The Preacher as Second-Level Teacher

A good preacher must be a first-level teacher. That is, he must faithfully interpret the biblical text and teach his people, first, what it meant to its original audience, and second, how it applies to them today as God’s inspired and ever-relevant Word.

But that is not enough. A good preacher, I believe, must also be a second-level teacher. That is, he must also show his people, over the long haul, how to do for themselves what he regularly does for them. He must teach them how to rightly handle the word of truth; how to rightly wield the sword of the Spirit. Scripture study is not a spectator sport, after all. This second-level teaching can be accomplished directly or indirectly; the latter is more common and often more appropriate. But it must be done — and done intentionally.

The main reason for this parallels the reason that we not only feed our children but also, in due time, teach them to feed themselvesĀ  — and even, on occasion, to cook for themselves. Who would consider themselves a faithful parent whose teenage children, though thoroughly well nourished, still needed to be spoon-fed three times a day?

I don’t mean to suggest for a moment that any of us will ever reach a level of Christian maturity where we no longer need to sit under the regular preaching of God’s Word alongside our brothers and sisters in Christ. Wherever there is unmortified sin and the snare of self-deception, there is a need for preaching that is both prophetic and pastoral. So the parent-child analogy shouldn’t be pushed too far. Nevertheless, the wise preacher aims for consistent edification without cultivating an unhealthy dependence.

One further observation. Not only does the second-level teacher better equip his people for the battle, he also raises the bar of his own accountability before them. A congregation of suckling infants runs no risk of disturbing the slumbers of a lazy preacher.