The Role of Teaching and Preaching -- an Introduction
First of all, please allow me to apologize for the length of time that has passed since my last post! Tonight (actually in just 4 1/2 hours!) I am presenting a piano recital at Appalachian State University (where I'm working on my masters, and where I also do my "day job" of accompanying music students), and preparation for it has pretty much consumed my time over the last few weeks. For those of you with interest in classical music, I'll let you know that this evening's program consists of just two works (about 45 minutes' worth of music):
- Ballade No. 3 in A-flat, Op. 47 by Chopin
- Sonata No. 3 in f minor, Op. 5 by Brahms
With my apology out of the way, I want to get back to the topic of this blog, which has nothing to do with classical music! Today, I'd like to take up the subject of preaching and teaching, and what role I see those playing in the church.
During my absence here, Ray posted a great essay on his blog about didactic teaching. Ray and I have talked about this subject some in the comments section of this blog, and it was great to see a lengthier treatment of the topic by Ray. Ray's observations on the topic come from his Jewish background, and so he draws on the practices of the Jewish synagogue. This was greatly informative to me, because I don't have the background Ray does, and so it is good for me to learn from that.
I think it is very important to understand the Jewish background of Christianity, and so Ray's background really helps there. When the first Christians became...well, Christians...in Jerusalem, it is obvious from the book of Acts that they were Jewish believers. In fact, the first part of the book of Acts deals heavily with the church in Jerusalem, and we see in Acts 15, especially, the difficulty of the transition from mostly Jewish believers to a truly mixed bag of believers from other races as well. It seems obvious from the teachings of Jesus (and this can also be seen in the Old Testament prophets -- especially Isaiah -- if you read them carefully) that God's plan was exactly this "worldwide" body of believers. Jesus talked about the need to tell the good news of the kingdom in "Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the uttermost parts of the world."
Now, this obviously brings up an important question as to how much of the Jewish heritage gets retained in Christianity, and how much of Christianity was a "new thing" that Jesus inaugurated. Again, I think it's very important to understand the Jewish background of it all, especially when we understand that God showed us a lot with Israel, and ultimately, the understanding of what took place in the nation of Israel should lead to an understanding of the events leading up to the Messiah, Jesus.
However, when it comes to "church", I'm not positive that the Jewish model is a necessary analogy to be drawn. To understand where I'm going with this, I think it's important to understand how my grid and presuppositions will influence my direction and conclusions. While I don't have a full understanding of what Paul wrote in Romans 9-11 with regard to the Jewish nation ("All Israel will be saved", etc.), I believe that there is a compelling argument to be made for the Body of Christ (the "capital C Church", if you will) being a fulfillment of God's design for Israel. Or, to state it the other way, I believe that God's plan for Israel itself was a type (a foreshadowing) of what He would accomplish in the Church. I, together with all believers Jewish or Gentile, am part of the Body of Christ, the people of God, etc. I no longer subscribe to the dispensational view of a distinction between Israel and "the Church". I won't bore you with all the details of how I came to change my views on that, but suffice it to say that I used to be a full-blooded dispensationalist, but I have concluded that dispensationalism is in error.
Basically the reason I share all of that is to say that while I understand the need for Jewish background information, I think it can lead us down a misguided path when it comes to the subject of teaching and preaching. For example, I recently read an article that used Nehemiah 8:8 as a "biblical basis" for expository preaching. The basic premise of the article was that because the Scripture was read, expounded upon, and then applied to the lives of the hearers, this is justification for the same kind of preaching in the New Testament church. The article also went on to mention some New Testament examples of the same kind of preaching being commanded.
I believe there are some weaknesses in argument here, and so I hope to develop these ideas more in forthcoming posts. (This post is serving just as an introduction to the topic.) Let me give you an overview of some of the points I will be attempting to make:
- I believe that "preaching" and "teaching" should not be used interchangably. I believe that they serve two different purposes, and I will attempt to show support for this conclusion from the Scripture.
- Related to the above point, I believe that there is a difference between evangelism and spiritual teaching, and that these two have often become enmeshed in ways that cause confusion with regard to preaching and teaching.
- I still maintain, and will continue to support Scripturally, the idea that the arrival of Jesus and our subsequent indwelling of the Holy Spirit made significant changes in the way that we relate to God and His Word.
- I believe that teaching still has a very relevant and important role in the Church today. I also believe that preaching is still very relevant, but not in the sense that we often think it is.
- I do not believe that every church "service" must have a monologue style sermon (or "didactic teaching" to use Ray's much nicer-sounding term) in order for a group to be considered a church.
Now, I realize that some of these points will require some thought and dialogue to fully establish, so I hope that you will join in through comments so that we can interact. I hope to establish these and other points to a degree that, even though we might not all agree, it will help to dispel some of the myths of simple church and even some of the extra-biblical definitions of church that keep popping up in discussions such as these.
And hopefully, you won't have to wait 3 weeks for the next post!! :) Now, I'm off to get ready for my recital...
Until next time,