Most people realize that experience is more valuable than head-knowledge. If people want to become school teachers, they go to school to learn their subject matter AND they spend a lot of time visiting teachers’ classrooms. Before they graduate they must spend at least half of a year “student teaching” —- actually running a classroom under the close supervision of a teacher. It is during “student teaching” that every school teacher will tell you that he or she really learned how to teach. Sure, some of their university classes may have been helpful, but every teacher learns their “basic survival skills” during student teaching.
Someone who wants to be an engineer goes to a university to learn a lot of things, but when they are done if they want to get hired they had better have experience working as an engineer in the real world. If they are hired in as an engineer at, say, Ford Motor Company, they have a two year training program working side by side with other engineers to teach them how to be an engineer in the real world.
If someone wants to become a plumber, they do not even go to school for several years. Instead, they work side by side with a plumber for several years. Would you hire a plumber who had a four year “degree” in plumbing, but had never actually fixed a toilet?
Where am I going with all this? In the church world, it seems that many times we stop at the education phase. There’s lots of teaching a preaching; lots of books on almost every topic. People can become pastors with enough "education". It’s almost like we feel like we’ve done our job if we have taught people something. We feel like we’ve received what we needed from the church if we’ve received teaching from them. “Marriage counseling” has become a once a month “meeting” to discuss a few things. The person counseling has little knowledge of the couple’s real life and the couple has very little knowledge of what their “counselor’s” life is really like.
I have noticed that despite the increase in the amount of books and sermons on various topics, the quality of church life is not improving. Divorces continue in the churches. The youth in the “youth groups” continue to dress more and more according to the world’s pattern with shorter and shorter skirts, etc. Clearly, more books alone will not solve the problem. Teaching is good and necessary, but it is not the end all solution.
I have preached several times on topics such as child training and marriage and then in the days and weeks that follow, I have noticed that people’s lives do not change as much as I thought they would. There could be more than one reason for this, but one big reason is that teaching and preaching are not enough. What is more valuable -— hearing someone speaking about raising children or spending a weekend with someone who is very good at raising children?
If I teach something to the believers, I cannot simply conclude that the job is done. In essence, after speaking to them, I need to then walk with them in their lives side by side so that I can help them apply the teaching to their lives. After I receive instruction from others, I desire to have them help me apply what they have taught.
Jesus did the same thing. He said, “love one another as you have seen me loving you.” Paul often told his readers to remember is way of life, not just his words. Let’s help each other move beyond the “education phase” of life and get into the trenches together.