“8 CHOICES” Spring-Summer Study – Chapter 6 “The Ministry Trap”

Kitchen sponges.  I’ve had a love/hate relationship with them for decades.  On the one hand, I love their ability to absorb and hold liquid (I’m particularly fascinated by the kind that come completely flattened out like a wafer and then expand to 10 times their size the minute water hits them).  On the other hand, nothing grosses me out more than a well-absorbed sponge that has been sitting on the side of the kitchen sink… overnight.  Just go there with me for a minute and get your sense-memory wrapped around that cold, slimy feel and lovely smell.  Nice.   

An over-absorbed sponge is not only gross it is also ineffective.  Likewise the over-absorbed Christian, while maybe not gross, is equally ineffective.  And I’m sure you are wondering what exactly all of this has to do with our lesson this week.  Me too.  But let’s dig in…

In Jill’s opening paragraph to chapter 6, she alerts us to another potential trap that James writes about, “… those of us who hold the privileged responsibilities of teaching and passing on spiritual knowledge must particularly watch out for what I call the ministry trap.”  

Right there she may have lost some of us, especially if we don’t possess the spiritual gifts of teaching or speaking.  But look at her words again:

“… those of us who hold the privileged responsibilities of teaching and passing on spiritual knowledge must particularly watch out for what I call the ministry trap.”

Jill does her usual excellent job of laying out Truth that hurts and making us feel good about it (grin) so I don’t want to re-teach it or re-state it because she’s covered it all.  But I do want to focus a little more on “us” as teachers, because this chapter, and the warning within, is not just for the so-called “spiritual professionals” in the body of Christ.  Whether we have the spiritual gift of teaching or not, as followers of Christ we are all called to teach and pass on spiritual knowledge.  In fact, the last words Jesus left His followers with was the command to, “…go and make disciples of all nations, … and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you…” (Matthew 28:19-20, my emphasis added).  

That word is a command, not merely a suggestion, for each and every man, woman and child who calls themselves a follower of Jesus.  It’s not just a message to the spiritually gifted.  In fact, I love Jill’s discussion question at the end of the chapter and I hope you’ll give that some serious thought, talk it over in your groups and/or post your thoughts and comments on the blog.  Here it is again:

  • Who falls into the category of “teacher” in the Christian church today?  

Let me give you my answer to that question:  “Y-O-U… YOU!”

I realize that most of us get all nervous and anxious at the mere thought of having to teach anyone anything, but allow me to pitch out a couple more questions to you for reflective thinking and discussion- and to hopefully take the edge off of this command to “go… and teach.”

I’m betting that in this group each one of us knows something about something (how’s that for profound), and we are usually more than willing to share or teach what we know about the subject we are familiar with to others- be it real estate, exercise, the stock market, nutrition, recreational sports… you name it.   So then…

  • In what way are you a teacher at home, at work, in relationships, with friends?

I would also bet (and I’m really not a betting woman) that most of us in this group attend a church where the Bible is preached, maybe also a Sunday school class, or a Bible study of some kind.  Right?  OK, then…  

  • Considering the knowledge of God and the Christian life that you’ve gained through Bible study…
  1. What have you learned?
  2. In what ways could you broaden your use of that knowledge to teach others?

We are to teach what we know.  Let me remind you, again, beloved, that teaching the gospel is a command for every follower of Christ.  The only difference between the Spiritual Gift of teaching and the command to teach is the platform.  But all of us are called to teach what we know of the gospel Truth that has been invested in us through Biblical teaching.  Therefore, when we are in church listening to the gospel preached, or when we are in Sunday school class listening to some good expository teaching, or when we are in an inductive Bible study… or anytime we are where the gospel is being preached or taught we should be listening to it with the intent to obey it and to pass it on!  It’s back to what James tells us that we are to do: “teach and pass on spiritual knowledge”.  

Let’s look at it another way: Being taught has Biblical implications.  

If you’ve been taught the Word of God then you are charged with teaching others the Word of God.  That, my sweet sisters, is true, Biblical discipleship: Taking what you’ve been given and investing it… reproducing it, in the lives of others… and teaching them to do the same (2 Timothy 2:2).  

So then we come to church, to Sunday school, to Bible study prepared and ready to learn-in-order-to-reproduce!  We bring our Bibles, we bring a note book, we look up Scripture, we take notes, we ask questions… all with the intent to pass it on, pay it forward, reproduce it in the lives of others.  That’s my wonderful husband’s favorite lament!

But, if all we do is listen and never pass it on…  Ah hah, then we become the proverbial “stinking sponge”- always soaking it up, but never wringing it out into the lives of people around us… people who are hungry for Truth and don’t know it; people who need and want answers that the world can’t give them; people who want to know how it is you do what you do and are who you are in spite of your circumstances; people who just need someone to come alongside of them, throw an arm around them and help them grow up in their faith and walk it out for real on the pavement of real L-I-F-E!

Keep in mind what Jesus says at the very end of Matthew 28:20, as He issues the Great Commission-

“And surely I am with you always…”

Dear ones, know this: Jesus will never command you to do something that He, Himself, won’t go with you to do… all the way!  After all, apart from Him we can do nothing (John 15:5).  

Listen girls, people are desperate for Jesus!  Pray that the Lord who has blessed you with knowledge and an intimate relationship with Himself, will open your eyes to the people around you who need Him, and give you His boldness and courage to share His way of life with them.  

Nothing will satisfy you more than teaching others for the sake of the One who is our Teacher!

Love you like crazy!

xo – P