We’ve been examining the characteristics of an overseer listed by the apostle Paul in I Timothy 3:2 and applying them to spiritual leadership. Because I’m a Bible teacher, this next quality is especially dear to my heart: “able to teach.”
But even as many aspire to teach, the Bible gives us a stern warning. James wrote: “Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly” (James 3:1 NIV).
Why would teachers incur a stricter judgment? Throughout His Word, God expressed His anger at false teachers and corrupt shepherds who led His people astray. He is protective of His people, and will judge those who leave His people hungry and unprotected.
Being a teacher, especially as a spiritual leader, means we have the ability and the opportunity to influence others for good or for bad. And when we teach in the name of Jesus, we must be careful that what we teach is consistent with the whole counsel of God’s Word.
So, in light of this warning, what does “able to teach” require? Let’s look at three areas:
Before we consider Bible knowledge or relational skills, the spiritual leader who is able to teach must first be teachable.
A teachable teacher has a humble heart instead of an arrogant attitude.
Even though we’re 2,000 years removed from Jesus’ earthly ministry, she sits at His feet by spending time in His Word and being aware of the prompting of His Spirit.
She tackles her topic with a desire to learn before she prepares to teach the content.
A spiritual leader isn’t a know-it-all about the Bible. But she is a student of God’s Word. She is “a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth” (II Timothy 2:15 NIV).
She is a teacher who does not hijack a verse out of context. Instead, one who is able to teach studies the context of what she is teaching. What verses come before it? After it? Who was the original audience of that particular book of the Bible? Why did the writer write it?
One who is able to teach limits her teaching of the Bible to exegesis (drawing the meaning from the text and its context), and refuses to be drawn into eisegesis (teaching what she wants the passage to say rather than what it actually says).
A godly teacher will ensure that, as much as possible, she seeks to use the Bible to interpret itself. What she interprets a verse to mean in one place will never contradict what the Bible says elsewhere, for the Bible never contradicts itself.
One who is able to teach also treats her audience with respect. She doesn’t approach them as someone who has it all together or who has “arrived.” Rather, her perspective is that of a person traveling the same journey as those she is teaching.
A godly teacher knows her audience. Her vocabulary and illustrations will be consistent with the background of her listeners. The apostle Paul was a master of this. He said of himself, “I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some” (I Corinthians 9:22 NIV).
These are only a few of the characteristics of a godly spiritual leader who is “able to teach.” But they provide a good place to start!
Ava Pennington is an author, teacher, and speaker from the Treasure Coast of Florida. You can read more of her work on her site: http://www.AvaWrites.com
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