Is it Better to Teach or Preach

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So, I guess I should start by saying that this is a real question… I would really like to hear your opinions and thoughts.

So here is my history in a nutshell. When I first started attending Church, I went to a church that although the Pastor taught book by book, he really wasn’t a teacher (he would say he was though). He was a full-fledged Preacher, when you left church you were motivated and enthused. You left passionate about God and the Church and you generally felt full of Faith. At this point this was my only experience and I loved it.

A few years later I moved to Tucson Arizona and plugged right into another Church that taught verse by verse and line by line through the Bible. Well I found my experience very different to say the least. I was no longer sitting under a preacher that stirred your heart and emotion but found myself sitting under a teacher that was an exegetical surgeon. The Bible itself became a treasure chest of wisdom as I learned how to study and apply the Word myself.

Don’t get me wrong in thinking that one was better or worse. I feel amazingly blessed to have had both. I think I needed them both when I had them. And although I the first was an amazing orator, there was no way I could leave his teaching and pass it on to others. Gosh I remember him giving stirring messages on more than one occasion on one word!!! Who does that?

On the other hand, when I moved to Tucson I found myself taking copious notes and emailing them to friends. Although this Pastor maybe lacked passion in his presentation. He more than made up for it in making the message clear, graspable and reproducible. He was a scripture interprets scripture guy and if I heard it once I heard it a million times, “context, context, context”. It was his teaching that really exemplified the teach a man to fish feed him for a lifetime saying.

Here is the catch though, although my personal preference is to sit under a “teacher” It seems like the preachers are growing the large churches and making a difference at least short-term in a way that most of the teachers aren’t. Do you think that culturally what we need are the preachers to inspire and build community. To boldly proclaim the Gospel and attract the masses. Or do you think that we need teachers that maybe don’t attract the masses but develop disciples that are able to sit down with a friend at a coffee shop and to explain about God’s redemption using the Word of God (I am obviously stereo typing here to make a point, this isn’t exclusive teaching church but maybe more probable).

I know that the easy answer is we need Pastors that do both… But even these men drift one way or another. Some of my favorite orators can do both but lean one way or another. Take Mark Driscoll for example, I think Mark leans a little more preacher than teacher say maybe 60/40 Preacher Same with a guy like John Piper. While I think Matt Chandler is opposite leaning to say 60/40 Teacher. Tim Keller is one that is close to dead center 50/50 , but most pastors lean way more one way or the other. I love guys like Andy Stanley, Francis Chan, Judah Smith, John MacArthur, and Rick Warren to name a few. These are all amazing Pastors but I think they may lean one way a little heavy or another when they speak.

Is there a right or wrong here or it just preferential? Should pastors know where they lack and try to supplement through ancillary programs. Or is this just part of the age-old attraction vs discipleship argument?

So is your Pastor a Teacher of Preacher? here is a test… Take a pad of paper to church on sunday or pull up your churches latest podcast and take notes. Now can you take your note open your bible and give  that message in a way that makes sense to a friend, It’s okay to fumble through a not have the cool jokes witty one liners, But can you take the basic message utilizing the text of the Bible and reproduce it to friend?

I think at times this is a good question for a Pastor to ask… Are your messages simple enough to pass on? Do you feel so much pressure to perform and entertain that you are missing the structure to develop your people. And on the other hand. Are your sermons just a theological class that lack any personal connection or enough passion to be believable or contagious?

Pastors, I would love to hear how you maintain both if you feel like you have a good balance?

Or if anyone wants to share a link to some of your favorite teachers I’d love to take a listen.

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13 thoughts on “Is it Better to Teach or Preach

  1. I personally think the local church does best under more than one leader so that the body can be fed and grow more healthy thru various giftings, life experiences, personalities, etc…I have seen with young churches the members stunted due to a lack of solid teaching..be it in a one on one, small group or your main weekly gathering…my current church where I serve has one leader/pastor who works another job full time…it’s a challenge but I have a solid foundation….once a week I attend a “church” at Skid Row where we preach weekly….but rely greatly on the other local believers for the growing up of those who get saved thru the preaching…and we have an open mike format

  2. “It was He who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be PASTORS and TEACHERS to prepare God’s people for works of service”(Eph. 4). “They devoted themselves to the “apostles’ TEACHING’.” (Acts 23). An”overseer”should be “ABLE TO TEACH” (1 Timothy 3) . . “PREACH the Word” (2tim.4:2). If the Word of God is being “preached” and applied in contemporary terms to heart and life, then there is also “teaching” going on. When we “proclaim” (preach) the Word, we are teaching. When we “teach” the Word, I think we are also “preaching”, “proclaiming” the message of God. Note how often the word “teach” is used by Paul in his letter to Titus.

    1. Hey there Rev Harold, Let me narrow this down a little, It todays culture where we are headed and where we are headed to, certainly we can all agree that things are not going well. So I am trying to distinguish between “teaching” as a more structured exegetical system of expository teaching. And Preaching, more of a topical energized call to action. Both have there place and both can be effective. The larger churches seem to be moving toward more of the latter. Is this the best thing. I am not sure if it is. I am not sure if this is entertainment and if it is… Is it bad for people to be entertained. I have seen a ton of Ephesians 4, but I have yet to see anyone talk about the need to properly exegete their particular culture or what that looks like.
      Thoughts? I really appreciate you taking the time

  3. I concur with those above who pointed out that the church is to be composed of a mix of gifted people who all interact. But the 5 gifts mentioned in Eph. 4 are crucial who I take to be missionary church-planters, preachers, teachers, pastors and evangelists. We seem to have very few preachers today, in the sense of being passionate godly preachers of the Word who motify. Men like Spurgeon, Marytn Lloyd Jones, and earlier, Whitfield and Jonathan Edwards. Each of these men were different, but each powerfully motivated poeple to Christ and to understand and absorb the Word. Many of today’s ‘preachers’ are exhorters, motivators. There has to be a preaching of the Word for people to be established and teaching, shepherding, evangelizing overlaps with preaching. You might be interested in seeing my book, Church–No Spectator Sport at http://www.countrywindow.ca. Surely there must be an element of teaching in good preaching…especially in this day when multitudes are biblically illiterate.

    1. Eric, thank you so much for taking the time to comment. So do you see that many of todays churches are moving away from teaching. Its amazing the pastors that you noted above you can listen to or read through their teachings and it would almost serve as a commentary. I think that is almost impossible now a days. It seems to me that we need to somehow get back to that quality of teaching. But then I think was this them effectively exegeting their culture. And the culture is so different now that we need a different approach.
      Thoughts?

  4. The thing that is beyond us as individuals sitting in a congregation is the plan of the Lord. The mix of preaching and teach is determined by the call on the leaders and the needs of the congregation that the Lord wants to meet. It was no accident that you received “preaching” when you needed it and later “teaching” when you needed it. It was God’s plan and that is how it is for all of us.
    I have been in coporate leadership for an international finance firm while pastoring a small church, so I know the difference between the two leadership styles and purposes. I see churches taking their lead from business which has a completely different purpose than the church. The question of “which is better” is a performance question used in business to determine effectiveness. There is a level of skills that must be reached. If the skills sets are meet and the levels are the same then as a church the effectiveness comes from the Holy Spirit and not the mix of preaching vs teaching.
    So, the best is what the Lord wants to be done and not what we think is better.

  5. It is obvious that the church needs both. Hopefully a pastor has both qualities but not always is it equaly balanced. Preaching is needed to stir and encourage the body to action but the pastor must also teach so the body has content. The pastor’s sermons should be a mixture. Continually preaching (stirring and encouraging) but also mixed with teaching. Whether that is in the same sermon (preaching, then encouraging and energizing) or on different Sundays is up to the topic selected. some lend more to one or the other. However the danger in the debate is thinking of teaching as merely proclaimimg truth. It is not enough to teach church members to mouth the words. They must also be able to live a life walking with Jesus. Jesus knew that He could teach “the words” to the masses but for it to be really effective, it had to be personal. They had to be able to live it out in their lives. His disciples had to not only understand it, they had to live it before they could give it away. Thus He took a few disciples aside and worked with them and helped them really undersand what HE was teaching. Once they really understood it and began to live it, they were able to begin giving it away. I don’t know of any preachers I have met who were able to do what Jesus could not do but I can name an endless list of preachers who are trying hard to do it. Sunday morning alone will not be adequate for the pastor to teach his people to walk with God. He must also take aside a small group and pour his life into them to equip them to go out and pour their life into a few others, who will in turn eventually be able to do the same. That is making disciples. When Jesus sent the 70 out, I fully believe that they were the disciples of the twelve disciples and Jesus was testing them to see what kind of job His disciples were doing in making disciples of their own. Unless they could also go out and make disciples, the work of Jesus will die with Him. Unless preachers today can help their members live out their faith, the faith will die here and now.

  6. In m personal experience as a follower of Jesus Christ and with many years working within Federal & State prisons, I found that for teaching to be effective, the minds of the listeners need to be open, willing to learn with an attitude of obedience to the biblical commands, and a desire to see life from God’s perspective. Without humility on the part of the student, the teacher is speaking to closed minds – nothing is harder to penetrate than a closed mind. I’ve also found that if the listeners have open hearts to the messenger preaching God’s Word, transformation within occurs. Remember the parable of the 4 soils – only good soil has the potential to bring good fruit. Hard soil, rocky soil, thorny soil under the greatest of preachers, Jesus Himself, could produce nothing. The teacher and the preacher need hearers with open minds and open hearts – the keys are inside each of us. The tools and methods, styles, and manner of teaching and/or preaching are only as effective to the degree of those with ears to hear, minds to think and absorb, and hearts willing to receive, respond, and live that which was communicated. Great teachers and outstanding preachers need open minded, open hearted listeners. Rocks, stones, and thorns will never respond to the most perfect seeds. Whether a new listener or a seasoned follower of Jesus, only receptive hearts will make an effective teacher or preacher. Blessings from Hawaii. ~ brother mike

  7. re: Michael Kalling’s “….teachers…and preachers need open minded, open hearted listeners….receptive hearts will make an effective teacher or preacher:” —– How about “You must speak MY words to them, whether they listen or fail to listen,…for they are rebellious………eat what is before you, eat this scroll; then go and speak to the house of Israel…” ..? (Ezek. 2 and 3)…. Only if you teach and preach God’s Word, the Gospel of Christ, can the Holy Spirit make “hearts willing to receive, respond,and live that which is communicated…”(quotes from Kalling responses)

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