Disclaimer: About This Blog

THIS BLOG IS: my personal journey of how I am rethinking some of my spiritual beliefs.
THIS BLOG IS NOT: intended to point fingers at people who I think are wrong.
I do not believe the final judgement will be based on how many correct answers we get on a theology exam. I believe many people throughout history have had genuine relationships with God, despite holding questionable beliefs and practices. I make no claim to having it all figured out or being your judge. If we end up disagreeing over these topics I pray we can find a way to demonstrate grace.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Interactive Teaching in the New Testament

I stumbled across an interesting study by Paul Warby. He took the time to comb through books in the New Testament looking for examples of different types of teaching. Is the church following the example we find in Scripture when it comes to teaching one another?

Here is what Paul Warby found:

"I took Jesus' ministry prior to his arrest and crucifixion (Mark 1-Mark 14:42) and identified 63 teaching events.

  • 7 are unclear as to being either interactive or non-interactive (these are generally sweeping statements, e.g. "Jesus came to Galilee preaching the gospel of God" Mark 1:14)

  • 10 are non-interactive. Here we have taken the text as it stands although interaction is sometimes implied (e.g. the calling of disciples found in 1:17-20; 2:14). I also noticed that some non-interactive accounts like the telling of parables required interaction later in the story for the disciples to understand the message (e.g. Mark 4:26-33 of. vs34).

  • 37 teaching events were initiated by others.

  • 31 teaching events had verbal dialogue. These may be the same teaching events as those initiated by others (e.g. the story of the paralytic Mark 2:1-12) but in this category we are looking for recorded verbal dialogue in the text of Mark.

  • 25 teaching events were also action events. These are healings, miracles and the like where teaching is associated with physical experiences (e.g. Mark 1:39; 1:40-44; 3:1-5 etc.)"

He did the same with the book of Acts:

  • 33 have dialogue

  • 28 are unclear as to interaction

  • 14 are initiated by persons other than the main speakers, e.g. an opening question.

  • 11 are action events

  • 5 have non-interactive monologues


The example we see in Scripture is one where teaching occurs in many different ways and locations. Most of it was also unscheduled. There is no record of Jesus or the early church sending out bulletins or flyers informing the people what topics would be taught at specific gatherings. The gatherings were informal, mostly unscheduled, and the conversations mostly interactive.

Consider some non-spiritual types of teaching.

How would you teach a child to ride a bike? Would you schedule a time and place. Prepare a lesson. Have the child sit and listen as you present a lecture on how to ride a bike?

No. The lessons are mostly unscheduled, require interactive teaching, active demonstrations, active assistance, and require followup instructions on safety for years to come.

What types of teaching work best in a classroom setting today? Teachers are encouraged to use a variety of teaching activities, and recognize that the lecture format produces some of the poorest results. The more of the following the better: Questions, debates, field trips, role play, project work, hands on activities and practice practice practice.

So, how should the church teach one another as we read in Colossians 3:16?

Should we value certain less interactive methods higher than other informal interactive methods?
  • Sermons?
  • video lead studies?
  • prepared Bible studies?
  • book studies?
Or can we place a greater emphasis on less structured teaching opportunities. Can we seek to teach each other in more natural relational ways? Whenever we gather with other believers, can we find opportunities to build each other up to become more like Christ? (Heb 10:24-25)

What do you think? Are we following the book on this one?

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Eric said...

Good stuff Jon. These are truths that need to be proclaimed to the church; however, we cannot expect the institution to embrace them. Maybe some within the church will see the light. I hope so.

Jonathan said...

Thanks Eric for interacting with me as we learn together. :) I have learned much from some of your teaching moments. While I still fellowship with institutionalists (is that a word?), I am working through my faith and trying to sort out what God wants of me. I may not be given time at the pulpit, but we see there are many other ways to teach... likely better ways. I have a lot yet to learn as I seek to teach others (and be taught by others) in relational moments. It will likely take time and some practice.

Dan said...

This post is very telling on what seemed to be the focal point in the NT and what tends to be the focal point in today's church. Coincidentally I blogged on a similar topic today, just not with quite so much evidence as opinion!

One thing I really liked was the example of riding the bike. Maybe the problem is that we often consider Christianity an intellectual experience rather than an active experience.

Great stuff, really appreciate that others are out there writing so articulately while I just get people angry!