Friday, October 03, 2008

Able to teach

Paul writes to Timothy... (1 Timothy 3v2-7) overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church? He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.
And again... (2 Timothy 2v15-17)
...Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth. But avoid irreverent babble, for it will lead people into more and more ungodliness, and their talk will spread like gangrene...
And to Titus (Titus 1v5-9)
...appoint elders in every town as I directed you— if anyone is above reproach, the husband of one wife, and his children are believers and not open to the charge of debauchery or insubordination. For an overseer, as God’s steward, must be above reproach. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain, but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined. He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it...
Evidently, the main qualification for leaders is character. In each of these lists we also find mention of ability to teach. I've been taught many times that this is about skill in ministry. Which tends to mean ability to do basic grammar and speak understandably. I don't doubt those things are useful.

But, what if 'able to teach' is another character trait? What if 'rightly handling' isn't so much about grammar and more about teaching with kindness and patience and without quarrelling and arrogance (as the 2 Timothy 2 context would seem to say)?

What if the ability to 'give instruction' really is the 'so that' of holding firmly to the trustworthy word - which must include being transformed by it.

What if when we train young men and women to lead we put everything into character, by developing Biblical convictions in the heart that should overflow into life? A generation who so tremble at the word of Jesus that they dare not misunderstand lest they misapply and so defame the glory of God.

What if when we trained young student leaders (and other leaders) to do Bible study we weren't only concerned for accuracy, good questions and methodology, but chiefly for them to believe the (rightly-understood, thoroughly-exegeted) gospel afresh. And so to teach what they believe. Would they not then burn with the gospel as they lead? Would they not then, as gospel-believing repentant sinnners be able to lead the small group of forgiven sinners around them into mission together?

And, what if we saw a generation raised up who scorned the expectations of human greatness and embraced life in the shadow of the cross rather than in the shining light of their own competence and ego? A generation who couldn't care less about their own reputation but cared everything for that of Jesus.

What if  we followed the lead of Jesus that true greatness isn't being impressive but rather is a matter of cruciformity, a path that leads to the presence of God but does so via the wrath-averting blood of Jesus? A generation who lead for love of Jesus. That would be a generation who were truly able to teach.