Pay Constant Attention to Your Teaching
“Pay constant attention to yourself and to your teaching. Stay by these things, for by doing this you will save both yourself and those who listen to you.”—1 TIMOTHY 4:16.
1, 2. Why are zealous teachers urgently needed today?
“GO . . . and make disciples of people of all the nations, . . . teaching them to observe all the things I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28:19, 20) In view of this command of Jesus Christ, all Christians should endeavor to become teachers. Zealous teachers are needed to help honesthearted ones come to a knowledge of God before it is too late. (Romans 13:11) The apostle Paul urged: “Preach the word, be at it urgently in favorable season, in troublesome season.” (2 Timothy 4:2) This calls for teaching both inside and outside the congregation. Indeed, the preaching commission itself involves more than simply announcing God’s message. Effective teaching is needed if interested ones are to become disciples.
2 We live in “critical times hard to deal with.” (2 Timothy 3:1) People have been brainwashed by secular philosophies and false teachings. Many are “in darkness mentally” and are “past all moral sense.” (Ephesians 4:18, 19) Some have painful emotional wounds. Yes, people are truly “skinned and thrown about like sheep without a shepherd.” (Matthew 9:36) Nevertheless, by employing the art of teaching, we can help honesthearted ones to make needed changes.
Teachers Within the Congregation
3. (a) What does Jesus’ commission to teach include? (b) Who have the primary responsibility to teach within the congregation?
3 By means of the home Bible study arrangement, millions are receiving personal instruction. After their baptism, though, new ones need further help to become “rooted and established on the foundation.” (Ephesians 3:17) As we carry out Jesus’ commission recorded at Matthew 28:19, 20 and direct new ones to Jehovah’s organization, they benefit from being taught within the congregation itself. According to Ephesians 4:11-13, men have been appointed to serve “as shepherds and teachers, with a view to the readjustment of the holy ones, for ministerial work, for the building up of the body of the Christ.” At times, their art of teaching involves the need to “reprove, reprimand, exhort, with all long-suffering.” (2 Timothy 4:2) The work of teachers was so important that, in writing to the Corinthians, Paul lists teachers right after apostles and prophets.—1 Corinthians 12:28.
4. How does the ability to teach help us to obey Paul’s exhortation recorded at Hebrews 10:24, 25?
4 True, not all Christians serve as elders, or overseers. Nonetheless, all are encouraged to incite one another “to love and fine works.” (Hebrews 10:24, 25) Doing so at meetings involves well-prepared, heartfelt comments that can build up and encourage others. Experienced Kingdom publishers may also ‘incite to fine works’ by sharing their knowledge and experience with new ones when working with them in the field ministry. At such times and on informal occasions, valuable instruction can be imparted. For example, mature women are urged to be “teachers of what is good.”—Titus 2:3.
Persuaded to Believe
5, 6. (a) How does true Christianity contrast with false worship? (b) How do elders help new ones to make wise decisions?
5 True Christianity thus stands in stark contrast with false religions, many of which seek to control the thinking of their members. When Jesus was on earth, the religious leaders sought to control virtually every aspect of people’s lives through oppressive man-made traditions. (Luke 11:46) The clergy of Christendom have often done likewise.
6 True worship, however, is “sacred service” that we offer with our “power of reason.” (Romans 12:1) Jehovah’s servants are “persuaded to believe.” (2 Timothy 3:14) At times, those taking the lead may need to initiate some guidelines and procedures for the smooth functioning of the congregation. Instead of seeking to make decisions for fellow Christians, however, elders teach them “to distinguish both right and wrong.” (Hebrews 5:14) Elders do this primarily by nourishing the congregation “with the words of the faith and of the fine teaching.”—1 Timothy 4:6.
Paying Attention to Your Teaching
7, 8. (a) How are people of modest abilities able to serve as teachers? (b) What indicates that personal effort is necessary to become an effective teacher?
7 Let us return, though, to our general commission to teach. Does it require any particular skills, education, or abilities to share in this work? Not necessarily. For the most part, this worldwide teaching work is being carried on by ordinary individuals of modest abilities. (1 Corinthians 1:26-29) Paul explains: “We have this treasure [the ministry] in earthen vessels [imperfect bodies], that the power beyond what is normal may be God’s and not that out of ourselves.” (2 Corinthians 4:7) The enormous success that the global Kingdom-preaching work has enjoyed is a testimony to the power of Jehovah’s spirit!
8 Nevertheless, it takes concerted personal effort to become “a workman with nothing to be ashamed of, handling the word of the truth aright.” (2 Timothy 2:15) Paul urged Timothy: “Pay constant attention to yourself and to your teaching. Stay by these things, for by doing this you will save both yourself and those who listen to you.” (1 Timothy 4:16) Just how does one pay attention to his teaching, whether inside or outside the congregation? Does doing so necessarily involve mastering certain skills or teaching techniques?
9. What is more important than natural abilities?
9 Jesus certainly demonstrated an extraordinary grasp of teaching methods in his famous Sermon on the Mount. When he had finished speaking, “the crowds were astounded at his way of teaching.” (Matthew 7:28) Of course, none of us can teach as well as Jesus did. However, we do not need to be eloquent speakers to be effective teachers. Why, according to Job 12:7, even “domestic animals” and “winged creatures” can teach silently! Along with any natural abilities or skills we might have, what especially counts is “what sort of persons” we are—what qualities we possess and what spiritual habits we have cultivated that students can imitate.—2 Peter 3:11; Luke 6:40.
Students of God’s Word
10. How did Jesus set a fine example as a student of God’s Word?
10 An effective teacher of Scriptural truths must be a student of God’s Word. (Romans 2:21) Jesus Christ set an extraordinary example in this regard. During his ministry, Jesus referred to or expressed thoughts that paralleled passages in about half of the books of the Hebrew Scriptures.* His familiarity with God’s Word was evident at age 12, when he was found “sitting in the midst of the teachers and listening to them and questioning them.” (Luke 2:46) As an adult, it was Jesus’ custom to go to the synagogue, where God’s Word was read.—Luke 4:16.
11. What good study habits should a teacher cultivate?
11 Are you an avid reader of God’s Word? Digging into it is the means by which “you will understand the fear of Jehovah, and you will find the very knowledge of God.” (Proverbs 2:4, 5) So develop good study habits. Try reading a portion of God’s Word every day. (Psalm 1:2) Make it a habit to read each issue of The Watchtower and Awake! as soon as it is received. Pay close attention at congregation meetings. Learn to do careful research. By learning to ‘trace all things with accuracy,’ you can avoid exaggerations and inaccuracies when you teach.—Luke 1:3.
Love and Respect for Those Being Taught
12. What was Jesus’ attitude toward his disciples?
12 Another important quality is the proper attitude toward those whom you instruct. The Pharisees felt contempt for those who listened to Jesus. “This crowd that does not know the Law are accursed people,” they said. (John 7:49) But Jesus had deep love and respect for his disciples. He said: “I no longer call you slaves, because a slave does not know what his master does. But I have called you friends, because all the things I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.” (John 15:15) This indicated how Jesus’ disciples should carry on their teaching activity.
13. How did Paul feel about those whom he taught?
13 For example, Paul did not maintain a cold, businesslike relationship with his students. He told the Corinthians: “Though you may have ten thousand tutors in Christ, you certainly do not have many fathers; for in Christ Jesus I have become your father through the good news.” (1 Corinthians 4:15) At times, Paul even shed tears while admonishing those whom he taught! (Acts 20:31) He also displayed extraordinary patience and kindness. He could therefore tell the Thessalonians: “We became gentle in the midst of you, as when a nursing mother cherishes her own children.”—1 Thessalonians 2:7.
14. Why is a personal interest in our Bible students so important? Illustrate.
14 Do you imitate Jesus and Paul? Sincere love for our students can more than make up for any deficiencies in natural abilities that we might have. Do our Bible students sense that we have a sincere interest in them personally? Do we take the time to get to know them? When one Christian woman was having difficulty helping a student to progress spiritually, she kindly asked: “Is something worrying you?” The woman began pouring her heart out, relating numerous concerns and anxieties. That loving conversation turned out to be the turning point for the woman. In such cases Scriptural thoughts and words of comfort and encouragement are appropriate. (Romans 15:4) A word of caution, though: A Bible student may be progressing rapidly but may still have some unchristian ways to overcome. So it may not be wise to be unduly close socially with the individual. Proper Christian boundaries should be maintained.—1 Corinthians 15:33.
15. How can we show respect for our Bible students?
15 Respect for our students includes that we do not try to control their personal lives. (1 Thessalonians 4:11) For instance, we may be studying with a woman who is living with a man out of wedlock. Perhaps they have had children together. Having come to an accurate knowledge of God, the woman wants to set matters straight with Jehovah. (Hebrews 13:4) Should she marry the man or separate from him? Perhaps we strongly feel that marrying a man with little or no spiritual interest would hinder her future progress. On the other hand, we may fear for the welfare of her children and think that she would be better off marrying him. In any event, it is disrespectful and unloving to intrude into a student’s life and try to impose our own opinions in such matters. After all, she is the one who must live with the consequences of the decision. Would it not be best, then, to train such a student to use her own “perceptive powers” and decide for herself what she should do?—Hebrews 5:14.
16. How can elders show love and respect for God’s flock?
16 It is particularly important for congregation elders to treat the flock with love and respect. In writing to Philemon, Paul said: “Though I have great freeness of speech in connection with Christ to order you to do what is proper, I am exhorting you rather on the basis of love.” (Philemon 8, 9) At times, frustrating situations may arise in the congregation. Firmness may even be necessary. Paul urged Titus to “keep on reproving [erring ones] with severity, that they may be healthy in the faith.” (Titus 1:13) Even so, overseers must take pains never to speak unkindly to the congregation. “A slave of the Lord does not need to fight,” wrote Paul, “but needs to be gentle toward all, qualified to teach, keeping himself restrained under evil.”—2 Timothy 2:24; Psalm 141:3.
17. What mistake did Moses make, and what can elders learn from it?
17 Overseers must continually remind themselves that they are dealing with “the flock of God.” (1 Peter 5:2) Moses, humble though he was, briefly lost this perspective. The Israelites “embittered his spirit and he began to speak rashly with his lips.” (Psalm 106:33) God was greatly displeased with this mistreatment of His flock, even though they were far from blameless. (Numbers 20:2-12) When faced with similar challenges today, elders should strive to teach and instruct with insight and kindness. Our brothers respond best when they are treated with consideration and as individuals needing help, not as those who are beyond recovery. Elders need to maintain the positive viewpoint that Paul had when he said: “We have confidence in the Lord regarding you, that you are doing and will go on doing the things we order.”—2 Thessalonians 3:4.
Responsive to Their Needs
18, 19. (a) How should we respond to the needs of Bible students with limited abilities? (b) How might we assist students who have difficulty with specific matters?
18 An effective teacher is willing to adapt to the abilities and limitations of his students. (Compare John 16:12.) In Jesus’ illustration of the talents, the master gave privileges “to each one according to his own ability.” (Matthew 25:15) We can follow a similar pattern when conducting Bible studies. Naturally, it is desirable to cover a Bible-based publication in a reasonably short period of time. It must be acknowledged, though, that not all have good reading skills or the ability to assimilate new ideas quickly. Therefore, discernment is needed as to when to move from one point to another in the study if responsive individuals have difficulty keeping up a fast pace. More important than covering material at a fixed pace is helping students to get the sense of what they are learning.—Matthew 13:51.
19 The same can be said for Bible students who have difficulty with specific matters, such as the Trinity or religious holidays. While it is generally unnecessary to include Bible-based research material at our studies, we may occasionally do so if this would clearly be beneficial. Good judgment should be used so as to prevent unnecessarily slowing down a student’s progress.
20. How did Paul set an example in displaying enthusiasm and conviction in his teaching?
20 “Be aglow with the spirit,” says Paul. (Romans 12:11) Yes, whether we are conducting a home Bible study or we are sharing in a part at a congregation meeting, we should do so with zeal and enthusiasm. Paul told the Thessalonians: “The good news we preach did not turn up among you with speech alone but also with power and with holy spirit and strong conviction.” (1 Thessalonians 1:5) Paul and his companions thus imparted “not only the good news of God, but also [their] own souls.”—1 Thessalonians 2:8.
21. How can we maintain an enthusiastic attitude toward our teaching assignments?
21 Genuine enthusiasm comes from being firmly convinced that our Bible students need to hear what we have to say. Let us never view any teaching assignment as routine. The scribe Ezra certainly paid attention to his teaching in this regard. He “prepared his heart to consult the law of Jehovah and to do it and to teach in Israel.” (Ezra 7:10) We should do likewise by preparing thoroughly and reflecting on the importance of the material. Let us pray to Jehovah to fill us with faith and conviction. (Luke 17:5) Our enthusiasm can help Bible students to develop a real love for the truth. Of course, paying attention to our teaching may involve using specific teaching techniques. Our next article will discuss some of these.
See Insight on the Scriptures, Volume 2, page 1071, published by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc.
Do You Recall?
□ Why are skilled Christian teachers needed today?
□ What good study habits can we cultivate?
□ Why are love and respect for those whom we teach so important?
□ How can we respond to the needs of our Bible students?
□ Why are enthusiasm and conviction vital when teaching others?
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Good teachers are themselves students of God’s Word
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Take a personal interest in Bible students