Growing up, my mom always used to say to me, “You know when you truly understand something when you can teach it to somebody else.” Wise words that have held true in my own experience. As someone who teaches the Bible week to week, what I am going to share comes from holding myself to a standard that is less a choice and more a necessary end. My frenetic temperament forces me to discipline myself to type out my thoughts as I study the Bible. I internalize a lot of the Bible through writing my way clear, followed by editing and more editing, reading and more reading which eventually turns into understanding what I study. The late R.C. Sproul used to make the classic statement that, “Christians are called not only to read God’s Word but to study God’s Word.” I like this because, when you begin to understand God’s Word to where you can explain it, then I am also assured that the Word has likewise become an agent for your own personal growth. What I am talking about is applying hard work, and studying Scripture accompanied by faith and the Holy Spirit’s enablement. In this way, studying to teach God’s Word becomes synonymous with studying to grow in the Lord. I am blogging on this so you might find a new vigor and drive to go to your Bible and to make disciples because there is the carrot of immense personal benefit to you.
My whole Christian journey beginning as a new believer attests that studying to teach as a means of studying to grow has been my formula for growing in my Christian life. I intuitively studied even as a young freshman, in my first semester at Liberty University. Sometime in October, I decided to gather some LU students for an impromptu Bible study. I am not sure what initially prompted this genius idea, but a few weeks into the fall semester I spied out an empty classroom, called everyone I thought would show up, and said, “Be there for some Bible time!” About an hour before our start time, I dashed inside the library and opened the book of Colossians, which to my shock, I discovered I had no idea what it was about. Meaning, as the newly self-appointed Bible study leader, I would have nothing to say. A friend happened by and saw my panicked facial expressions, with the clock ticking down, along with my confession to ignorance and he convinced me to jettison plan A with Colossians. He wisely counseled me to take up something I had already been studying on my own. So, I switched to Philippians on the spot. This had come more easily to me because when I had read it earlier that week in my personal time in the Word. Long story short, people showed up, we sang songs, and I began to teach through sections of Philippians, and it took. It was happening. Studying and teaching Philippians generated excitement for them and for me. What I was sharing was what I had been learning. They grew, by God’s grace, and therefore I also grew.
When summer came, my youth pastor knowing I enjoyed teaching the Bible recruited me to teach our youth group on Wednesday evenings. It was somewhere between 50 to 100 kids, and so I stuck to my same formula. I would read it in one setting, study it, and then teach it. They grew and I grew from simply developing a study to teach rhythm and I want to suggest that this might be the way to go for every Christian who wants to liven up his spiritual life. Every believer should aim to study God’s Word so they could teach it to someone else and see this as simply following the Lord’s command to go and make disciples (cf. Matthew 28:18-20).
Books and pulpits claim, the key to the Christian life is to read your Bible and pray with regularity, but to what end? Read until you learn something new, then pray, and then worship the Lord. A “wash, rinse, repeat” cycle. Admittedly, I see in Scripture that the variety of spiritual disciplines prescribed in Scripture aim specifically toward Christian growth. If you are like me, disciplines (i.e., reading, praying, fasting, meditating, giving, attending church) represent life pattern of “fits and starts.” Sometimes you’re performing well and other times, not so much. You think you are the exception to the rule and that most good Christian folks are hard after all these disciplines with regularity. You might hear motivating statements like, “Read your Bible, so you will stay away from sin!” Or “Pray and worship the LORD, because He is worthy of our worship.” Or “You should worship the LORD for your own personal satisfaction.” All these ideas are true in principle, but I want to measure them with Jesus’ example of how He ministered to others on earth. Jesus practiced all these disciplines in the context of His mission, which was making disciples. By in large, by teaching!
How many of you out there lack any real fire to read the Word of God? Feeling stagnant in your faith and unable to kick a besetting sin. What I have found to be true, with anyone I’ve known to be a healthy growing Christian, is they are always practicing discipleship with people. They engage others by teaching them God’s Word. Their zeal for God’s Word flows from their study and their desire to share what they’ve learned. To be clear, I am not arguing that teaching God’s Word is a higher spiritual discipline than the other ones, but that teaching God’s Word might be the chief catalyst to all the other spiritual disciplines. Studying to teach, answers why you read, pray, meditate on, and memorize truth. It is why you attend church and why you invite others to come with you. Saying that teaching God’s Word is synonymous with making disciples means that when you are teaching, you are carrying out God’s mission on earth. Shouldn’t this have everything to do with our Christian experience?
Let me end with this challenge….
The next time you want to study God’s Word, ask the Lord for zeal to study well so that you can teach it and disciple someone else. It just might change your life and you will most definitely grow from it.
*Here’s a list of some final thoughts to answer some questions you might have about how dogmatic I am in making this point.
- Though some are gifted to teach, and some not, all are called to participate in Jesus’ great commission (Matt. 28:18-20).
- Teaching, by the design, is how God advances the greatest mission on earth.
- Teaching encompasses the entire storyline of the Bible.
- Look at how Jesus spent most of his time during his three-year mission on earth.
- Remember how the early church grew (i.e., Acts 2).
- The New Testament gifts and commands Christians to teach.
- Sanctification is defined as edification, which is, by definition, being built up through understanding what you were taught.