This post is part of the series on Preaching for Youth. Let’s start with making something very clear: there’s no such thing in the Bible as the gift of preaching. There is however the gift of teaching, which is mentioned several times. Let’s start with clarifying what we mean by preaching and by teaching.
What is the gift of teaching?
Here’s a definition of the gift of teaching:
The gift of teaching is the divine enablement to understand, clearly explain, and apply the Word of God, causing greater Christ-likeness in the lives of listeners. The literal meaning of the word ‘teaching’ here is to instruct (1)
The Biblical foundation for this gift can be found in Romans 12:7 and the few verses before that:
“Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, let us prophesy in proportion to our faith; or ministry, let us use it in our ministering; he who teaches, in teaching; he who exhorts, in exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.” (Romans 12:6-8 NKJV) (2)
Now as you can see in that definition, teaching is actually broader than ‘just’ preaching. The gift of teaching is about instructing people in God’s Word in such a way, that it causes them to become more like Christ. While preaching certainly is an important way to do that, it isn’t by far the only way. Think of teachers of Sunday School, Bible courses, Bible studies, but also of small group leaders or those that make small group studies that can be used by others.
How to know if you have the gift of teaching?
We can then answer the question of how to know of you have the gift of teaching by looking at all elements of the definition and putting these in questions. The first three questions are about you:
Do you understand the Bible? Do you feel when you study it, you receive deeper understanding? Does studying the Bible excite you?
Can you clearly explain what you have learned from the Bible? Do you find you’re able to translate ‘Biblical language’ into normal language that people can grasp?
Are you good at applying the Word of God to day-to-day live? If you’ve studied a passage, can you distill applications, even from more theoretical parts?
But then there’s that last ‘requirement’ and one that’s crucial:
Does your teaching change lives? Are people actually acting on what you say, instead of just listening and going home unchanged?
The gift of teaching isn’t just about being able to understand God’s Word and communicating life principles from it. It’s about doing this in such a way that it makes people change. If you have the gift of teaching. God will visibly work through you to change people’s lives. You’ll find out that what you just said was exactly what people needed to hear. People will come to you and tell you that what you said helped them change. You will be able to see this and so will others, they will confirm your gift for sure. If you have a feeling you have the gift of teaching, the only way then to find out for sure is to practice. This is one gift that you will never discover and confirm unless you go out there and use it. Only then will you (and others) see if God is using your teaching to change lives.
Teaching doesn’t mean preaching
If you know then that you have the gift of teaching, that still doesn’t mean you have a knack for preaching. As I said before, preaching is just one way of teaching. You’ll need to find out how to best use your gift of teaching.
I once knew this great guy who had more Bible knowledge than I could ever dream of having and who was fantastic at teaching the Bible course we offered in our church. I loved sitting in on his lessons because I always learned so many new things. Yet I found him to be a weak preacher. He was great at teaching on the Bible, sharing his passion for God’s Word and all the riches in it. But he didn’t have a communicative style that went well with preaching, mainly because he had so much to share he never quite got the hang of preaching only one key message. His sermons were all over the place and thus ineffective.
And if you find out you have a knack for preaching, that still doesn’t mean you’ll do well for youth. Preaching for adults and preaching for youth share the same basic concepts of course, but to be able to communicate effectively with youth you’ll need to adapt your message and style so it appeals to them.
Do you need a calling?
One aspect hasn’t been mentioned so far and that’s the aspect of ‘a calling’. I’m somewhat hesitant to use this term because there’s been so much discussion and confusion about this. Yet many agree that it’s not so much about the gift of preaching, as being called to preach (and yes, they specifically mention a calling for preaching, not for teaching in general!). I’m just going to leave it at that, because the whole concept of a calling is enough for at least three blog posts 🙂
Let’s discuss then: how did you find out you had the gift of teaching or preaching? Or how did you know you didn’t? Are my questions making sense to you or are there more you’d like to add? And what do we do with the question of a calling? I’d love to hear your thoughts!(1) Taken from Network participant’s guide by Bruce Bugbee, Don Cousins and Bill Hybels (2) Other Biblical references to the gift of teaching or teaching in general can be found in Acts 18:24-28, 1 Cor 12: 28,29, Eph 4:11-14 and 2 Tim 2:1