Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
February 22, 1968
NUMBER 41, PAGE 4-5a

"Teaching Them .. ."


"Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you." These are the words with which Christ immediately followed the giving of the command to make disciples and baptize them. This is truly' as much a part of the "great commission" as are the commands to preach the gospel and baptize the penitent believers. No matter how zealous we may be in evangelizing and baptizing, we do not carry out the great commission fully until we teach.

That brings up another question. Nobody teaches unless somebody learns. It is possible to preach, to lecture, to give a discourse to sermonize or moralize without anybody learning. But no one has taught until somebody has learned. And how sadly we all have neglected this field of "teaching!" Our classes have often been hap-hazard, hit-or-miss, sessions which at best are a bit of wasted time, and at worst are positively destructive of the very thing we are hoping to accomplish. How utterly boring and distasteful some "teachers" can make the study of God's word! The students sit in class, apathetic, disinterested, wool-gathering, looking at the clock and wishing for the time to be gone. Or, worse still, some two or three will engage the teacher in a confused, confusing, and interminable argument about some point of no consequence.

Beginning this week the Gospel Guardian will be publishing a series of articles from Martin M. Broadwell having to do with the art of teaching. Brother Broadwell (of the Embry Hills Church in Atlanta, Georgia) is well qualified in the field of communications. He works for American Telephone and Telegraph, and his special assignment is in conducting classes for the benefit of those particularly concerned with "communications." He has held special sessions for such groups not only in America but also in Eurppe, and has invitations to work with groups in South Africa and elsewhere. Being an earnest and sincere Christian, he is particularly interested in using the skills and techniques of his chosen professional field in increasing his own ability (and the abilities of other Christians) in "communicating" the gospel of Christ, not only to non-Christians but to those also who have been baptized into Christ.

Jesus, of course, was the Master Teacher of all time. Some things about his teaching are obvious to even the most casual reader. For one thing, his teaching was almost always "situational" — that is, it was called forth, and dealt with, particular problems arising out of current situations. The Sermon on the Mount, as given in Matthew, seems to be an exception; for here he gave organized, logical, and analytical presentation of basic fundamentals. But while Matthew records all these sayings as having been presented "on the mount," it is clear from the other gospels that they were also presented, from time to time in different places and to different peoples. One of the greatest lessons of all (on the nature of God and of the worship he accepts) was given to a single woman as she came to Jacob's well to draw water. The mighty parables were usually called forth by some circumstance or question of the hour. Jesus "tailored" his message to the needs of his particular audience. To one man, Nicodemus, he set forth the nature of the spiritual birth; to the Rich Young Ruler he gave his unforgettable lesson on the tragedy of "trusting in riches." To Mary and her sister, weeping at their brother's grave, he gave the great lesson on immortality. Yes, these were "situational" teachings, each of them growing out of a specific circumstance.

In our modern classes how often we miss this element. We have a "lesson" to cover, a certain subject to talk about, a few verses to explain. And it may be ten thousand miles from the heart and problem of the ones we are trying to "teach." But the session groans on, dull, uninteresting, unrelated to the life or needs of the student, until the bell rings and everybody heaves a sigh of relief. This is teaching? Yes! But it is "teaching" of the most destructive and diabolical sort. It is teaching the students to be bored ' irritated, and wholly disinterested in the most vital and important thing they will ever come into contact with on this earth — the eternal God and their relationship to him. There is no single class session (and never has been one) in which the student, or students, did not "learn" something — but how stunned and dismayed the teacher might well be to realize what had been "learned" in the class.

We contemplate a continuing emphasis in the Gospel Guardian on this matter of "teaching': Brother Broadwell's articles will not be the last. His present series consists of three articles (the first appearing in this issue); others will follow from to time. Let every Christian, and particularly every one who attempts to teach a class, understand that the curriculum of any teaching situation consists of the TOTAL stimuli brought to bear at the time of teaching. A student may "learn" from the lazy buzzing of a fly which has captured his attention quite as truly as from the lips of a teacher. The buzzing fly may be helping him immunize his mind and heart against the truth; he is being "conditioned" to be indifferent to spiritual matters, and to sink into a drowsy lethargy whenever anything of eternal or spiritual significance may be brought up for thought or study.

F. Y. T.