Today in the Church there is a preponderance of preaching and relatively little teaching. This is especially true at the Sunday morning worship service of most churches—generally considered the “highlight” of the week—where most believers get their spiritual food. This is also generally true of conferences and special gatherings where preaching often dominates the agenda. (This trend has left its impact even on the secular media which is familiar with the term “preacher,” but usually in a negative way.) In some circles around the world, the mark of a good preacher is one who can entertain the congregation and make them laugh.
In contrast, Jesus Christ was balanced in his ministry with regard to teaching and preaching.
Matthew 4:23 Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people.
He not only preached the gospel of the kingdom, he also taught and healed the sick. There is a difference between preaching and teaching. Preaching is generally for proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom of God to the lost. The Greek word for preaching kerusso signifies (a) “to be a herald,” or, in general, “to proclaim,” (b) “to preach the gospel as a herald,” and lastly, (c) “to preach the word…” Moreover, the term euangelizo is almost always used of “the good news” concerning the Son of God as proclaimed in the gospel. Thus preaching is primarily for sharing the gospel with those who have not heard or for those who do not believe. Accordingly, Jesus commands us in Mark Chapter 16 to “go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation” (verse 15).
Teaching, on the other hand, is from the Greek work didasko which means “to give instruction.” The object of the instruction is obviously the body of believers. In verses from the end of Matthew 28, also known as the Great Commission, Jesus commands us,
Matthew 28:19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.
Here—in contrast to Mark 16:15—the emphasis is not on preaching, but upon teaching and discipleship. We are to teach believers to obey everything Jesus commanded His disciples. What, among other things, did Jesus command them to do?
Luke 10:9 Heal the sick who are there and tell them, ‘The kingdom of God is near you.’
Among other things, Jesus commanded His disciples to heal the sick and to proclaim His kingdom to the lost. Today we are to teach His disciples to obey this same command. The problem is that healing the sick and proclaiming the gospel are not practices that can be taught through preaching. Preaching, of course, can bring sinners to conviction and faith in Jesus. It can inspire, challenge, and renew the faith of tired believers. However, it does not equip them to do the works that Jesus did according to John 14:12. It cannot train believers to heal the sick and proclaim the kingdom of God to the lost.
Therefore preaching is generally for the lost, the backslidden, and for the needy to be strengthened; it can be accompanied by great emotion and drama. In contrast, however, teaching is for those who are ready to obey Christ’s commands, which include the Great Commission. It involves the methodical and logical presentation of Scripture line-by-line in a precise and didactic manner. Unfortunately, there exists an unbalanced emphasis on preaching within the body of Christ today. If anything, the emphasis for believers should be teaching.
Ephesians 4:11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, (English Standard Version)
The primary job description of all five offices given by God is to equip the saints for the work of ministry. But this job is not being done. The trend has been rather in favor of superstar, one-man-show ministries of which the primary purpose is not to train and equip the body of Christ to do what they are doing. One suspects that the last thing such ministries want to see is the body of Christ—“ordinary” believers—enabled to do what they are doing. There may be understandable concerns of job security. Perhaps this can in part explain the emphasis on preaching and the relative lack of teaching. Moreover, preachers can attain to celebrity status and enjoy the accompanying earthly benefits whereas teachers do so less frequently.
The Church of Jesus Christ needs to correct the imbalance between teaching and preaching. Only then will those who believe in Jesus be equipped to do the works that He did, and the Great Commission be fulfilled.
We believe today we are at the beginning stages of restoring a scriptural and healthy balance between preaching and teaching.