He lived there two whole years at his own expense, and welcomed all who came to him, proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance. (Acts 28:30-31, English Standard Version (ESV)
For past three and half years, I taught the biblical truth, on Jesus and his redemptive work on the Cross week in and week out to the Nepali-Speaking people group who were resettled here by the US government. I did it wholeheartedly without any reservation, for I wanted to see these people coming to the saving knowledge of Jesus. I worked my butt off to get the message across their heart and mind. However, I was not seeing much fruit that I had anticipated to see in the church. I was feeding them the fundamental Christian principles in a regular basis but failing to produce or harvest any thing out of it. It was the most discouraging and lonesome time in my ministerial life so far.
It took me full 2 years to come to realize that without affecting the heart, head-knowledge alone is not enough for people to know the need of the Savior. God, in his mercy, alone can bring people to Christ. He uses words from a preacher or teacher as a mean to get across his message to people though! Meantime, our message also must meet the need of the restless soul and address their spiritual condition. Our message should be a part of their problem resolution, that is to say, spirit-led sermon or teaching.
The senior pastor of the church, then I was ministering in, called me into his office one day and offered a really good piece of advice. “Satya, I would like to see you approaching these people with the Gospel more of proclaiming it rather than teaching it.” It was an eye-opening moment for me. He did not mean that I should not teach. Almost all preachers or teachers in the ministry know that both element is equally important in communicating the biblical truth. Every good preacher teaches and vice versa.
What then is the difference between preaching and teaching?
Before we delve into the core of the issue, lets look at some of these interesting verses in the New Testament.
Acts 4:2 – “. . being greatly disturbed that they taught the people and preached through Jesus the resurrection from the dead.”
Acts 5:42- “. . And daily in the temple, and in every house, they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ.”
Acts 15:35 – “Paul and Barnabas also remained in Antioch, teaching and preaching the word of the Lord, with many others also.”
Acts 28:31 – “Preaching the kingdom of God and teaching the things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ. . . .”
In the above listed passages, we see preaching and teaching happening together. Over times, they seem to overlap. This illustration might be of a little help to understand the difference between two.
To simplify it, preaching is geared more towards newbies to the Gospel or nonbelievers. It simply means proclaiming or heralding the message in public. Preaching answers the question, “What should we do?” in any given circumstances. It appeals to the heart to affect the mind. It has a burden to inspire our heart instantly so that our mind agrees to our heart to act. Preaching elevates our desire to obey or act on truth of God. Emotion is the driving factor or the source of drive to act. That is to say, it involves lots of passion that appeals to human heart and emotions that drives the mind to act on what he or she hears.
Contrarily, teaching answers the questions, “What is?” and informs “how to?” Teaching is rarely emotional but rational that strives for burden of proof for its existence. It is driven by reason or evidence, thus, appeals to intellect. Communicating certain truths by appealing to mind or intellect helps a person to perceive things/truths from different perspectives to gain new understanding. As a result, teaching can be boring and dry. Instance, some people find class lecture not so appealing to heart, thus fail to perform or act those truths.
Teaching is expected to step up a gear toward the believers who have already made Jesus Christ as the foundation of their faith. They have basic understanding of the Gospel and now in the process of growing into spiritual maturity. By appealing to their intellect, their heart is affected to act upon those truths. In other words, the intellect convinces the heart now to receive the truth and perform the truth.
For example, we may have learn about the cost of being disciple of Jesus Christ. All the prerequisite qualifications of discipleship can be merely understood in terms of statements made by Jesus Christ. We all know that Jesus demands undivided love and attention to him in this passage (Luke 14:25-33). However, me might not be in the position to really take on this passage and live out in the world. Here, we got good solid teaching but our heart is not moved or motivated to perform the teaching part. Only affecting the heart can produce the result of what we have learned through teaching. Likewise, the same truth need to be communicated to make mind agree with heart by appealing to it. A good teacher might have taught right doctrine in the church, but the church might lack the will or desire to take action. Therefore, we have to have balance between preaching and teaching in our church. Every good teacher preaches too, as every good preacher teaches by presenting explanations, examples and reasonings. Because, Jesus, our Lord and Master, did it.