A previous post looked at Paul's exhortation to the Colossians to "teach and admonish each other with all wisdom."
How does this work in practice?
Such a pattern of teaching will, I believe, tend to produce greater maturity than an intake of God's word which is only done individually or is received from a gifted teacher. Both these routes are important, of course, but one-another teaching and admonishing has several distinctive features that are unique in the economy of God:
- It is relational. As children, we are shaped by our families and in church new believers are to be nurtured in the family of God with relationships that resemble - even go beyond - those of a human extended family.
- It is holistic. Teaching and admonishing in this sense deals with our understanding of the gospel and its application to how we live. The same apostle who wrote Romans 1-8 also wrote Romans 9-16. Yet how often do you hear teaching in church about citizenship, gender, race, the ethics of food, how to live as a Christian at work, socializing and responding to economic inequality in the church and the world? I thought not. Yet all of these topics are addressed in Romans 9-16 and should be taught - both publicly and through one-another teaching and admonishing.
- It is practical. Such teaching can be modeled as well as talked about. Although it is possible for a preacher to illustrate spiritual truth from his own life, the close one-another style of teaching increases this aspect exponentially. We can "see" and "get" what is being taught (assuming those teaching are living consistently with it) because we can see it being worked out.
- It is flexible. A church meeting where members teach each other can adjust its content to the needs of the members - including those that arise in the context of the interactive discussion. Such teaching can also be done at any mutually convenient time. Shift workers are not excluded!
- It is interactive. This approach to teaching allows lots of room for questions and two-way discussion. This is healthy and reinforces the learning value of the teaching.
- It is universal. Everyone gets to teach and everyone receives teaching. This addresses the issue of passivity in church as well as allowing for much more dynamic growth personally and numerically as members (even new converts) develop the habit of sharing God's word with others. Essentially, anyone can do it. Elders and apostles are there to make sure things stay on track and of course have specific teaching gifts to discharge as well, but essentially a lot of the day-to-day work of the church is to be done by the rank and file members, equipped by those with leadership gifting.
Of course, all of this can be done around a meal and is most natural and effective in a smaller group, such as a household-style church.