A lady said to me that she switched churches (to a church being pastored by a friend of mine) because after years of sitting under my teaching she wanted to listen to a preacher for a while. She is living with a non-biblical understanding of the difference between a teacher and a preacher. One that is shared by many believers today – at least here in North America.
Here’s the misunderstanding. They think that a teacher is someone who quietly teaches God’s Word line-upon-line and precept-upon-precept having three points and a number of sub-points to the teaching and imparts information. They also think a preacher is someone who is a little more active in the pulpit, tells stories, gets some emotion flowing so people get excited and interact with the preacher, and is generally more exciting to listen to. In other words, the difference between a teacher and a preacher is content and presentation or style.
Here’s the biblical understanding of the difference between a teacher and a preacher. A teacher is feeding God’s people (the sheep) so that they will have healthy spiritual lives and they will continue to be strong in the things of God. A preacher is communicating the Gospel of Jesus Christ – which is the power of God unto salvation – to an unsaved, non-Christian audience. The difference between a teacher and a preacher is not their content or style but their audience.
Paul states: (Romans 10:14-15) “How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”
Every preacher of the Gospel and every teacher of the Word of God is looking for ways to improve their abilities and skills so as to better communicate with their audience. The preacher is working at understanding the unsaved and communicating the Gospel of salvation to them in their worldview and their life situation. The teacher of God’s Word is looking for ways to improve their abilities and skills so as to help believers to live according to God’s Word so that they can have integrity and impact their world for the Lord Jesus. So, it is the audience that determines whether someone is teaching or preaching – not style of presentation as many think.
However, I believe that today – because of the spiritual condition of those who call themselves believers and make up the audience most teachers face on any given Sunday when entering the pulpit with Bible in hand … I believe that even the teachers need to be presenting the Gospel Sunday by Sunday. I believe that many who call themselves believers are not. They have said a sinner’s prayer, they have had a warm, fuzzy experience in a service 27 years ago, they have answered an altar call … but they are not saved and truly converted. They have not repented of their sins and without repentance there is no salvation. They have, in many ways, simply switched religions – and are now part of a born again religion. Regardless of the brand name they are still “holding to the outward form of our religion yet denying the power thereof.” In context, the power to bring change to one’s life. Look around – there are some “born again Christians” whose life-style and lack of fruit would indicate that they are not truly saved.
So, as a teacher approaches the pulpit he or she must remember that many of those listening think they are “safe” and yet are not and so they need to be continually presenting the Gospel of Jesus Christ to what is often an audience that believes they know and understand it and are already safe from Hell. In other words, they are both teacher of the sheep and preacher to the heathens.
And here is where I was heading with all this …
Because of the hardness of heart, the indifference, the apathy, the lethargy as well as the “I’m alright with God thank you” attitude that prevails among Christians and non-Christians alike we need to be preaching “Christ Crucified”. Paul states:
When I came to you, brothers, I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power. (1 Corinthians 2:1-5)
I like what John Piper had to say … “Don’t preach in a way that a Muslim would approve. Preach a divine crucified Christ.” He said this when giving advice about what helped him to most improve his preaching skills. I believe even teachers of God’s Word need to take his advice seriously today.