Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
March 24, 1960
NUMBER 45, PAGE 2-3b

Jesus Shows How To Teach

Robert C. Welch, Birmingham, Alabama

Jesus shows the Christian how to teach, better than all the modern works on how to do personal work. A very thorough outline of such can be found in the case of his visit to Samaria and his conversation with the woman at the well, in John, chapter 4. The last few years have witnessed the production of a rash on personal work. This does not seek to criticize them. At the same time, we should not become so engrossed in their study and use that we forget the book which furnishes us completely unto every good work.

Some of the most effective and productive teaching done by Jesus was of a personal and private nature. His audience was never too small, and the quality was never too poor, to prevent his teaching. This is evidenced in his teaching the woman at the well in Samaria.

The Approach

One of the apparent problems of the personal worker is making what the salesman and "How To" authors call "the approach." Must he make an appointment, just knock on the door, call "the prospect" from his business; making of it a most formal kind of drive? Jesus made some appointments of a most informal nature; such as his visits with the midget and the revenue agent. But in all cases it was a matter of taking advantage of the opportunity, whatever the circumstances. It could be described as "preach (ing) the word; be(ing) urgent in season, out of season."

Jesus was resting at the well while his disciples went into Sychar to buy bread. He could not quench his thirst because he had no means of drawing the water. Imagine sitting by a well and thirsty. If someone came along who could help, what would you say? The most natural of requests under the circumstances; and that is what the Lord did: "Give me to drink." That simple, natural request was the beginning of one of the great lessons in the Bible. When Christians utilize such ordinary and practical opportunities and make such natural, simple, down-to-earth conversation openers they will find the many long chapters on how to make the "approach" much making of words.

Introducing The Subject

After getting the conversation started there is sometimes trouble in getting the particular intended subject included. Personal work experts find it problematic. Men today can talk about the weather, about local, national and world politics, about the racial problems; and can never find a place to talk about the necessary spiritual subjects. The Samaritan woman immediately started on one of the questions which interests us in these days; segregation of the races. This particular case was that of the segregation of the Samaritans from the Jews. Look how simple, natural and easy it is to get right into the main topic. Jesus said: "If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink; thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water."

He was concerned with teaching her that he was the Messiah of God. Those words he used in introducing the subject were of such nature as to attract immediate interest and pertinent questions on the subject. It would be just as easy to refer a conversation on the racial question to the statement made by Paul at Mars Hill that God has "made of one every nation of men to dwell on the face of the earth." From that, one could enter into a study of the entire sermon, the gospel plan of salvation, and dozens of scriptural subjects.

Eliciting Expression From Prospect

Under most circumstances, where the work is personal and private, it is known to be best that the conversation be kept going both ways. Some have developed a scheme whereby they carry all the actual conversation by having the other person only answer "yes" and "no" to their statements, propositions and questions. This is the procedure of the high-pressure salesman; not a real conversation.

Jesus did not use such tactics. He spoke in such a way as to elicit a natural response from the woman, showing that she was getting the lesson. He said; "Go, call thy husband, and come hither." Now, she was no lady, according to the common usage of the word by upright people. She had had five husbands and was then living with a man who was not her husband. Jesus revealed to her his knowledge of this condition, causing her to exclaim; "Sir, I perceive that thou art a prophet."

It is true that this was accomplished miraculously; and we cannot do such a thing with a stranger. But we can have such a knowledge of the word and a readiness to apply it to everyday affairs and lives of men that they will perceive that we know the Book; not prophets, but teachers and genuine Christians.

Question Period

The entire discussion period cannot, or should not, be given to the study of the questions of the other person. However, the "How To" authors tell us that it is good psychology to show a personal interest by dealing with the questions most pertinent in the "prospect's" mind. Jesus did not ignore her question, but answered it specifically, taking further advantage of the opportunity afforded by the question to teach her a vital lesson on some features of the church. She was still on the racial problem as she asked where men ought to worship. Jesus told her that it was in Jerusalem; but at the same time pointed out that the law would soon be annulled and men of every race could worship anywhere in spirit and in truth.

The Expanding Circle

She got the lesson. She waited for no kind of a formal selection, a concerted drive, or a personal call, divine or human, before she could tell others what she had found. She did a natural thing, just what we today will do in any other matter; she went into the city and told what had happened. Her story was convincing enough that they brought Jesus into the city and themselves listened to his teaching two days. They believed, not because of her speaking, but because they had heard him. We need to get people to believe in the Lord, not because of our speaking, but because they have finally heard, read, and learned his words from the Book. That is the way to spread the gospel.

The Urgency Of The Work

The disciples complained that he should not have talked with the woman and the people who subsequently came to him; they wanted him to eat the food which they had brought from the city. Again, he took advantage of the natural circumstances to teach them a lesson. He emphasized that the spreading of the gospel is more important than eating, in these words; "I have meat to eat that ye know not." He explained; "My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to accomplish his work."

Then he gave them that brilliant picture of the scope of their labor for the Lord; "Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields, that they are white already unto harvest." It is there for us too. We have the specific lesson on how to do it, as they had it before them that day. Let us put it into practice.