolerant is much like going on a permanent fast.

I laughed a lot today, way more than usual. I’m not sure why to be honest. Despite being really stressed out about a number of things, my spirit was at ease today. That was nice. I have this shampoo that has tea tree oil in it, and I used it this morning. I love it. I can still smell it. I love shower time. It’s the best time aside from dreaming of falling love, which I haven’t done in a while. I suppose that’s not such a bad thing. I take that back, that’s not the best time. Granted, I can’t think of something that is better than that right now, but I’m sure there’s something. It probably has to do with being by myself or within community and Jesus. Maybe I’m becoming less obsessed with finding love. Well, I doubt that.

Punk

The other night I was on my way to our practice space looking like an idiot carrying my huge bass drum and thinking about homework I needed to get done that weekend. I couldn’t see very well and I didn’t notice the fire extinguisher up ahead on my left. I drove my middle knuckle right in to the corner of this fire extinguisher that was on the wall. I tore off a good layer of skin and started bleeding. It was freezing cold out. Looking at my blood I smiled and thought, “It’s always a relief to be brought back to reality.”

Basics

It’s important to understand the basics of good teaching in order to be an effective minister.  As arrogant Americans who have mastered the art of shutting ourselves off both from God and the people around us, we must come back to the basic principles that govern the teaching ministry and abide by them—the future of our lives and generations to come depend on it.

Our world is global by default.  We have the technology to be connected to all corners of the earth.  With this in mind, we need to make sure we are culturally aware by default.  People are turned off by American cultural Christianity, but not by the gospel.  See, as a Christian I have a ministry in the world, so I need to be aware of the cultural setting of my learners.

Luther is most responsible for making us think catechetical, but what’s tragic is that we’re slowly shutting off to this for a number of pathetic reasons that have a lot to do with how lazy we are as a nation.  Catechesis has to do with getting a good handle on scripture and Christian tradition before one officially goes in to the teaching ministry of the church.  This seems like an obvious necessity to anyone who cares to go in to the ministry, but so often you hear of youth pastors and leaders of the church who fall flat on their face in terms of knowing scripture well and having a good grip on how to teach that.  We need to be asking ourselves hard questions about our faith and our handle on scripture before we can be effective ministers.  What do I believe about scripture in light of my tradition?  What does my tradition say about scripture?

Now stepping into the role of the teachers, they need to make sure their lives are an exhortation to live a life with God.  Simply said, your life is to be an example of how to live a Godly life.  We are supposed to be lights in dark places.  Are you standing out so that everyone around you knows without a doubt that you are a Christian?  People should see you live your life and envy you!  This isn’t selfish.  Your faith, or should I say your life, should be drawing people in not pushing them away.  Are people jealous of your relationship with God to the point that they seek if for themselves?  This is the objective.

The teacher must have discernment towards people.  This means understanding people’s human situation and discerning where to go from that. We as teachers need to teach in the context of community.  God made a lot of us and commanded us to love each other.  We are a community by default.  Inevitably we will meet people who believe different things about God than we do.  Discernment is all about getting to know these people and engaging them appropriately.  Do teachers have the desire to know their students?  The more you know your students the better you can discern how to teach them.

Above all, be Christian!  Love God with all you heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.  Pursue your questions you have about God.  And, don’t you dare become blind to the beauty you see in this world.  You see God everyday. Don’t forget that.  Go show this beauty to others.

Nighttime is a Longtime

I’m used to nights like these. I sit here for hours on end looking into the darkness and I feel the energy beneath my skin slowly slip into the emptiness of my bedroom’s silent air. You may be curious. What’s it like having insomnia? What’s it like to feel weaker and weaker, to grow sleepier and sleepier, and not be able to do the one thing your body cries out for? What’s it like to feel like a dead person caught in the wake of life, full-on? Do you notice your bones shivering in the cold of seclusion? What is it you think about, really? Are you lonely? Are you sad?

I would say that insomnia is much like having doubts in God. It’s a lot like biting into a tasteless orange. It’s one simple yet convoluted question going unanswered for five years. I’ll admit that I’m still asking the same question that I posed to the first night of these. I wonder what God’s plan is for my life. I ask myself if there’s meaning in this. I ponder where life is in death. I mean, it’s not dying, but it’s pretty damn close if you ask me. But, I’ve survived and I’ve survived and I’ve yawned and I’ve yawned more times than I know, and I have yet to come out and play in the technicolor of the seasons. “Tomorrow,” I tell myself, but it’s already tomorrow and I’ve yet to fall into a dream, the only light of the dark.

God, it’s me again. Please hear me. Amen.