For he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes. (Matthew 7:29)
This verse, my teaching/training career and how I have grown as a witness with authority in doing God’s work.
In my first experiences as a college teacher I had just come out of the army and was a teaching assistant. Unlike many assistants who grade papers, I was given full; authority to teach my own class. I was ill prepared. So I read and outlined the text book and taught pretty much from the book. At least I was a very small step beyond just reading from the book as some teachers do. Although popular as a teacher, I can’t say I was very effective.
Soon, I expanded my sphere of (book) knowledge and was able to include case studies and more background on the theories underlying what I was teaching. I became a bit more popular as a teacher, because I was a good speaker. But again, I can’t say I was particularly effective.
I wasn’t long before I was called upon, through consulting, to apply that book knowledge in real life settings. I was able to take what I learned back into the classroom. My effectiveness increased dramatically, but I still had a long way to go.
In the next phase of my teaching career I began teaching graduate level night classes to part-time students holding full time jobs. This brought about a huge change in my teaching approach and methods. These folks weren’t looking for book knowledge and theory. They needed practical knowledge that they could apply to their jobs.
The big changes were that I now longer taught based on what I knew or even what I thought they needed to know. Through their questions, which came from their real life experiences, I had to apply my knowledge in ways that addressed their needs. I still had a body of knowledge that made up the core of the course material, but they wanted tools they could apply on their jobs the next day.
And then I was called upon to apply these concepts myself. I became deeply involved in designing the restructuring of major corporations in the steel, aerospace, chemical and baking industries. I had to walk the walk. It was at this point that I not only had authority (was given the organizational power), but also became a recognized authority (had the personal knowledge and skills as recognized by others).
We do the same sorts of things, experience the same sort of maturation and growth, as we grow in our Christian walk. Some are just able to quote verses. Others are able to place verses in the right context. Often we evangelize by speaking what we know.
As Disciples of Christ Jesus we are given authority to witness and speak in His name. However, like my early teaching experiences, we are often ill prepared.
We are most effective as witnesses when we are able to speak from our experiences with knowledge (wisdom). We have the greatest impact when we can speak with that wisdom to what others need to learn or know rather than what we feel we need to tell. And we can do this by our actions as well as words. In fact, if our actions don’t parallel our words, the words are seldom effective.
This is a process of growth and one we never complete.
So, as a servant of Jesus, do as He did.
Know and understand the Word. Speak the Word. Live the Word.