Lord, Teach Us

Lord, Teach Us

Teaching is happening in the what and the how of our singing, our praying...

Chad Ashby

           Teaching can happen almost anywhere. My dad taught me to use a circular saw in the garage—the perfect place for learning about power tools. I’ve taught students calculus in the driveway with a piece of chalk. I’ve tried to teach my kids to behave from the car’s front seat. But usually, we aim for an environment that best suits whatever skill or knowledge we are trying to teach.

            So much of what churches do is teaching. Entrusted with Jesus’s people and commissioned with the task of “teaching them to observe all I have commanded you” (Matt 28:19),here’s an interesting question for our churches to consider:

           Where is the best place to teach disciples to follow Jesus?

            We might point to a discipleship classroom or a small group setting. Some of us would mention coffee shop meet-ups or a retreat weekend. We’ve discovered that discipleship can happen in almost any place. But the best place? In all our ingenuity, could it be we’re missing the most obvious one—

            What about the congregation?

Rediscovering God’s ancient classroom.

            God has been using the congregation as his primary place forteaching since he first rescued his people out of Egyptian slavery. In fact, the first lesson Israel ever received as an official people—the Passover—happened “when the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel” was gathered (Ex 12:6).

            The “congregation,” also called the “assembly,” becomes the featured environment of God’s instruction and discipline of his people, mentioned hundreds of times throughout the rest of the Old Testament. Even after the exile, it was when“ all the people gathered as one man” that Ezra re-teaches God’s people how to be God’s people, starting back at the very beginning with the books of Moses (Neh 8:1).

             As we enter the New Testament, we find Jesus sitting down to teach when “great crowds gathered about him” (Mt 13:2; Mark 5:21). The birthday of God’s new covenant people on Pentecost comes just like the Old Covenant people at Passover—when “they were all together in one place” (Acts 2:1-ff). The company that resulted from the Spirit’s falling was one devoted to “the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship” (Acts 2:46).

What sort of classroom is your worship service?

            Congregating and teaching go together like peanut butter and jelly (Sorry to all those with nut allergies). The early church received the apostles’ teaching when they were“ attending the temple together” (Acts 2:46; 5:12). If the congregation is God’s primary classroom for teaching his people, then a second question arises:

            What happens when your congregation gathers for corporate worship?

            God’s people are being taught something when your church gathers—something about what it means to be followers of Jesus, something about the content of the gospel, something about their purpose, something about who God is and what he has done. But what is that something?

             Teaching is happening in the what and the how of our singing, our praying, our preaching, our giving, our announcing, our confessing, our baptizing, our sharing at the Lord’s Table—even seating and furniture arrangement!—whether we intend to or not. Because teaching always happens when the congregation gathers.

Lord, teach us.

            Over the next several months, our series “Worship as Discipleship” will explore all the ways in which Jesus teaches us through the worship of his gathered people. We will see how the Lord uses our worship together to teach us to pray, to give, to listen, to speak, to confess, to share, and more.

            As we explore each topic, we will hear testimonials and illustrations from churches and pastors who intentionally teach God’s people through congregational worship. We have much to learn from one another, and my prayer for our churches is simple:“ Lord, teach us.” 

Back to articles