Today’s greatest challenge to gifted teachers of God’s Word is to keep their church body in healthy balance. If a church’s greatest weakness is its greatest strength taken to excess, then teachers must balance the body, as 1 Corinthians 12 requires. If the greatest strength of many older churches is powerful preaching, or in its teaching, then this becomes their greatest weakness when it is so fulfilling, so edifying and so brilliant that it eclipses other vital ministries. Churches can so focus on teaching as an end in itself, that they neglect the equipping of believers to use their spiritual gifts to serve one another, as Ephesians 4 requires.
If we could fly together to China or to other places where God is bringing more sinners to Christ than ever before, then you would see how many denominations are declining. You would see how your flock could take healthy action by tapping the explosive power of God. All believers are empowered to serve with their gifts during worship and during the week, not just to listen to your good teaching.
Teacher, this may sound threatening, but if we teachers merely pass on biblical truths to others, then we deserve to feel threatened, as that is not the biblical purpose of teaching. That which I learned through years of painful trial-and-error, you can learn in the next fifteen seconds:
Exercise your God-given teaching skill to equip believers to exercise their gifts, as Paul requires in Ephesians 4. Work with a few action-oriented leaders who help other believers plan their week’s work, and see that they do what they planned. Let your teaching facilitate interaction within groups that are small enough to allow everyone to face each other and participate.
Teachers should enable believers to do the following:
- Recent converts testify of what Jesus has done for them.
- Older disciples speak as the Holy Spirit leads them, to strengthen, to exhort, and to console one another (1 Cor. 14:3).
- No one “performs” or entertains.
- Children briefly tell or act out Bible stories. Older children make plans to disciple and lead younger children.
- All plan how they will reach friends during the week, and serve others.
- Believers pray for each other and for power to meet needs.
- Believers themselves make plans to start daughter churches during the week.
Even if some of this seems jarring to you, let me ask: Does it sound at all like the book of Acts?
You may be thinking, “Folks in my church would not want such teaching.” No problem! Instead of trying to change their long-standing ways, which would be unrealistic, simply identify those members who yearn to serve Christ in a strategic way. Let these start a “second track” in your area, that is, plant small, prolific churches.
Such churches would retain your doctrine and historical identity, but require only what Jesus and His apostles required. A growing number of American churches foster such a dual track, and are seeing healthy churches multiply in an ongoing movement, not as a temporary revival. Teach to free up those few apostolic types who have “itchy feet,” whom leaders often mistrust because they seem too eager. Let these step out and harvest ripe fields that God has prepared.
In order for me to start the kind of churches that were balanced well enough to multiply rapidly, I had to repent of teaching in a way that drew praise while exercising excessive control. And you? Are you ready to bring such balance in the body?