Pastor, Are You Teachable?
Today I'd like to talk to you about a character trait that's been on my heart for several days now. It's a trait that all Christians need, but especially those of you who are serving in pastoral (teaching) ministry.
I suppose we're all familiar with Paul's lists of qualifications for church leaders. They're found in Titus and 1 Timothy. The trait I want to talk about today is found in 1 Tim. 3:2. It's the 7th qualification that Paul sets forth for "overseers." The Greek word is didaktikon. "An overseer," writes Paul, "must be didaktikon." Your Bible translation probably says something like "must be able to teach." And that's one way the Greek can be rendered. But did you know that the same Greek word can be rendered in a completely different way? My Greek dictionary tells me that didaktikon can be translated either as (1) "able to teach" or as (2) ... are you ready?
That's right. Teachable. You say, "Well, Dave, what does it mean here?" And my answer would be, "I don't know!" You see, one of the things I have to constantly remind my Greek students is that Greek is not a magic potion you can ingest and then afterwards everything becomes crystal clear. It isn't the Abracadabra or Open Sesame of biblical interpretation. It's a not a magic wand you can wave over your passage and then -- POOF! -- expect the meaning to jump out at you miraculously. This is precisely one of the most important things we can ever know about Greek: It doesn't necessarily tell us what the Bible means. But it can (and does) limit our options. It tells us what is possible, and then many others factors -- especially the context -- have to kick in at that point.
So do I have an opinion about what didaktikon means in 1 Tim. 3:2? Sure do. Here I think it means "teachable." Look, first, at the context. No other qualification mentioned in Paul's list has to do with an aptitude, or a skill set, or an ability. Instead, they all have to do with a man's character. His lifestyle. I think "teachable" fits this context quite nicely, don't you? Secondly, think for a moment, if you will, about those pastor-teachers in your life you've come to love and respect the most. I'll do the same. Know what I think they all have in common? They're passionate learners! They love studying the Scriptures! They don't burn out or rust out. Instead, every week they can't wait for Sunday to come. "Look at what I've been learning this week! I can't wait to share it with you!" In a word, they are teachable. In two words, they are lifelong learners. That's called teachability. It's one reason so many pastors are returning to our seminary for their Doctor of Ministry degree. They are lifelong learners. That's why some pastors even enroll in our Ph.D. program. Recently my former assistant received his Ph.D. in New Testament from our school. Know what he does, week in and week out? He pastors a local church.
Billy Graham once spoke at a pastors' conference in London toward the end of his ministry. Someone asked him, "Dr. Graham, if you had to do your ministry all over again, what would you do differently?" He thought for a moment and then said, "Well, I would have prayed more, that's for sure." BAM! That struck me right between the eyes! If ever there was a prayer wimp, that's me! Then Graham added, "And I would have studied more and preached less." I find that it's difficult for me to learn anything when I'm doing all the talking. There's a time for listening, and a time for talking. A time to be "quick to listen and slow to speak." A time for study -- deep, reverent, Spirit-led study. R. C. Sproul once said that the key to being an effective pastor-teacher is being simple without being simplistic. He said a great teacher-preacher is like an iceberg. You only see 10 percent, but underneath you sense the other 90 percent.
What's your teachability quotient, pastor friend? Are you preaching from the canteen of Saturday night or from a reservoir of Bible knowledge? If you're not sure, just ask your people. They know. You can't disguise mediocrity.
Are you teachable? The leader who has nothing to learn has nothing to teach. So ... are you teachable? If not, you can be. Start today.
May 4, 2020
David Alan Black is the editor of www.daveblackonline.com.