A recent conversation between myself and one of the guys I am discipling:
Kevin: “Oh hold on, my shoe lace is untied.”
Me: “You see Kevin, you really have to make sure you tie your laces tight in the morning. The Bible says to be ready in season and out. What if you needed to witness to someone and you trip on your laces instead?”
Sadly, for me, this scenario isn’t all that extreme. I have had to learn this the hard way. On every spiritual gift test I have taken, my highest score has always been teaching. With exhorting usually coming in second. These gifts are great, but if I’m not careful, they can get annoying fast. Even worse, they can begin to cause resentment from those I lead. I have learned that exhorting, or encouraging, is far more productive than teaching in most situations. That is not to say teaching is unimportant, but God has been showing me when and how to properly teach.
From these tough learning experiences, I have developed some guidelines for myself. Keep in mind that they might not work for every leader/student or in every situation. (For those of us married, these guidelines have greatly helped me in my marriage.) Below are instances in which I have walked away thinking, “That could of gone a lot better.” These areas are simply the takeaways from those instances. So here we go.
I have learned to not teach:
When I should be coaching:
Teaching definitely has its place, however, I have found people usually know the answers themselves. Looking for wise counsel is Biblical, but controlling the lives of those who come looking for counsel is not. Coaching allows them to realize that they don’t need my help to get through everyday life. They have the Holy Spirit guiding them and are capable of making wise decisions. This is where you should see exhorting more than teaching.
When I don’t have any money in the bank:
This is the age old saying; “They don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.” I try to keep a mental tally of times I have encouraged, comforted and simply built friendship between myself and those I am teaching. It’s pretty simple; if I fail to encourage and empower, my teaching will start to fall on deaf ears. Who wants to spend time with someone who is incessantly correcting them? Again, if I don’t exhort, teaching becomes almost futile.
When it isn’t the proper setting:
Take note of who is around and what’s the setting is. Is it in the middle of a service or program? Will it only lead to embarrassment, which can turn into resentment? Soon as they resent me, will they keep listening to me? Is it a vision casting meeting? The last thing I want to do is squelch one of my leader’s passion as they are excited for a new adventure. It is a time to cast vision, not correct people’s mistakes.
When I am not discerning to other struggles:
It is key to learn what people are going through in life before I teach them something new. If someone is going through a tough time at home, is this really the best time to teach them something that is relatively trivial? If you add another teaching moment to an already full plate, this again can lead to resentment. Instead playing the role of comforter and friend might be the better route. Discernment can of course come from God’s guidance, but your best bet is to build a close friendship. This way, you be able to better gage if they need encouragement, comforting or teaching. God has me taught me a lot via difficulties, but he taught me only after He comforted me through that tough season.
The end goal is this: We need to maximize the impact of our teaching. Learning the right times to teach and exhort will make both gifts more productive and effective. At the end of the day, God is the one teaching them through us. When we begin to think it’s our job to run around and correct everyone, we have
Am I way off the mark here?
Is this just in my life or has anyone else experienced this?
Feel free to e-mail any comments and feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org or you can contact me through twitter: @bcthegeek.