Not many of us should become teachers


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.

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11 thoughts on “Not many of us should become teachers

  1. I would be willing to say that many women (maybe even most) don’t care about doctrine. They just want to be told what to do. At least that what I have come to see about the women at my church.

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  2. Amen, amen and amen! I was thinking when I read your earlier post about that statement at the conference that this is EXACTLY why we need to study, study, study and study again the Bible. And then be doing just what you’re doing, go back and search it out to see if what is said is true according to the scripture. This post hits home very hard for me in that I’m teaching a 2nd/3rd grade Sunday school class this year and I’m finding stuff in the curriculum I have to work with that needs to be taught differently than the teachers book guides me to teach it, often. What bothers me is how many teachers across my denomination will think that because (our literature) says it like this it’s just fine and then neglect to go deeper. I’m seeing how much doctrine we are not teaching to our little ones with how watered down the literature is. I’m wondering why we’re so afraid to stick closely to the Bible – why do we think kids can’t handle more than a little moral lesson? I am more convinced than ever that we’ve got to connect these ‘Bible stories’ to the gospel from Genesis all the way through. Working on a blog post…..

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    1. Kids can definitely handle more!! We expect so much from them when it comes to academics and athletics. Why not knowing scripture? Schools will load children’s minds with all kinds of ideas at a very young age….Bible curriculum writers need to wake up and recognize.

      I’m convinced all those years of moral lessons do more harm than good, but that’s a whole blog post itself.

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      1. Agreed. I’m working on a post based on my latest frustration, but basically I told my husband we’re being guided to teach them works, not the gospel. I’m just thankful God allowed my eyes to be opened over the past several years so I would recognize this now in the lessons I have to teach this month.

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  3. This reminds me of something my son said the other day about a history lesson example, “Is that one of those cases where if you say something enough times then people will start to believe it?”

    I agree with your six points. This “teacher’s” error is an apple not falling far from his mother Eve’s tree. She wanted to believe that God was really more in her image than that she was to be His image.

    Thanks for the follow up posts on the conference. Altho’ it once again underlines my wariness about women’s conferences in general.

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    1. This “teacher’s” error is an apple not falling far from his mother Eve’s tree. She wanted to believe that God was really more in her image than that she was to be His image.

      True.

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  4. I think you’ve really touched on something here, Leslie. On all six points. It seems that, for many women, doctrine is a dirty word. The desire for “fellowship” seems to trump the desire for God’s Word. I also second both Kim and Elle.

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  5. The whole thing is spot on and pertinent, but our point at #3 really struck me: “Many women are susceptible to believing the truths inferred from personal testimonies and emotional stories rather than careful study.” I see this over and over…Women building whole “lessons” around an emotional story, then frosting it with a random Bible verse to make it “biblical.” And sadly, what ends up happening is a misunderstanding of Biblical principles (at best) or a misrepresentation of God/His character/His Truth, etc. Yikes! Thanks for posting this!

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  6. Kristin said what I’ve been trying to say for years. “Women building whole “lessons” around an emotional story, then frosting it with a random Bible verse to make it “biblical.””

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