Jump Start # 2689
Matthew 28:20 “teaching them to observe all that I command you; and lo I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
Our Lord spoke these instructions to the apostles in the context of the great commission. They were being sent out. They would travel to places that they had never dreamed or possibly ever wanted to go to. They would do things they had never done before, particularly stand and preach. And, the Lord expected and anticipated that people would respond to their words. People would believe. They were to baptize those that believed. But that wasn’t it. There was more. They were to teach these new believers to keep the commandments of the Lord. These new believers were to be obedient. It wasn’t just rules that were taught, but it was a new heart and a new thinking that was involved. They were no longer independent, selfish and doing what they wanted. World-wide, people were being taught to obey Jesus. World-wide, different languages, cultures and histories, a unified movement was expanding. Jesus was shaping the world, one heart at a time.
And, for us, many lessons come from this:
First, the importance of teaching those newly baptized. Some leave as quickly as they came. They heard enough to know to be baptized and once that was done, they were left alone, or more accurately, they were ignored. And, being just one step out of the world, it was so easy for them to turn around and go right back to the world, again. But, it’s more than rules that need to be taught. People need to understand that they need Jesus. They need to walk with Jesus. Their way didn’t work. Their way got them into the mess that they were in. “Teaching them to observe,” is a way of thinking, looking at things and understanding that Jesus is right in all things.
Second, what and how to teach is important. This teaching ought to be both one-on-one as well as in congregational settings. Private and public. In congregational settings, the new disciple sees that he is being taught the same thing as others. He sees that others are with him and we are all in this together. In private settings, details and specifics that are personal can be talked about. Questions are more likely to be asked in private settings. And, through this a relationship, friendship and fellowship is developed.
Third, thought needs to be given as to what to teach. A new disciple starting where the congregation is, which might be in the midst of Jeremiah, or Romans, will quickly be lost without some context, history and background being explained to him. In our homes, we do not give a new baby the same food as we do a teen. The teen has been around a while. He can eat just about anything. The little baby cannot and should not be given the same food. So, classes for new people are very helpful. It’s easy to assume that everyone is in just about the same place spiritually. That is a bad assumption. It’s not true. Some do not know the books of the Bible. Some do not know the abbreviations of the books of the Bible. Some do not know the structure of the Bible. Simple core principles and teachings about the Bible itself is very useful.
Congregationally, insight needs to be given into what the needs are. Just teaching verse by verse, book after book, isn’t the only nor always even the best method. Nor is it the best just to buy a ready made class book. Look at where the congregation is and what they need. Topical studies are valuable as well as textual studies. Having a plan for a year is good. Having a plan for five years is the best. When a college freshman begins his course of studies, the pathway for his degree is laid out. He knows what he is taking the first semester all through the last semester. His course of studies will not be the same for someone in a different major. Imagine a congregation mapping out a four year, quarter by quarter plan which lays out the fundamentals and grows in depth as the student develops knowledge and faith. It takes a lot of planning, forethought and work to do that, but it can be done. Rather than a hodgepodge of whatever the teacher feels like teaching, a specified and designed map is drawn up so each person knows, years in advance, what they will be studying, and learning.
Fourth, the Lord did not intend for the apostles to do all this teaching on their own. Ephesians tells us that God sent apostles, prophets, teachers, evangelists and shepherds to train and teach the congregation. Had each apostle been responsible for doing all of this, they would not have traveled beyond the first city they went to. They would have been doing all the teaching right there. As it is, they preached and taught. Others followed. There was Apollos. There was Timothy. There was Titus. There were others. When the weight of teaching falls upon one or a handful of the same ones, they become burdened. Teachers need not only a break but they need time to be taught more. Developing a team of teachers is powerful for a growing church.
Finally, teaching others is such a joy and a blessing. Having a working team that helps with the new disciple, and those that can teach publically is the backbone of a strong church. Want to know how a church is doing…look at what and how they are teaching. Look at the one year, five year plan. Look at what direction their classes are taking them. Look at who is doing the teaching and how many are involved.
Teaching them to observe the Lord’s commands—we still do that today. Some only teach the Lord’s commands. Others teach how to observe. It’s a matter of giving someone a fish or teaching them how to fish on their own. The Lord knew.