Strong leadership and effective teaching are absolutely essential to the strength and growth of a congregation! In fact, those two factors go hand in hand because a strong and wise leadership will see to it that the church receives the edification it needs. We need to realize that it is difficult, if not impossible, for a local church to rise above leadership and teaching that is weak, misguided, and ineffectual. That’s why I would like for us to consider the importance of the local teacher.
While it is a worthy effort to encourage our able young men in the church to become preachers of the Gospel and to get involved in evangelistic work, let us never forget that there is also a need in every congregation for local teachers. By “local teachers,” I mean men who are members of a local church and who contribute their part in edifying and building up the church in their locality.
The Bible shows that the work they do is vital and indispensable: “Now there were in the church that was at Antioch certain prophets and teachers…” (Acts 13:1). “And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers” (Eph. 4:11). Its obvious from these two passages of Scripture that teaching plays a vital role in the life and work of a local church. Notice how Paul went on to make this clear in Eph. 4:12, “For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.” This tells us that effective teaching is necessary to bring members of the church to maturity (where they can discover their rightful place in the kingdom of Christ as those fully equipped to serve God). Also, take note of the expression, “For the edifying of the body of Christ.” To edify means to build up in the sense of promoting spiritual growth.
Some believe that “pastors and teachers” in Eph. 4:11 refers to the same office or same person. In other words, being a teacher is part of the function of a pastor or elder in the church. Vincent gives the following explanation: “The omission of the article from teachers seems to indicate that pastors and teachers are included under one class. The two belong together. No man is fit to be a pastor who cannot also teach, and the teacher needs the knowledge which pastoral experience gives” (Vincent’s Word Studies Of The N.T., p. 390). The point I want to emphasize is that before a man is qualified to be ordained to do the work of an elder, he must first be “apt to teach” (1 Tim. 3:2). Tit. 1:9 explains that to include the idea that he is “holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers.” Yes, an elder must be an effective teacher of Gods word; he must be someone who knows how to both edify the church and use the sword of the Spirit to combat false doctrine. Brethren, if we ever have elders in the church, those men will come from the local teachers of a congregation! That’s the point I want you to see.
Having established that the local teacher is vital to the life and the growth of the church, this brings us to the next point: Local teachers need the awesome responsibility that goes with this work! James 3:1 reminds us that teachers should not approach their duty to teach in a flippant or careless fashion: “My brethren, be not many masters, knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation.” The word “masters” here translated “teachers.” It is the same word used in Acts 13:1 and Eph. 4:11. James is saying that before we undertake this work we need to appreciate the tremendous responsibility that goes along with it. In fact, James says that we who are teachers will be judged with a greater strictness. Why? The reason is because the teacher has a responsibility that all men do not have and he will be judged in special areas pertaining to that work: Did he teach the truth? Did he speak the truth in love (Eph. 4:15–motives will be taken into consideration)? Did he teach what was needed (Acts 20:26-27)? Did he practice what he taught others to do (Matt. 23:3)? Such matters as these will be taken into account in the day of judgment. Surely a most sobering thought!
Let me conclude by pointing out that there are at least two qualifications for a local teacher to meet. First, teachers must be faithful servants of God. 2 Tim. 2:2 says, “And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men ” Being a local teacher in the church is not a “right” that someone just automatically and arbitrarily receives, but rather it is a privilege and it is something that must be earned. By that I mean that the person must prove himself worthy of such a task and responsibility by being faithful to Gods word. A person whose life is not above sin and reproach cannot be an effective teacher and should not expect to occupy such a position! Secondly, teachers must be capable of edifying the church. The latter part of 2 Tim. 2:2 says, “…faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.” This includes several ideas: (1) It seems to me that it assumes that the person has some natural ability to stand before an audience and publicly proclaim the word of God. The truth is that not everyone has the ability to teach and the Lord does not intend for every man in the church to be a local teacher (1 Cor. 12:29). (2) To be able to teach others includes the knowledge necessary to instruct and edify. Notice that 2 Tim. 2:2 demands that the message of truth be transmitted to faithful men. (3) Teaching, like any other endeavor, takes effort and experience. A person does not become an effective teacher over night; it takes desire, practice, and time. However, if the person has some natural ability and the incentive, he can grow as a teacher and will learn how to be skillful in handling the word of God. Again, this is seen in the qualifications of an elder. As we’ve already established, an elder must be “apt to teach.” This includes the idea of being “skilled in teaching.” Hence effective teaching is a skill, and like any other skill or techniques involved in teaching, the more effective he’s going to be at his “craft.”
The church needs and deserves strong and effective teaching! Local teachers, please realize how important you are to the work of the church. Remember: “Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, for you know that we who teach Shall be judged with greater strictness” (James 3:1, RSV).
Published in the September 1, 1998 issue of the OPA.