Here’s the premise of this post: we have a tendency in the church to TELL people what to do, but not TEACH them how to do it. When they consequently don’t do whatever “it” is – often, I’m convinced, simply because they don’t know how – we get frustrated with them. We then tell them more loudly and more forcefully, only increasing their guilt and their own frustration. Here are some areas where many churches generally TELL but not TEACH:
- Bible study. My pastor told me as a new believer at age 13 to read my Bible. That worked well until I reached the book of Leviticus. I didn’t understand it then, and no one was teaching me. So I quit.
- Prayer. Baby believers might cry out to God, but that doesn’t mean prayer quickly becomes natural. We usually need help to pray consistently.
- Evangelism. Our excitement as young believers helps us to evangelize even before we learn about it, but we often need people to teach us how to deal with objections, address other faiths, etc.
- Giving. I heard the word “tithe” many times in church before I knew what the word meant. Many believers today need general guidance in budgeting in order to prioritize their giving to God’s work. They need a teacher.
- Serving. In my consulting work, I frequently talk with laypersons who want to serve in the church, but they sincerely don’t know what their gifts are or how to get involved in the church.
- Fasting. Few people talk about this discipline, and many who do focus more on telling. Because we don’t teach, church members are left with questions like, “What do I do if I’m on medication?” “How long should I fast?” “Does fasting involve only food?”
- Overcoming temptation. We must not stop proclaiming holiness, but telling someone, “Don’t sin” is quite different from saying, “Let me teach you how to fight temptation.” People who are only told not to sin sometimes continue to struggle while also fearing to tell anyone about their weaknesses.
- Resting/Sabbath. To be frank, I’m still learning what it means to take a Sabbath – and I’m learning because I’m watching and listening to others who make godly rest a priority. No one has yet taught me, and I’m 54 years old.
- Discipling. Because few people have seriously taught believers how to walk with God, many church members have no idea how to invest in someone else. Our requests for mentors often thus go unfulfilled because they don’t how to teach others.
- Loving our spouses. Here’s another place where I’m still learning. I know I’m supposed to love my wife as Christ loves the Church (Eph. 5:25), but I never saw that kind of love modeled in my home. I’m learning without a teacher.
I realize, of course, that the Bible gives us guidance in all these areas. It’s that same Bible, though, that includes mandates for teaching and modeling faith. Telling others what to do is a start, but it’s seldom enough.
In what other areas do we tend to tell, but not teach? How do we correct this problem?