Posted: 10/2/18 at 9:30am. Post by Tony Brooks.
In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. (James 2:17 NIV)
Years ago I did some classical reading on Christian education as I reviewed parts of Dr. Findley Edge’s Teaching for Results.
In the beginning, he mentions two dangers teachers face that can easily be overlooked because they are so subtle and affect us over time. This is a good time to share his wisdom for both new and experienced teachers. Here they are:
Danger #1 Verbalization
We often memorize verbal religious concepts without understanding the experience/application to life. We learn the words (religious vocabulary), doctrines, and biblical passages without understanding the concepts and how they apply to us.
As Dr. Edge would say, “Christianity is basically an experience—an encounter with Christ that must express itself in experience. You do not truly learn a Christian ideal until you have both experienced it and expressed it in experience.”
Teaching is about a transformational encounter with the living God. It is not rote memorization, but a relationship with Christ that we seek.
This is helpful for teachers in two ways. We don’t have to know all the religious language, and it is easier to relate the passage for newcomers who do not know the religious vocabulary.
For example, we don’t talk about “being saved” because unchurched people will be wondering, “Saved from what?”
Instead we invite people into an ongoing relationship with Christ that begins with inviting him into your life. People are looking for an experience with God, not religious vocabulary.
Danger # 2 Mere Emotional Catharsis
We, as teachers, also face the danger of simply providing an emotional catharsis without ever responding with action.
We hear of the Christian ideals, the importance of evangelism or missions, and we feel something and think, “What a wonderful lesson!”
We have an emotional connection with the class (and in some cases, class becomes a support group), but we don’t challenge each other to go out and do.
As Dr. Edge would say, “An emotional experience that does not lead to response—that is, an emotional experience that ends only in stirring our feelings—is incomplete.”
It is easy to come, sit, and listen to a lesson, but unless we act, what good is it? The bottom line: James, chapter 2, makes it clear that “faith without works is dead.”
Questions to Ponder:
What religious words do you use each week that some listeners may not understand?
Do you spend adequate time talking about application or too much time on the context of the passage?
What can you do to help people respond with action?
Do you move lessons toward concrete ways to live out the Christian faith during the week?