Teaching or exhortation on aspects of Christian life and thought directed to persons who have already made a faith commitment. Instruction (didache) is frequently distinguished from missionary preaching (kerygma). Matthew's Gospel says of Jesus, “He taught them as one having authority” (Matthew 7:29). The Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) in particular is the rock-solid foundational teaching for Christian life (Matthew 7:24-27). Jesus Himself admonished His disciples to make disciples, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, “teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded” (Matthew 28:20).
The church of Jesus Christ, therefore, is a teacher, instructing men and women in Christian faith and discipleship. The faith which the church proclaims must be strengthened by the teaching of the gospel. Paul reminded the early Christians that one of the offices of the church was the pastor/teacher who worked “to equip God's people for work in his service, for the building up of the body of Christ” (Ephesians 4:12 REB).
The church's teaching ministry has numerous dimensions: The church teaches about Jesus. The church presents the basic details of Jesus' life and ministry: His death, burial, and resurrection. It helps members understand the meaning of these events for all times. In the early church, the catechumens or learners were those given instruction in Christian faith prior to receiving baptism and full membership in the community of faith. Later church leaders such as Martin Luther and John Calvin wrote catechisms, books for instructing persons in faith and doctrine. The church is called to retell the story of Jesus in every generation. See Gospel; Kerygma; Jesus, Life and Ministry of.
The church teaches Christian spirituality. New Christians are not to remain “babes in Christ,” but to increase in “grace, and in the knowledge” of the Lord Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 3:1-3;
2 Peter 3:18). Christian spirituality is the process of growing in faith. In its teaching ministry, the church guides Christians in the life of faith through prayer, Bible study, meditation, and spiritual reflection.
The church teaches Christian ethics. Those who follow Christ must be conformed to His image. The church instructs its members in faithfulness, morality, honesty, and integrity. Ethical instruction is not a new law but a way of life according to Christ's new commandment to love one another (John 13:34-35). Jesus is the ultimate moral teacher and example for the people of God. See Ethics in the Bible.
The church instructs in Christian doctrine. The church teaches the basic truths of the Christian faith. It guides Christians in understanding significant beliefs. It opens the Scriptures to determine those doctrinal ideals upon which the church is founded. It guides faithful Christians to maturity so that its members may not be “tossed to and fro, and carried about with by every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness” (Ephesians 4:14). All doctrinal instruction leads to Christ who is the final source of the Christian's faith. See Doctrine; Bible, Theology of.
A Teaching Evangel. As the church teaches, it also evangelizes. The teaching ministry of the church is another way in which the people of God declare their faith that others may know Christ and grow up in him. See Evangelism in the Bible.
Bill J. Leonard