The Gifted Teacher
By Neil Cole
Getting the message right is only a quarter of the task for the teacher. Communicating the message so that others understand the content only brings the teacher to half of his or her role. Seeing the content applied well in the listener’s context is another 25% of the task of the teacher. Yet this only brings the teacher to 75% fulfillment of the task. 75% on an exam is barely passing, and certainly not a success. How can a teacher get to 100%? The only way a teacher can fulfill one hundred percent of the call of the teacher is by releasing the learners to fulfill the task of the teacher themselves with other people!
When you are starting to pass the content on to others is when you have learned the content on its fullest level. To teach others best you must see the process through until the learners become the teachers.
I used to think that a great teaching gift was actually a bottleneck to multiplication. When a truly gifted thinker and communicator is at work people want to stay and listen and rarely feel that they can do it themselves…and reproduction ends. At one point in my own ministry I was tempted to dumb down my teaching for the sake of reproduction, but that is tantamount to being ungrateful for Christ’s gifts and neglectful stewardship of His blessings. So how do we allow for great teachers and still have reproduction?
The gifted teacher is called to equip the saints for the work of ministry, not to do it for them. A true teacher is not simply to teach the saints, but to equip the saints to teach. Are all saints to teach? Yes, they are to teach disciples to obey all that Jesus has commanded them. We need teachers, but we need teachers that will truly fulfill their complete call. We should not settle for teachers that only go half-way any longer. If you are a teacher do not be content to fulfill only a portion of your task.
We need to redefine what it means to teach. It is not simply passing on content to others. I prefer to see teaching this way: facilitating the learning of others so that they know, do and pass on to others the relevant and meaningful truth.
We in the Western church are educated beyond our obedience and more education is not the solution, we need more obedience. A couple of suggestions for the teachers out there:
1. Never teach a second lesson until the first one is done.
2. A lesson is not done until it is being passed on to another.
What would the kingdom of God look like if we had more teachers like this?
All of us who have fulfilled the role of teacher are aware that we learn so much more by teaching than we ever did by being taught. In fact, one of the most frustrating realities of teaching is that you are not able to convey to the people all that you have been able to learn studying for the process. There is good reason for this. It is God’s design for teachers to teach people to become teachers, for then they will learn the truths of God’s word on much deeper levels.
This pedagogy has many benefits…
* The people learn the truth on a far deeper level.
* The people understand the truth, not just remember it.
* The people are held to greater accountability to practice the truth they learned.
* The people own the message, not just know it.
* The people spread the core message to others, who in turn learn to own it and spread it themselves and the kingdom multiplies into a movement.
When you take a test you reveal what you remember from someone’s teaching. When you practice what you have heard you demonstrate that your will is involved in the learning process and you are learning beyond a cognitive level. When you start to teach the subject to others you engage the lessons on a far deeper level and you have to reconcile the logic behind the facts, and not just remember the facts themselves.
When you pass on the lessons to others you demonstrate a greater level of ownership. Isn’t that what we want? We do not want people who merely know facts about the Gospel, but apply them and then own them in the depth of their soul. We do not want only an audience, or even practitioners…we want agents of the Gospel. Change is not enough, we want change agents.
We have developed a learning system for systematic theology based upon this type of thinking. It is a one year learning process for proven leaders where they learn theology in a small community by teaching it in a highly reproducible manner. It is called TruthQuest and is available on the CMA website. TruthQuest will not teach you what to think but how to think. The participants may not come out thinking the same as you, but they will come out able to think for themselves. I for one value that even more than simply agreeing with me.
Let’s see the teachers as catalysts for multiplication rather than a bottleneck for it!
©2010 Neil Cole