The Gift of Teaching
By Charles F. Stanley
Are you concerned with accuracy when the Word of God is taught or interpreted? Are you concerned that the truth be passed on to the next generation or to those who currently are lacking in understanding and wisdom? Do you desire to see the lives of others changed as the result of information being given to them? You may be a person who has been given the motivational gift of teaching.
Those with other gifts may be teachers, but their motivation for teaching is not the pursuit of God's truth. A person may become a Sunday school teacher in the preschool department out of love and compassion for the children. That person is motivated to teach by a gift of mercy. Another person may be motivated to teach because he is concerned that too much emphasis is being placed upon discussion of the application of Scripture and not enough on the black and white, right and wrong absolutes of the Bible. That person is motivated to teach out of a ministry gift of prophecy.
The person who is gifted to teach is motivated solely because he loves the truth and wants to impart God's Word with accuracy and understanding.
One of the foremost teachers in the Bible is Luke. Just look at how he begins his Gospel account:
Inasmuch as many have taken in hand to set in order a narrative of those things which have been fulfilled among us, just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word delivered them to us, it seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write to you an orderly account, most excellent Theophilus, that you may know the certainty of those things in which you were instructed. (Luke 1:1-4)
Doesn't Luke sound like a teacher? He says of himself that he is an expert, that his understanding is "perfect," and that his account will be orderly. His desire is that Theophilus "know with certainty" - in other words, to know with exactness of detail. Luke's Gospel as well as the book of Acts are highly detailed accounts. They are intended to teach the truth with certainty that Jesus was the Christ.
Characteristics of the Gift of Teaching
Teaching was considered a highly valued profession in both Jewish and Greek circles. To be a teacher within the early church was also an exalted position - few were called teachers. A great responsibility was placed upon teachers to be accurate, wise, diligent in their research, and skilled in their ability to present information. Then, as now, the gift of teaching was expected to display the following seven characteristics:
1. The gift of teaching includes a great concern with a systematic sequence. Teachers seek to present material in a way that is easy for others to follow. Luke notes that he is going to write an "orderly account." Another translation of those words would be "consecutive order." The teacher lays out his material so it all points toward specific themes, which taken together covey the main point.
2. The gift of teaching includes a concern with the accuracy of words and the use of language. A teacher is concerned with precise definitions and shades of meaning. A teacher can be irritating at times because he or she is always asking, "What do you mean by that? What does that mean to you?" He wants to hear and speak with accuracy.
3. The gift of teaching includes a delight in researching and reporting as many details as possible. The Gospel of Luke contains more details about key events than any other Gospel. Luke sees meaning in details. The person gifted in teaching delights in his own research. He takes great joy in seeing meaning in factual details that may have been overlooked by others. Once this information has been acquired, the teacher longs to share everything he knows. At times that can be more information than others want or need to hear, but the teacher feels compelled to "teach all."
No other Gospel writer tells us about the birth of Jesus as Luke tells us. Nearly three chapters of His Gospel are devoted to the birth of Jesus - he not only tells the story of Mary and Joseph, but also the stories of Zacharias and Elizabeth, and Simeon and Anna. He does not deal only with the facts of the story, but with dialogue, monologue, and references to the Old Testament.
4. The gift of teaching includes a great interest in knowing as much as possible about a subject being studied. A teacher never tires of delving into a chosen area of study, or engaging in multiple studies with increasing depth over time. The teacher desires that all of the information he presents is accurate, valid, and verifiable. Traditional historical accounts tell us that Luke took several years to research his Gospel, talking to numerous people who had known Jesus personally.
5. The gift of teaching is concerned with the acquisition of knowledge and understanding, both of which are vital to wisdom. The prophet is concerned that a person make the right decision and recognize fully what is at stake if the wrong decision is made. A changed life is the goal. The person who exhorts is concerned that a person understand the step-by-step process necessary to reach a particular goal, and admonishes others that no step and no necessary requisite behavior be omitted or overlooked. A correction is the goal. The teacher, by comparison, is concerned that a person know the Bible and the commandments of God with precision and full understanding. Acquisition of knowledge is the goal, as Luke wrote to Theophilus, "that you may know the certainty of those things in which you were instructed" (Luke 1:4).
6. The gift of teaching is primarily concerned with fact, not illustration or application. Teachers are rarely impulsive and often reject emotional material or illustrations. They nearly always have a tendency toward logic and organization. They are not likely to delight in lengthy discussion. In fact, they can quickly become irritated with those who talk too much, and especially so if the person doesn't seem to know what he or she is talking about!
7. The gift of teaching is usually pursued in a very systematic way. Most teachers have developed a personal "method" for doing research and presenting information to others. They develop a means for determining what is true. They sift all things necessary for their method before drawing a conclusion.
Those who operate under the guidance of the Holy Spirit and who recognize that they are gifted as teachers will not find teaching to be a burden - rather, these behaviors will be the natural way they respond to any opportunity to teach.
Characteristics of someone with the gift of teaching:
- Strong desire to present truth systematically.
- Requires thoroughness.
- Needs to validate information.
- Checks out the teacher.
- Great delight in researching.
- Tendency to avoid illustrations from non-biblical sources.
- Needs to clarify misunderstandings.