They Told Me Rather Than Teach Me

I was a new believer, and my pastor gave me my first Bible ever—a red, hardback King James Version award Bible. “You need to read this book,” he told me. “It’s God’s Word.” 

I was 13 years old at the time, and I had never read any of the Bible. My pastor had told me I needed to, though, so I jumped at the opportunity. I dug into a book I knew nothing about. 

The book of Genesis was fascinating to me because it was all new. Adam and Eve were new to me. So were Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph. So was the teaching that the rainbow was more than a refraction of light; in fact, I still remember what I felt the first time I saw a rainbow after reading Genesis 9. “This is God’s sign,” I said to myself, “. . . .evidence of God’s keeping His promise.” It was all quite amazing.                

The book of Exodus was next, and it was even better. For a 13-year-old guy, stories of burning bushes, plagues descending, seas dividing, mountains shaking, lightning striking, and thunder crashing only made me want to know more of the Bible. I couldn’t put it down. 

But, then I got to Leviticus . . . and I didn’t know what to do. 

I had no idea how to understand this book. I couldn’t figure out what all the laws were about, so I simply quit reading for a while. I suppose I could have skipped the book, but I didn’t know at the time you were allowed to do that! I just laid my Bible down—and felt guilty every day I didn’t read. 

Why did I quit reading at that point? Because my church had told me to read the Bible, but they didn’t teach me how to do it. Consequently, I knew what I needed to do, but I didn’t know how to get it done. I then became just like a bunch of other people in the church who had been told but not taught: I failed to be faithful in my quiet time. 

Anytime we tell but not teach, we set people up for failure. We can expect nothing less from our church members when we give them no tools or strategies to do what they need to do. The problem is that we make this same mistake with a lot of disciplines and activities, like Bible study. And prayer. And fasting. And evangelism. And giving. And serving. And discipling. And fighting temptation. I could continue adding to this list, but I trust you get my point. If we tell believers to do what the Bible tells us to do (which we must do), we must also teach them how to do it. 

I realize that teaching takes more energy and time than simply telling. It requires intentionality and planning, guiding and reviewing, following up and re-teaching if needed. It also assumes that we who do the teaching are faithful in our own walk with the Lord and can, in fact, teach others. It’s much more work than simply telling, but it’s also much more likely to lead to lasting change. 

So, don’t just tell. Teach. 

Posted on December 19, 2023

Dr. Chuck Lawless is a leading expert in spiritual consultation, discipleship and mentoring. As a former pastor, he understands the challenges ministry presents and works with Church Answers to provide advice and counsel for church leaders.
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