Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Filling the Silence


Occasionally someone asks me: what is the difference between preaching and teaching?

Both are verbal communication, both pass along information, and both (generally) have some kind of application associated with them. The difference is not that one is “spiritual,” since there is plenty of teaching that takes place in the church that is not preaching.

So what’s the big difference?


The first difference is that preaching is defined by exhortation, whereas teaching is defined by explanation. This is a matter of emphasis: a preacher is hopefully explaining, and a teacher may – if only on occasion – rouse his hearers to action. Yet the emphasis in preaching is on exhortation, and the emphasis in teaching is on explanation.

Second, preaching is representative. The pastor speaks as a called representative of God, a “minister” and herald of another’s message. While a Bible teacher – such as in a Sunday School class – may feel that same responsibility, it is more profound in preaching. A preacher avoids opinion, whereas a teacher sometimes offers an array of opinions on a given subject in order to excite learning. A good teacher even solicits opinions, questions, and ideas from the students, whereas a preacher does not. (This makes preaching intensely personal, by the way. To represent God’s message, one must absorb it himself.)

Third, preaching is more focused. The ultimate message of all preaching is the gospel - the work of God on behalf of mankind, and how this is displayed in our lives. The preacher is constrained by this particular goal. A teacher – again, even a skilled Bible teacher – may set for himself the same goal, but may not. No one should complain if a teacher limits his lecture to the historical evidence of Jesus’ empty tomb; but if a preacher stops here, God himself will act as judge and jury.

Fourth, there are different promises associated with preaching and teaching. The Bible says that God ordained preaching to turn hearts to Christ in repentance and faith (see 1 Corinthians 1-2). On the other hand, God promises to mature us through teaching (see Ephesians 4).

Well, those are my thoughts… I hope I have explained this well, and I’m happy to hear your opinions!

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