How Did Jesus Teach?

MtTalinis_DgteOur family moved to the Visayan region of the Philippines, in the summer of 1990. I joined an existing ministry that trained pastors and leaders how to study the Bible inductively. My wife had vision to care for abandoned babies and children, which became Rainbow Village Ministries. Although I planted and pastored a church in Southern California for twelve years prior to our move, I learned how to teach in the Philippines.

Learning to teach

I was challenged to reexamine how I taught after several months in the Philippines, while traveling and teaching seminars. How I learned to teach before wasn't wrong, but it seemed less effective than in my pastoral experience in the US.

I stumbled into a new way to teach without any strategy for learning it. This pretty well sums up my learning style for most everything I've done in life, including marriage and parenting.

All I know is, the more I became engaged in the learning process, the better I learned to engage others in teaching. At the same time, I developed a passion for simplicity. The challenge was finding a way to teach in a simple way without compromising the depth of truth in God's Word.

Little by little, I learned how to teach in a more simple, effective way. Studying and teaching through the gospels was critical to my learning process, as I saw how Jesus taught.

Jesus' style of teaching

How did Jesus teach the crowds, His followers, and even those who opposed Him?

Yes, of course, the Holy Spirit empowered His words and enlightened the people. But even when the people and His disciples didn't understand what Jesus taught, they marveled at it. Even those who opposed and challenged His authority had to marvel at Him (Matt 22:15-22).

So, what was it about His teaching that carried so much authority?

If we look at the greater context of Matt 7:28-29, we see Jesus taught on many subjects. It's called the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew Chaps. 5–7). Much of this teaching seems to be a reframing of the covenant law to its original intent. Jesus would say to the people, "You have heard... But I say to you..." (Matt 5:21, 22).

It's a great example of what's commonly called exposition.

Some basic observations

Two things stand out to me about Jesus' teaching—He told a lot of stories (parables), and taught in an interactive way with His disciples.

A friend shared an article with me that sums up what I learned in the Philippines, and what I see in Jesus' teaching.

[bctt tweet="Jesus provoked thought so that truth could be understood and internalized."]

I've come to value biblical storying for its simplicity and power. Two sources helped me gain this insight—a Filipino pastor whom I've mentored for many years, and ministries connected to the International Orality Network.

My Filipino brother is planting churches and training leaders using the training he received from Simply the Story. This pastor trains people who are well-educated and those without education.

One of his students, who is an oral learner (non-literate), pastors a church he planted in a remote mountain area. My friend trained two other leaders to be missionaries in Hong Kong. Their method of evangelism and discipleship is biblical storying. I could go on, but you get the picture (I hope).

Interactive discipleship

We gain insight to how Jesus trained His disciples within the narrative of the gospels. Sometimes He explained parables to them (Matt 13:10-17), other times He used situations and simple illustrations (Matt 18:1-6), and chided them when they lacked understanding (Mark 8:14-21).

[bctt tweet="Jesus interacted with people, He didn't just lecture them."]

This became a major change point for me. I began to be more interactive with students, whether in a seminar, classroom, and in more informal settings. I probably learned more from my mistakes than my observations of Jesus' way of teaching.

Several years ago, a missionary friend shared another valuable piece of my learning process. He shared on several things, but one stuck with me—how Jesus learned as a young man.

The example of young Jesus

Let's go back to the time when Jesus was young. In Luke 2:41-52, we find Him in the temple with the Jewish teachers. They were all amazed at His understanding and answers. What does it say He was doing? He was "listening to them and asking them questions" (Luke 2:46).

[bctt tweet="Early on we see the foundation for Jesus' interactive style of teaching."]

A few weeks ago, I shared something similar with some alumni from the Bible college I founded nearly 20 years ago. How did I do it? Interactively, of course—I asked questions! They were familiar with that, but then I shared something else.

I asked them, "How do you think I develop my questions? How do I ask questions that engage people so they will answer?"

Then I told them that I need to listen to those whom I'm teaching. I need to see if I'm connecting with them, and if they are understanding what I'm trying to explain.

It's my responsibility as a teacher to communicate the truth so those who hear it can understand it.

Are we listening?

I have a couple of questions for pastors, leaders and teachers to consider. Are we listening to the people we are serving, or are we too busy speaking? Are we asking questions only to answer them ourselves?

These are questions I had to ask myself, and still do.

In last week's post, I expressed the concern that something was missing in spite of all the resources available for Christians. I don't know that it's just one thing, but I'm concerned that inner, personal transformation is one thing that's missing.

I believe that intentional, personal, and interactive discipleship is essential to meet this need. And, it's how Jesus taught and discipled people.