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Tuesday, February 28, 2006

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, 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,

steve :)

28 comment(s):

Good stuff, and welcome back, hope the recital went well! I agree -- trying to oversimplify will only get one in hot water (i.e. trying to overlay all of the Jewish aspects onto the modern church).

One of the reasons that I have somewhat distanced myself from some elements of the Messianic movement is that they have tried to reinstill Jewish practices as 'necessary' (they won't use those words exactly), and I disagree; there is definitely a modification aas the Gospel spread into the nations.

I also agree that the message was for all nations and there is no distinction between Israel and the Church.

The only thing I would point out is that didactic teaching is not actually always preaching, as I will note below, the root for this word actually means teaching -- preaching is much more teh proclamation of the truth of God's Word (this can be teaching as well as preaching). I agree that there is a difference between teaching and preaching.

Jesus preached -- Greek word = kerusso: and you can find that in Matthew 4, 10, 11 etc; also in Mark in several places and throughout the Epistles. This word is used for preaching.

Another word used for preaching is the more well-known evangelizo (euaggelizo) -- this is the word used when evangelism is done.

And finally there is didasko - hence, the term didactic. This is the one that is used for teaching.

There are definitely different meanings, and I do not think that we should mix and match preaching and teaching. Even the words for preacher and teacher are different - A preacher, as found in Romans 10 and 2nd Timothy is addressed using the root word for kerusso which basically means a herald. Whereas a teacher is addressed using the root for didasko -- meaning, well, to teach... :-)

Again, welcome back...

By Blogger Ray, at Saturday, March 04, 2006 9:24:00 AM  

Charles Finney said during the Businessmen's Prayer Revival (1857), "The general impression seems to be that we have had instruction until we are hardened; it is time to pray."

Is it possible that most of us Americans today have become like the people just before the Businessman's Prayer Revival? That our hearts are hardened to preaching and teaching. (Especially preaching.)

By Blogger Larry Who, at Saturday, March 04, 2006 4:35:00 PM  

Larry, I'm not sure I follow your point. Are you implying that you think my heart is hardened to preaching and teaching?

steve :)

By Blogger Steve Sensenig, at Saturday, March 04, 2006 10:12:00 PM  

Ray, thanks for stopping by again. Good to "see" you again, my friend :)

I appreciate your clarification on the definition of "didactic". I hope to incorporate those words and definitions into my posts as we go forward on this topic. You already got a step ahead of me on the Greek words ;)

How's the new job going?

steve :)

By Blogger Steve Sensenig, at Saturday, March 04, 2006 10:15:00 PM  

Forgive me - I didn't mean that your heart was hardened.

What I was trying to say was that most of us Christians have heard so many preaching and teaching sermons that most of the messages go in one ear and out the other, without ever changing anybody.

Charles Finney said that people's hearts were hardened in his time period. Today, I believe people are sermoned out.

By Blogger Larry Who, at Saturday, March 04, 2006 10:27:00 PM  

Larry, I think it is possible that you are correct. My question is whether or not the fault for that lies on either side or both sides. In other words, are we "sermoned out" because of hardness in our hearts? Or are we "sermoned out" because a sermon is not the best method of communicating the Word in our gatherings? Or is it a bit of both?

We'll see where we end up on this series!

steve :)

By Blogger Steve Sensenig, at Sunday, March 05, 2006 10:53:00 AM  

Steve, I am looking forward to reading your articles, not as a critic but as a seeker of truth.

By Blogger Larry Who, at Sunday, March 05, 2006 11:02:00 AM  

Larry, I thought you meant what you clarified your meaning to be. Probably because I feel sermoned out myself. Eight years ago, as I dealt with the heavy conviction that I was not nealry as mature as I wanted to believe, I sat down and tried to earnestly estimate the number of sermons to which I had listened in 18 years of church attendance. Roughly 2000+. Yet, I was miserable in my immaturity.

Ray, with all respect for what I perceive to be your position on this, I think I can manage to never hear another sermon.

What my heart desires above all else, is the depth, breadth and length of the love of God. The Father's fulness known in this material life by loving like He loves. Should He choose another sermon, or multiple other sermons to bring me there, so be it! I will Amen every word. Yet, I suspect, I must live more of the sermons I have heard. It is in the living it with flesh and blood people that I predict I will learn what He has laid upon my heart.

By Anonymous ded, at Sunday, March 05, 2006 7:29:00 PM  

ded -- while you know my position, quite frankly, I am with you... It is not enough to HEAR the sermons, it is to live them out.

I fear that we have become spectators, hence your reasoning for the 'sermon burn-out' (not necesarily in your case, but in general). I am afraid tha we have made our pastors the center of our attention, and not the Lord Himself.

The biggest fear I have is that someone would mistake my words, opinions, and thoughts as being Sacred Scripture! I believe that we ALL must endeavor to dig into the Word of God, and sharpen our prayer disciplines.

Just a thought; we often talk, pray and cry about revival, but I fear that it is all too often not OUR revival, but the revival of 'all those other folks' that we desire. This is often caused by us smugly sitting in our pews, feeling like we 'got it' because our pastor is well-known and we hear him every week, etc etc etc... All too rarely, is the Word of God applied to our lives...

Oops -- sorry, I am ranting, but I feel passionate about the fact that one should NOT sit and listen to a sermon and then go home and feel go about 'going to church'. Rather, I feel that one should be moved to apply the Word of God to one's life and want to grow, individually, familially, and corporately... While I come from a slightly different perspective as others in this discussion please understand that I am thoroughly in your camp when it comes to application of God's Word!

By Blogger Ray, at Sunday, March 05, 2006 9:02:00 PM  

I agree with you that dispensationalism is in error! Until fairly recently, almost no one knew the details regarding the totally bizarre history of that system of doctrine. But now, thanks to a historian who's been privileged to discover long forgotten primary documents in England and Scotland, readers can read the shocking aspects of it on search engines if they type in the title "Pretrib Rapture Diehards." You will never find a belief that has more inherent dishonesty in it than dispensationalism; just the details about Scofield's hidden life would be enough for anyone to abandon the entire system! I applaud you for standing up against that latter-day fantasy.
Disgusted with dispensationalism

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Monday, March 06, 2006 1:19:00 AM  

Well, one of the very frustrating things about allowing anonymous comments is the inability to properly respond to someone by name.

Let me just go on record here as saying that, while I do believe dispensationalism is in error, I am not interested in attacking the system or its founders.

Error does not have to be in the form of conspiracy. Or, to say it in a different way, we don't have to uncover some secret documents in order to refute certain beliefs. Furthermore, if a system of belief can be addressed from the standpoint of logical fallacies (as is the case with dispensationalism), there is no need to resort to ad hominem attacks in our refutation of it.

People can be sincerely wrong, and it is not our job to undermine their whole life and work just to attack their belief.

It is not the purpose of this blog to slander or attack anyone or their beliefs with this kind of anonymous "drive-by shooting". However, it's also not the purpose of this blog to delete the above comment and censor in that way, so I will let it stand accompanied by my disclaimer here.

steve :)

By Blogger Steve Sensenig, at Monday, March 06, 2006 7:10:00 AM  

Thank you, Steve, for moderating the blog and focusing us on maintaining the unity of the Spirit. It is natural to disagree over things which are matters of opinion and to have our weaknesses show in that process. It is supernatural to love one another in the face of our disagreements and short-comings.

By Anonymous ded, at Monday, March 06, 2006 12:46:00 PM  

Ray, I appreciate your passion. I concur with your last post, however, I ponder as follows on the issue of revival: I see an assumption in seeking revival. This is, the fervor with which we first embraced God has waned and needs to be revived. The initial rush of love for God was wonderful but limited. Does such need being revived? What if we taught the deep love of God "revival" is said to restore as always available to the believer by faith? That is, the finished work of the cross both enables access to the throne of God for salvation and supports a long, deep relationship of immovable sanctity, the reality of being a new creature in Christ.

Consider the wonder of a marriage long, fruitful and full of devotion from both parties. The initial state of love is no longer even considered as needing to be revived since day to day reality resonates a quality much deeper. Today, my wife and I celebrate twenty-five years of being married. I would never return to the initial depth of love we enjoyed at marriage. It simply pales in comparison to what we know now. (Have I ever needed my marriage to be revived? No, I have often needed to repent of my selfishness.)

Maybe revival is seen as needed because of our tendancy to grow luke warm. Some will grow luke warm, no doubt. Yet, the potential exists for believers to know a lifetime of growth much more fulfilling. I ask, what if we teach a relationship with God built on knowing His presence as the full source of our righteousness, peace and joy-- nothing else, but Him--would walking with God be reduced to swings between "desert" and "revival' states?

I observe often in America relationship with God is approached as a transaction; "If I commit to Him, He will make my life work." In this view, has one honestly died to self? Holding this view folks are prone to disappointment over not receiving what is expected. Then lukewarm feelings follow and are the indicator of needed "revival." The truth may be that some have never walked in the new creation in the first place, though have acknowledged such in words.

What if we more clearly understood as maturity in Christ the knowing of the separation between our soul and spirit? The separation between "our" life and His in us? What if we recognized all feelings that are turned away from God as in our soul, and fullness of love for God as always a function available within our new creature? This place is not revived; it is entered by faith confident in His provision in the spirit. What if we abandoned building a life here and embraced this life as nothing more than a pilgrimage through an alien land? Would the acceptance of the need for "revival," whether for ourselves or others, be the same? So goes my pondering.

By Anonymous ded, at Tuesday, March 07, 2006 10:01:00 AM  

Ded, I don't have time to respond to the actual meat of your comment here (except to say "well said"!) because unlike you, my school is not closed today and I need to get in there. :)

But I did want to say: HAPPY ANNIVERSARY!!!! Our heartfelt love to you and "Mrs. ded" on this special day!!

steve :)

By Blogger Steve Sensenig, at Tuesday, March 07, 2006 10:30:00 AM  

I was a part of a small church in Iowa that prayed for a revival to come to that city for three years. We met every morning for those thirty-six months with rare exceptions. At times, we fasted for a week at a time. And yet, we never saw a revival.

Today, the church is closed. Everybody has moved to other areas of the U.S.

Revival, an inrush from heaven, move of the Holy Spirit or whatever you want to title it has to first be in the heart of God. Then, He moves on the people that He has chosen to bring the move of God through.

But if you have studied the Businessmen's Prayer Revival of 1857, the Welsh Revival, the Azusa Revival and you heart is not stirred to see something like that in your part of the U.S. than I wonder about your fervor.

Though I want to see reformation of the church, I long to see God bring His fire on California. If it comes to a barn or church or a house or a tavern or a brush arbor gathering - I am going to be there.

I want to see God move!

By Blogger Larry Who, at Tuesday, March 07, 2006 4:03:00 PM  

I guess my question would be, what are we waiting for from God? In other words, what could God do that He hasn't already done and made available to us on a daily basis?

Ded and I have talked about this subject offline in past discussions: Notice in the average contemporary church how many of our "worship" songs relate to the idea of calling out to God, asking Him to move, asking Him to come, telling Him that we're waiting for Him to do something, show us His glory, open our eyes, etc. etc. etc.

We need to catch an understanding of the fact that God has already shown up! He is already here! And He is already moving!! We don't need to wait for anything to happen!

Maybe if we're honest with ourselves, we might admit that we are seeking an emotional rush...don't we all love those services where you can really feel the presence of God? But is that all it's about? Just feeling His presence? Or is it about the thrill and joy of living every waking, breathing moment in intimate fellowship with the Holy Spirit?

When I'm not thinking of it in those terms, Larry, I'm with you on wanting to see God move. But I'm also beginning to understand that it's not that we're waiting for Him to show up and do something. It's that we just are not in tune with what He's already doing, and what He has been doing for 2000 years! This is the beauty of "Emmanuel" -- God with us.

Does that make sense?
steve :)

By Blogger Steve Sensenig, at Tuesday, March 07, 2006 10:13:00 PM  

Yep - Ded and Steve, it does make sense... I think we are all in agreement... I also agree with Larry -- it would be great to see God move in teh way He did in the great revivals of the past... moving those who had grown cold into a renewed awareness of Him...

My take is much along the lines of ded (I think). We PRAY for revival, but what we are looking for is the 'rush', and not the life-transforming relationship with God... Ded, you are right on, it should be an ever deepening relationship... I think that is modeled in the lives of people like Abraham (look at how he grew, it was not one big 'fuzzy feeling', but a lifetime of walking ever closer to the Lord), and Peter (witness his episltes compared with his actions in the gospels).

It is a life-long walk, growing ever deeper...

Simply my .02,


By Blogger Ray, at Tuesday, March 07, 2006 10:32:00 PM  

By the way -- I apologize for the abysmal spelling in my last post... UGH!

By Blogger Ray, at Tuesday, March 07, 2006 10:33:00 PM  

Steve said:

We need to catch an understanding of the fact that God has already shown up! He is already here! And He is already moving!! We don't need to wait for anything to happen!

My answer: Yes, of course.

But Jesus also said the works that I do you shall do and greater works because I go to My Father.

Well, Larry Who (me)has not done
any greater works and to be honest I haven't opened blind eyes, cleansed lepers or raised the dead.

Peter healed by his shadow falling on people. Paul healed by carrying cloths from his body to people. These would have to be considered greater works than Jesus - right?

To me, revival not only means having a fresh presence of God or seeing salvations, but it is hungering to see these miracles happening in our midst.

If this is emotional, then I'm emotional. If this is lack of contentment on my part, then I am discontented.

In other parts of the world, these types of miracles are happening. Why not here?

By Blogger Larry Who, at Tuesday, March 07, 2006 11:44:00 PM  

Just a note: I enjoy hanging out with you guys. So, Steve, put your hands to the keyboard and write the next section of this article. Ya hear?

By Blogger Larry Who, at Wednesday, March 08, 2006 11:08:00 AM  

Larry, I can understand why you question about fervor after what I said. Let me be more direct. I have no more fervor. I used to be a dancing, tongues talking, lay out on the floor when "hit be the spirit" Christian (witnesses say my head bounced and thudded like a ripe melon but I had no injuries), and yeah, I did the meet every morning at 6:00 to cry out for revival in our town. We did that for five years. (Not trying to be one up on you here, just relating the facts.)

I probably would do it all over again. I am not complaining. Honestly, it had to be a part of my journey, so I wouldn't change it. The Father taught me much.

Now however, those experiences helped me define that I do not have faith to continue in those ways on my path into deeper maturity in Christ. Will the maturity I attain involve signs and wonders? God knows and that's all that matters.

I know a dedication I never knew then to understand loving like God loves. I experience an exchange of love in the spirit between me and the Spirit of the Lord in my inner-being that I never knew then. This impacts my family as I serve as priest for them, my brethren with whom I labor to build community in Christ and the souls both lost and saved with whom I work as a professional teacher.

Am I suggesting you have less fervor? No. Follow the Lord where He leads. Your journey is yours. I support you in holding to what is in your heart, because I trust His words, "Seek and you shall find."

By Anonymous ded, at Wednesday, March 08, 2006 6:56:00 PM  

ooops ..."hit BY the spirit."

I think this is fun place to hang out, too. Glad to be having this exchange with ya'll!

By Anonymous ded, at Wednesday, March 08, 2006 7:10:00 PM  

To ded:

Poor choice of words on my part. When I used the word "your" in the phrase "your fervor", it was meant to be a generic term and not a reference to you (ded) personally.

As my wife has mentioned to me on an occasion or two, my pronouns are sometimes out there swimming around and waiting for someone to grab them.

Mea culpa.

By Blogger Larry Who, at Wednesday, March 08, 2006 7:49:00 PM  


I teach English among other things and know that most of us, myself included, use "you/r" when we really mean no one in particular. Nonetheless, my comment prompted yours, no? I am not offended. Fact is, I would be very surprised if you could offend me.

Especially in this format, where all we have is words without inflection or body language or eye contact in order to connect with one another. This is a kind of workroom. We plane and sand and sometimes cut big chunks to get at what we are trying to say while we stir up lots of dust.

By Anonymous ded, at Wednesday, March 08, 2006 8:23:00 PM  

24 comments?? (This makes 25) I can't say for certain, but I think that might be a Theological Musings record. Thanks for the interaction, guys! :)

I'm not exactly sure how we got from preaching and teaching to revival, but if you'll bear with me, I'll post here in the next couple of days, Lord willing, back on the subject of preaching.

Next week is Spring Break at ASU, and other than a round or two of golf (since the weather seems to be very good for the next week) and maybe some recording, I plan to be home relaxing. So chances are good you'll get a handful of posts with which to interact over the next week or so.

And, Larry, once again, welcome to the gang here. Glad you're hanging out with us! Unfortunately, I think Libbie decided to stop hanging out, so we're pretty much a guy's club right now...hehe

Have a great day, y'all. And ded, we're looking forward to fellowshiping with you again this weekend!

steve :)

By Blogger Steve Sensenig, at Thursday, March 09, 2006 8:36:00 AM  

Oh, I forgot to reply to this part:

Larry wrote: In other parts of the world, these types of miracles are happening. Why not here?

Larry, my reply got so lengthy that I just turned it into a post. Hope you don't mind.

steve :)

By Blogger Steve Sensenig, at Thursday, March 09, 2006 9:26:00 AM  

so is it ok if i'm part of the "guy's club"? i enjoy reading these discussions. it just takes me a long time to get through steve's books! besides we just got dsl hooked up so now i can stay online without tying up the phone!

for now i'm just a generally quiet listener/reader, so don't expect any great posts from me (steve has all the great ideas; i just put the ditto marks on them)

By Blogger flutemom, at Thursday, March 16, 2006 12:18:00 PM  

woohoo! Welcome, flutemom! :) :) *big hug* Great to see you here.

And obviously, I was joking about the "guy's club". I think I got too charismatic (or too un-reformed, maybe) for Libbie! hehe

We definitely could benefit from having some females here, so you're absolutely welcome. Of course, you knew that already, I hope!

steve :)

By Blogger Steve Sensenig, at Thursday, March 16, 2006 12:22:00 PM  

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