A distinction between the role of pastor and the role of teacher is common in the modern church. This arises from a false understanding of what the New Testament means by "teaching". We mostly think of teaching as a transfer of information and skills. Modern teaching is usually a process whereby an expert passes on information to a group of students. They are quite free to ignore what is taught.

Teaching and Discipleship

For the early Christians teaching was something quite different. They saw it as an activity involving personal direction and an exercise of authority. It took place within a relationship where the teacher had authority over the student. A student would submit himself to a teacher, whose lifestyle he admired. His aim would be to learn the way of life, and the truths which underlay it. So a teacher did not just give his views. He laid out what he expected the student to believe, and the way he expected him to live. So teaching in the New Testament was more like what we call "discipling". It included the formation of character.

We can see this in the way that Jesus taught his twelve disciples. He did not just impart information to them. By living in close proximity with them for three years, he developed a strong relationship with them. They submitted to Jesus and carried out all his instructions. He had complete authority over them. In this way, he formed their lives into a likeness of his own. And throughout the New Testament, teaching takes place within a similar pastoral relationship. This means that the "pastor and teacher: is one ministry. Every teacher is a pastor, and every pastor is a teacher (I Timothy 3:2).

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