But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith
-1 Timothy 1:5
His eyes focused on the white ball, centered exactly at the point of his cue. Sliding the cue back and forth, his eyes took in the target and all the green felt that lay between his cue stick and his intended target.
“Breathe in while you slide the cue and watch the angles. Don’t tense up but don’t get too relaxed either,” said the man behind him. “Visualize the lines of the angle, and let your mind draw on the green.” His instructor spoke quietly over his shoulder.
He drew back one last time, envisioning the path of his shot, and struck the cue ball firmly driving it against the bumper. He watched the ball follow the path he had envisioned and grinned as it hit the bumper, bounced off and followed a straight line to the eight ball.
“And now, I want you to learn the Law of Reflection,” said the brilliant and measured speaker at the front of the room,
“write this down—the angle of incidence…” he paused quite pleased with the way he sounded, “equals the angle of reflection.”
The sound of scribbling pencils all around the room filled him with great satisfaction. His students were learning.
Marching to the chalkboard, he drew a series of lines and began to label each, as the formula for understanding this law of physics was laid out in great detail.
We see that in each setting a teacher is teaching and a student or students are learning, we must also see that a completely different way of learning is taking place.
Clearly both lessons are related. Both are lessons on the Law of Reflection, however, the two lessons have completely different outcomes. The method of teaching has a direct impact on the outcome of the teaching. While this is true, it can also quickly become an oversimplification. The implications of this one thought—the method of teaching has a direct impact on the outcome of teaching—are both powerful and sophisticated.
Think for a moment of one of the most influential theologians of our age, C.S. Lewis. This man, for all of his influence and insight, did not have a degree in Bible but seemed to have a grasp on the scriptural truth that was not only unusual, but powerful. Interestingly, his education and academic background were in literature and philosophy, not in biblical studies.
What you see is that he had a way of learning that came from his academic training but was applied to his study of scripture. And this way of learning lead to not only deep insight, but also to unusual methods and ways of communicating that in many ways made the deep truths of God more accessible to more people.
It is crucial that we understand here that our method must always be congruent with our message. We must understand this because when congruence between these two is lacking the method will always overpower the message. The implied truth of your method has power. What we do teaches more powerfully than what we say.
As a child my father, cigarette in hand, would occasionally wave his cigarette at me and strongly urge that I not take up his habit. His message (do not smoke) was incongruent with his method (example and hypocrisy). The power of the two methods, at odds with one another, sent confusion, and in many ways a more powerful message TO smoke than NOT TO.
I would submit that Jesus, master teacher and disciple-maker, had an approach to teaching that was potently integrated with His message. To teach His message about the Gospel of the Kingdom, and fully integrate His ways of teaching together more completely expressed His message, and accomplished His mission all at once.
For us to do any less, to not understand and utilize the Methods of the Master, may cost us greatly, diluting the message without even realizing it.
The message of Jesus was never a concept to be cognitively processed and memorized, rather it was Spirit and Life, to be received, digested, and expressed in the varied activities of everyday life and relationship.
If we were to dilute the message of Jesus by implementing the wrong method of teaching, we could actually affect the outcomes of our instruction. For instance, if we turned His message into a purely academic practice we could actually produce “disciples” who can repeat the words of the scriptures, but still live selfish unchanged lives.
Jesus message was transformational. But it is crucial to recognize that His methods, including demonstrations, questions, parables and others are just as important as His message. Information broadcast does not produce life change. Encounter and engagement change everything.
Because the message of the Kingdom is designed to change it’s hearers, it is important that we Think Differently about teaching.