We have been talking about building Disciples, believers who are willing to be taught and “molded” into the life of Christ. Obviously, then, the teacher must also be a disciple himself. In the ordinary type of teaching, you can fight with our wife over the breakfast table, and then go to the church and preach about love in the home. Ah, but when you are making disciples, you cannot do that. Your disciples are with you much more. They get into your home; they see how you live, and that is what they imitate.
I’ll tell you what, back when we were ministering at Western Michigan University, we meet in our home for meals and Bible studies. During our first meeting, I caught my wife off guard when I told the students who were meeting with us to go through our home. I told them to feel free to learn about us: open drawers; look in closets; look under the bed; inspect our cupboards. I wanted our disciples to understand that we had nothing to hide and were completely open to them.
And I have said it before, if someone lived with me for a month and said, “Hey Nickolas, I have lived with you all this time, but you never once gave me a Bible Study. How come?” I would have been very disappointed. If someone had lived with me, yet never learned something; I had nothing to teach them. Discipleship isn’t so much talking as it is living.
I know I have shared this before, but when my wife had surgery for cancer, I was sitting in the waiting room and called a very dear friend. He had, incidentally, sat under my ministry when he was a student at WMU, and he immediately prayed with me. He didn’t wait; he prayed while we were on the phone!
I thanked him for that, and his response surprised me. He said, “That’s what you taught me to do!” Wow! Did I? I didn’t realize that he was watching me. I had done that for some many years, I never realized it was noticeable. You see, if someone calls me, sends me an email or “IM,” I pray immediately. Why wait? I might forget to pray for them later and besides, the need is at that moment. But you see, the point I am attempting to make is that all of us need to understand the three dimensions of teaching: Revelation, formation, and information.
Did you catch that? Write it down somewhere: The three dimensions of teaching are Revelation, Formation, and Information.
Revelation is something only God can do. Let’s say I described my house to you. I could tell you its size and color; then described the basement and office; the bedrooms; the fireplace; and every aspect of the house. You still couldn’t say that you know my house. You would certainly know things about my house, but you will never know it until you come over and see it for yourself. In the same way, God must reveal Himself to us, Spirit to spirit, before we can say that we know Him.
Think of a fish that leaps out of the water as he is close to the shore. For a brief moment, he had a glimpse of another world. Then he goes back to an older, much wiser fish and tells him about his tremendous discovery.
The older, wiser fish laughs at his foolishness and passes off his tales of another world to fanciful and youthful dreams. No matter how persuasive the younger fish could be, the older fish would never believe him until he also escaped his narrow confines of the sea, and saw it for himself. The same applies to us. I can tell you all of the wonders and excitement of Yahweh’s Kingdom, but until His Spirit reveals it to you, you will never understand what I am talking about.
Now when I gave you the description of my house, that was an example of the minimum dimension of teaching: information. That is how we usually teach in our Sunday school and church.
Q. How many books does the Bible have?
Q. Which is the Psalm of the Good Shepherd?
A. Psalm 23.
And so on. Our Sunday School teachers taught us about Abraham and Moses, Heaven And Hell, Angels and Demons, the fall of Satan, the church, the Second Coming — all of the neat things that are in the Bible. Now understand, information isn’t bad, but it is the lowest method of teaching. Its purpose is to peak your interest enough to create a desire to experience the things you are learning.
That is my complaint with Seminaries and Bible Schools. They focus on imparting information, developing the mind, rather than the heart. The goal of information is to hopefully peak your interest enough to experience whatever it is you are learning. Unfortunately, we have made gaining information an end in itself. We figure that as long as we know and memorize the words of the Bible, we will be all set for life.
The strange thing is that Jesus never used this method. We never see Jesus giving His disciples a Bible study. Can you imagine Him saying, “Well, don’t forget that tomorrow morning we will be having devotions from eight to nine. From nine to ten, we will have Minor Prophets. Then from ten to eleven we will have poetry books and then from eleven to noon we will have homiletics and hermeneutics.” (Oh no, that is what I am doing right now. Egad!). Well, He was preparing the best ministers history ever saw. How could He forget such important subjects? Because Jesus had no time to lose. He was simple, clear, and concrete.
Here is what I have noticed. Most of us prefer obtaining the information so we can impress people by the amount we know about the Bible text. But Jesus is concerned with formation. We need to learn from Him how to become — and then form — disciples.
With these Morning Messages, I take you on guided tours to, as Bunyan described, the Celestial City. At times we linger at corners familiar and unseen. And explore the depths of our faith along the way.
The trail is long, but there’s no hurry. Though we do need to stock up on supplies for the way, and that’s where I need your help. If you enjoy these messages, please consider becoming a contributing member of this tour group. It will be very much appreciated.