My main ministry for my church is to teach children, 5 and 6 year olds. It is rare that I have to field a complicated question. But it has happened. After Sunday School that particular morning, my teaching partner said, “That’s how I know I’m not called to teach. I wouldn’t even know where to start to answer that question so the kids could understand.”
The fact is, it’s OK not to have all of the answers before they’re asked. The important thing is to answer only as far as I understand and to admit when I don’t know the answer. “Great question! Ask your dad during lunch today,” is always a good answer.
I had to learn that the hard way.
Several years ago, I taught an adult Bible study class. We were studying the faith of Abraham, and the main text for that week was Romans 4. I was prepared. I had done my homework. I was ready to teach, or so I thought.
The only thing I remember about that lesson is the part I got wrong. I was just repeating something from another teacher that I thought sounded right. And the worst thing is that I didn’t know I was wrong until years later; I could not go back and correct the error before that same group of men and women.
Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. (James 3:1, ESV)
It’s easy to blame the curriculum or the teacher I repeated, but the fact is that I couldn’t discern sound doctrine from almost sound doctrine (which is still 100% wrong). And neither could any of the other adults in my class. None of them stopped me during the lesson, no one asked me about the error later.
I take that back; perhaps they did notice and just didn’t want to say anything. I hope that’s the case.
My fear, however, is that most people are like me and will not notice when a teacher is wrong. You go to church, take notes, read your Bible, and think you understand Christianity. Then, next thing you know, you find yourself at a conference applauding a man who said that Jesus wasn’t omnipotent or omniscient.
Now, I’ll admit, that’s an extreme example. Most of the women in that arena should have caught that whopper. (I mean, really, you need to throw a red flag anytime someone prefaces a statement with, “Personally, I believe…” That’s your first clue that the next sentence could be an error). But, in the context of his talk, it sounded SO good, so affirming. It fit. And, just as I was guilty of repeating what I had heard from another teacher, many of those women are in danger of propagating his error.
This experience has had me wondering about a few things, and these are my conclusions:
1. The average church in the southeast (based on the attendance at a women’s conference in Atlanta) must not be doing a good job of teaching sound doctrine to its membership.
2. If women aren’t getting their theology from the Bible or classes offered by their churches, then they’re learning it from the Christian subculture or from bad books.
3. Many women are susceptible to believing the truths inferred from personal testimonies and emotional stories rather than careful study. I wonder if Arterburn’s statements about Jesus would have been applauded had they been heard apart from the context of his personal story of divorce and emotional pain.
4. Doctrine regarding Jesus is not easy to comprehend. As a result of the conference, I’ve been reading, trying to study again what the Bible teaches about Jesus: his divinity, his humanity, his natures, and his eternality. It’s easy to become confused.
5. False ideas about Jesus are EVERYWHERE. So, be on guard.
6. Churches NEED Spirit-gifted teachers. Pastors, elders, and teachers bear a monumental, eternal responsibility. Pray for and encourage them regularly.