Teaching Isn’t About Giving Answers

teachingI hate the idea of becoming Mr. Pastor Answer Man. A guy approached me recently after I gave a sermon: “I’m struggling with what you shared. I don’t understand what I’m supposed to do now.”

Inside I’m screaming, “It’s not my job to give you the answer.” But thankfully I’ve developed a filter that didn’t exist when I was 18, and said instead, “Let the Holy Spirit do His work in you. If you seek, He will pave the way.”

I think one of the reasons pastors are some of the least respected people in America today (37% of people believe clergy contribute “a lot” to society) is because for too long they’ve spoon fed people answers. “You must do this. And this. And this.” And of course, the answers often failed to work. So the pastor is the first one to take the blame.

Leave the church. Blame the pastor. Blame God. Certainly it couldn’t be your fault.

But honestly, that is the pastor’s fault. He/she should not allow the expectation that their role is to provide answers to grow. God knows they wrestle with the questions as much as everyone else.

I know for me, it’s a battle trying to be authentic, instead of being the kind of pastor I think people want.

A few years ago I met with a man who told me, “I think my role here is to ask good questions, because if I do that you will find the answer.”

The goal of discipleship is to develop Christ within those who follow Jesus. This can be accomplished through teaching, for sure, but not if teaching is about passing along answers. This Jesus following kind of discipleship comes through formation—formation of the heart and life—providing God the space to live, and move, and have His way within.

Christians shouldn’t go to seminary to get answers, and then spend their entire lives providing the same answers to others. No, if discipleship comes by way of formation, we should teach others how to cultivate their lives around Christ. We work the soil around the lives of people. We plant the seed. But we don’t grow the plants.

So what does this look like for me?

When I teach or speak I try not to give answers.

I provide perspective. I point in a specific direction. I tell stories. I give examples. But I ry to leave the answer to the Holy Spirit’s move in a person’s life. And I think that should be everyone’s goal.

“How easy it is to confuse spiritual information with spiritual formation. More knowledge does not equate to more Christlikenes” (tweet from J.R. Briggs yesterday).

You may think you have the answer, but your answer may not work for them. If you give people the answer, it will never be theirs.

Give them the tools to cultivate an answer for themselves.