Teaching is more than reading a lesson or making a good presentation. Teaching is about life transformation and helping others know God intimately by growing in His ways and being in full partnership with Him. Here are some characteristics of teachers focused on making disciples.
1. Disciple-making teachers have a clear sense of mission.
Jesus said, “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” (Matt. 28:19-20). Any church that omits this charge is weak and off target. The teaching arm of the church is essential in carrying out the mission of making disciples.
Greg L. Hawkins and Cally Parkinson identify four movements of the disciple-making process in their book Move: What 1,000 Churches Reveal About Spiritual Growth. As teachers, we must accept the responsibility to help people move forward in the discipleship process.
Win and Charles Arn, authors of The Master’s Plan for Making Disciples: Every Christian an Effective Witness Through an Enabling Church, said, “Making disciples means reaching non-Christians and then teaching them how to grow spiritually and how, in turn, to make more new disciples.”
2. Disciple-making teachers know that prayer is vital for leading people to grow spiritually.
Author Elmer L. Towns said, “The most effective ministry of a Sunday school teacher is accomplished on his or her knees is prayer” (What Every Sunday School Teacher Should Know, p.50). Spending time with the Lord renews our spirit, fine-tunes our focus, and prepares us for the task ahead.
Jesus called His disciples and He ordained them “that they might be with Him and that He might send them out to preach, and to have power to heal sicknesses, and to cast out demons” (Mark 3:14-15 NKJV). The Twelve would preach the gospel, cast out demons, heal the sick, plant churches, and make disciples, but their first priority was to be with Jesus.
3. Disciple-making teachers create a sense of belonging.
One of the key elements of the discipleship process is relationship. Some consider social events or class “coffee breaks” as frivolous and unnecessary. But fellowship helps connect people and build a caring community.
When I served as pastor in Arkansas, almost every man in the church spent the first week of deer season hunting and camping together. The time we spent together created a bond that united us on our mission for Christ.
Cliff Schimmels told the story of a little girl who was late getting home one evening. Her mother, worried and angry, asked, “Why are you late?”
The girl responded, “My friend dropped her doll and broke it.”
“So you stopped to help her fix it,” Mom replied.
The girl answered, “No, we couldn’t fix it. I stopped to help her cry.”
Disciple-making teachers create a place of safety and freedom where people can share their hurts and grow together in Christ.
4. Disciple-making teachers are Word-centered
The Bible is essential to the discipleship process. Churches that are growing spiritually are the ones that “view the Word of God as much more than a teaching tool or source of guidance for life decisions or self-improvement. For these churches, the Bible is less a resource than it is a defining characteristic of their church culture – something they took to as a gauge and mirror for everything they say and do” (Move, p.219). In short, embed the Bible in everything.
5. Disciple-making teachers are committed to mission.
In the New Testament, water baptism was a testimony of a transformed life and commitment to the mission of Jesus Christ. The mission is not just for the clergy; every believer is called to be a disciple and to make disciples. Disciple-making teachers help people discover their mission and encourage them to reach the local community, city, and beyond.
6. A disciple-making teacher has great expectations.
The Word will come alive. The class will increase as members invite others. Lives will be transformed. Stronger relationships to the Lord and each other will develop. Families will be changed. The community will be impacted. Blessings will abound. God will be glorified. Expect great things – commit to discipleship, pray more, prepare carefully, and see what happens.