Teaching. Learning. Leading. Following.

Everyone teaches. Everyone learns. Everyone leads. Everyone follows. These exist as passive or active realities in every person’s life. These truths confront me daily, and I must choose whether they live in a positive or negative way.

You get to make the same choice. Everyone makes this choice, some deliberately and intentionally, others by letting life happen to them and allowing negative habits and influences to shape their existence.

Several sources combined to stir my thoughts on this topic.

sf_GoMakeDisciples_0010_Group 1Are you just a spectator in The Great Commission?

My view of The Great Commission expanded recently as I changed from just seeing it as a whole to better understanding each individual part. The inescapable aspect of it that seems to be gripping me more and more involves teaching.

“Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20)

In my observations of the church, we are pretty good at the making and baptizing (or at least focusing there). But, sometimes, the “teach” part seems neglected. Well, I guess more so teaching to be disciples. We’re also pretty good at teaching to serve, an important part of being a disciple.

But what troubles me, and what my mind struggles putting into words, I find expressed well by the discovery of Bill Hybels (founder of the Willow Creek Church movement) when he surveyed his own members. Here’s what Hybels discovered:

“Heavy involvement in church programs did not translate into spiritual growth and maturity.”

In the article “What Non-Christians Really Think of Us,” the late Charles Colson discussed the following:

“What the Church needs to do is to make disciples, to grow people in the faith, not be spectators. We must teach them what Christians believe and how to live out these doctrines in all of life. Like Hybels, church leaders need to examine whether they are making disciples and encouraging holy living.”

On a personal level, this translate into looking into my own role as a teacher and a leader. At the same time, I must examine my own learning as well as following.

Before we begin discussing these thoughts, consider the perspectives the following resources provide.

schoolChristian Faith at Work – Is Everyone Gifted to Be a Teacher?

The post “Is Everyone Gifted to Be a Teacher?” by Chris Patton at Christian Faith at Work begins a series addressing the idea that every person’s calling involves being a teacher. While not everyone holds a formal teaching position and not everyone may be described as a “gifted” teacher, every Christian should teach others. Read the series to find out more. It’s well worth your time.

The Leadership Mandate – Book Recommendationdansblack_3D1-890x1087

My friend Dan Black from Dan Black on Leadership recently published a book titled, The Leadership Mandate. While reading it, two main thoughts immediately came to mind.

First, the book provides a terrific exploration of the basic elements of leadership. The elements Dan discusses must exist in order for someone to be an effective leader. What I liked the most about the elements he lists and discusses is that the first one involves leading yourself since an effective leader must lead himself successfully.

Second, my boys need to read this book. Because Dan simplifies the essential elements of leadership so well, The Leadership Mandate is a great resource for new leaders wanting specific action items that will help develop them as leaders.  (My 14-year-old did in fact read the book & found some helpful tips he plans to immediately apply.)

(Note: When you purchase  The Leadership Mandate now through October 7th, you will receive some terrific bonuses – 6 of them actually! Check out Dan Black on Leadership for more details on these bonuses!)

Time for Discussion

Do we have any business being teachers if we are not also students?

And, what effectiveness can we have as godly leaders if we are not also godly followers?

Is every Christian called to teach?

How does learning to lead yourself successfully fit into The Great Commission, if at all?

Lastly, how can the church improve at teaching disciples?

27 thoughts on “Teaching. Learning. Leading. Following.

  1. Good post Kari. I think when a person stops reading and learning he stops growing. A person cannot be a teacher, a pastor, or a leader of any kind unless he continues learning. it is exciting to me to see lifelong followers of Jesus still wanting to learn and grow.

    • Thanks, Bill. I obviously agree. One motivation I have for visibly showing my desire to learn and grow involves encouraging my pastor. I am glad to hear from your perspective as a pastor that this does encourage you.

  2. Great post and timely. In 2 weeks, I'm headed to Texas to take on a new role as an associate pastor with an emphasis on adult and youth discipleship. Thanks for the recommendations and the insights.

  3. One thing I've always loved about teaching is that I learn so much while I'm preparing. Good teachers always benefit most from what they learn as they strive to help others grow. I agree with you Kari, it's the same with faith and discipleship. We can't follow the great commission in making disciples if we're not following ourselves. This sounds like a great book!

  4. Interesting questions. I think we're all called to teach and to lead, but in different ways. We can teach and lead by example, rather than in a formal role. And, like it, or not we do.

    • Exactly right, Melanie. We don't have to have a formal role or position to be teachers or leaders. And, being in a formal position or role doesn't mean we're no longer students & followers. And yes, it definitely happens in different ways based on the seasons of life.

  5. I do think the we all are teachers. It is a sacred trust. How do we handle this responsibility? I always teach a subject better or a skill if I have been a good student of the subject or skill. I think we need to look for teaching opportunities and use them wisely. What scares me is the time we are teaching and we don't know it. The times we are being watched to see how we respond to something; for how we live teaches a great deal. Perhaps that is the essence of teaching and that it how we are living.

    • A "sacred trust" is a great way to put it. Being a perpetual student is something I think every person needs to have going in some way, shape or form. The teaching and leading times that happen when we don't know it are often the most crucial ones, too. That being the case, we need to realize that we are always teaching and leading and therefore must always be learning & following. It must be a lifestyle.

  6. As I write and teach, I am continuously impressed with God's work speaking to me, correcting me, challenging me. If this were not the case, I do not think I should teach. I would only have head knowledge without any actual experience.

    As you have emphasized in a recent post and in conversations, as followers of Christ, our relationship with Him must come first. Only then does everything else fit into the right perspective.

    • God definitely is the primary teacher and leader in my life. I'm amazed at the number of different ways He teaches & leads me. He makes it possible for me to do what I do as well. Our relationship with Him is absolutely a key.

  7. I love these questions Kari! First I would say that too many Christians are simply spectators in the Great Commission. In fact I have been guilty of that too many times. Just because you carry the title of pastor, teacher, missionary (all titles I have) doesn't mean that you are automatically faithful in these areas.

    I find that I have to constantly check myself with God's Word, analyze my behavior and my attitude and ask God to make me willing to do his will.

  8. Hi Kari! I recently discovered your blog from Bill's site. I am also friend's with Dan Black, and was privileged to read his book and do a blog book review for him. And I also live in Michigan! Although I am not originally from MI, my wife is, and so it's pretty much become home to me. We live in Dearborn, MI. Anyway, love your thoughts in this post. I think the Great Commission is talked about a lot, from many different pulpits, but sadly, that's all it is – talk. The Great Commission, however, is about action, about movement. It's something I think the church can different improve on. God bless!

    • Always fun to know where a new connection comes from. We live in Three Rivers, MI, so not very far from you at all. Makes the connection even cooler! The Great Commission is not just talk for many preachers but Christians in general. We need to get beyond talk & start living what we’re saying. But it starts with the individual, and I need to take responsibility for my part in it. The Holy Spirit is really working on me to step it up in this (and other) areas.

  9. I totally agree about more churches needing to equip and teach people after they have committed to serve the Lord! Each church member must be intentional about doing their part to spread the Gossip and equip those they have lead to the Lord.

    Thank you for mentioning my book:) I'm so glad you kids read and enjoyed it, that really blesses my heart.

  10. I totally agree about more churches needing to equip and teach people after they have committed to serve the Lord! Each church member must be intentional about doing their part to spread the Gossip and equip those they have lead to the Lord.

    Thank you for mentioning my book:) I'm so glad you kids read and enjoyed it, that really blesses my heart.

  11. Thought provoking post, Kari. It's a topic that has been plaguing me as well. I feel as if many churches fall short of teaching people how to follow Christ, how to be a disciple and how to share their faith. They seem to focus more on the initial salvation (good thing to do) and then on plugging them into programs inside the church. But the church will not grow if we simply wait for the world to step through our doors, we must go outside the church walls!

    A good book that really sparked this fire inside me is, "The Cost of Discipleship" by Dietrich Bonhoeffer. He made me approach my walk with God from a whole new perspective. He challenged me to do more than my fellow Christians who were satisfied with the status quo. Not saying all Christians are like that, just many that I know.

    • Your description is a good one. I see even my own church as good at receiving & welcoming people, plugging them in and then not being able to help them grow as disciples. Now, a lot of that is on the individual, but I do think the church can promote this in a way that makes it as important as getting plugged in. The Bonhoeffer book is on my "To Read" shelf on Goodreads. I need to giddyup on my reading!

  12. I think a lot of the issue depends on your definition of teaching. If you mean formal teaching of scripture in a group setting, I don't think that everyone is called necessarily to do that. If you define teaching as just doing life together in community, teaching your kids, etc. – then yes, I would say that everyone is called.

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