Beyond the Pulpit: Thoughts on the Gift of Teaching

This is part two of my blog series about spiritual gifts, and today we are talking about the gift of teaching. 

I’ve always been surrounded by teachers. All my family are school teachers – both parents, all three of my siblings, and all of their spouses. My own father taught me seventh and eighth grade, and when he was sick, my mom was usually the substitute. I always thought teaching was important.  I often thought I would be a teacher, but much to my surprise I didn’t –  I became a pastor, making me the family vocational black sheep. 

This is where most people typically jump in and say: “But you ARE a teacher!  You teach us every Sunday morning when you preach!” And they are right. I didn’t understand it for a long time, but I see now that being a preacher and a teacher often go hand and hand. I did not stray so far from my family tree because teaching is not limited to a traditional classroom.

And in the same way that teaching in the world happens in more places than a school, teaching in a church happens in more places than a pulpit. This is easily forgotten. Often, if I suggest someone may have a gift of teaching, they dismiss it. 

“I can’t be a teacher!” they say, “I don’t want to preach sermons!”

We don’t always realize that teaching looks like a lot of things that aren’t just sermons, and this gift has more ways it can be used than we sometimes think.  Let me give you an example. 

Last winter I enjoyed getting to preach at a large and well known church in Southern Ontario.  The preacher at this church is truly exceptional. People flock to his teaching, and whenever I hear him teach, I admit I sometimes find myself slightly tempted to throw in the towel as his sermons are usually “wow-I-could-never-be-that-good” quality. Truly, he is a gifted teacher. 

But here is a little fun fact that I discovered when I was part of preaching at that church.  There are a lot of other people also using gifts of teaching there that help his gift be used well.  For example, one of the people on his staff has the role of research pastor. This pastor is a brilliant young woman who, along with other roles, also helps get the best information for each sermon. She explained to me, for example, that when a series is coming up, she reads a number of books on the topic, and selects the best, with highlighted sections, to pass on to her pastor.  He is then able to focus on that information and put that towards his sermon. 

The preacher at this church is definitely a gifted teacher…but so is his research pastor!  She has been gifted by God to be able to find and use good information. She uses this gift in the church in such a way that others are able to understand their faith better because of her gift of teaching. 

(Aside: This is also a great reminder for any of us preaching in a typical small church Sunday to Sunday to not compare ourselves to some of the big name preachers who may have resources we do not – such as research pastors!).

The gift of teaching doesn’t only mean you need to preach a sermon, or teach Sunday School, or run a small group. Gifted teachers can make amazing one-on-one mentors.They might be great researchers. They may be good writers. They can be good at gathering and sifting through information and sharing it as needed.They may be good at discerning what is true and what is misleading. They can train people in all kinds of things the church needs – from missionaries to sound techs. There are so many ways we teach.   

As you discern the ways God has made you, don’t be too quick to give up on the idea that God has made you a teacher because you may not be so fussed on stepping into a pulpit.  Maybe, like me, you are more of a teacher than you think.

Next week will be part three of this series on spiritual gifts, and will talk about the role of the apostle.  Click “follow” to get updates on new posts. 

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