Doug, it seems to me that the role of Teacher (didaskalos) isn't really an office, but a role that some leaders fill (prophets in Acts 13:1, pastors in Ephesians 4:11, and apostles in 2 Timothy 1:11). Only 1 Corinthians 12:28 lists it separately -- and perhaps Romans 12:7. What is your understanding of the role of a teacher? Is it a biblical office, or simply a word describing one who teaches? -- Joe Thomas (New York)
My view, like yours, recognizes that sometimes we seem to be reading a description of a function more than of an office. I suspect that many leadership positions in the early church displayed a similar fluidity, which is why it is often difficult to nail down exactly (and dogmatically) what specific roles entail. I have written at some length on this in chapter 4 of James, Peter, John Jude, in the excursus on Teachers.
Perhaps a more practical response on my part would be to provide a list of criteria--really, just suggestions--which I have shared with many brothers and sisters who have asked about the role of the didaskalos in the past couple of years. I hope you find it helpful.
Often people ask, "What does it take to be a teacher?" This is a lesson I first shared in Sydney, January 3, 2000.
1. The teacher must be an excellent student of the Bible. This is the prime criterion! How many times have you read the whole Bible? Do you push yourself? Do you love the Word?
2. The teacher must be ahead of the pack academically. To lead others, he must not be slower than them in his thinking or lagging behind them in his attitude towards learning.
3. A university degree is helpful, and advisable. Ultimately, I believe the greater the level of responsibility within the teaching ministry, the higher the degree required. (I.e., a masters instead of a bachelors, a doctorate instead of a masters.)
4. He must be able to lead a group. Whether a small group, church, or part of a church, invaluable lessons are learned through this process. (Note: Not all appointed teachers will serve as church staff members. However, experience on staff does afford a unique perspective on how staff people think. And these are the very people who need most to be moved through the teacher's ministry.)
5. He should enjoy outside reading. The average person reads only a few books a year. The teacher must have a true appetite for learning. The question for the prospective teacher is not, "How many books do you read a year?" but "How many books do you read each week?"
6. Knowledge of Greek and Hebrew, while not essential, is desirable. Few persons read either language--which puts them at a disadvantage when it comes to exegesis of biblical texts. By far the best way to learn one of these languages is to enroll in a university level course (with intensive study and examinations).
7. His marriage and family need to be exemplary. Just as in the case of evangelists or elders, family qualifies you to do what you do, and family can also disqualify you from doing what you do.
8. He must be able to organize his thoughts and put them to paper (Ecclesiastes 12:9-10). Whether writing articles, books, on-line columns, or class outlines, the clear thinker will deliver a clear lesson.
9. He must be a reasonably good speaker. Dynamism and authority are vital. His life must back up his message and he must command the respect of those he seeks to influence.
10. He must have deep convictions--a prophetic commitment to biblical principles--and be a man to be reckoned with.
11. Time. Training in the teaching ministry, like training in eldership, involves years of work behind the scenes. A young Christian should not be appointed a teacher. (For example, teachers may be persons who have been in the Lord 10-20 years, but not likely 3-5 years.) We close the lesson with my favorite poem by Longfellow:
The heights by great men reached and kept,
Were not attained by sudden flight,
But they, while their companions slept,
Were toiling upward in the night.
Lastly, the AIM course on Homiletics would be the most advanced resource. I think that would be really helpful for anyone serious about this.
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