This article looks at offices of minister and elder and the task of teaching in the church.

Source: Diakonia, 2000. 2 pages.

Are You Apt to Teach?

Some time ago in the local church that I serve there was a discussion in the Consistory about the Catechism teaching. We were busy preparing for another year of Catechism instruction and the topic arose as to whether or not the minister should teach all of the classes or whether the elders should also assist in this work.

The background to this particular discussion is that the Consistory is on record as wanting the Catechism instruction to be, as much as possi­ble, limited to one evening a week. The feeling is that the minister is already out enough nights a week presiding over or attending meetings, making visits and doing other things, that any more evenings away from home would neither be fair or conducive to a healthy family life.

Additional Manpower🔗

At the same time it is obvious, in our large congregation, that for all of the Catechism instruction to be on one evening would require the recruitment of additional manpower. So who will be recruited? Where do we look for additional instructors? The almost automatic answer might be that we should look at those who teach in our Christian schools and ask them to assist. On the other hand, seeing that they deal with the covenant youth during the day, is it wise to demand that they also do this at night as well? But, if not them, what about some other suitable members in the congrega­tion? Of course, that is also a possibility.

In the process of asking these sorts of ques­tions another more fundamental one arose that has a direct bearing on the focus of this maga­zine. It is this: what about the office bearers? Specifically, what about the elders? Does the apostle Paul not say in his letter to Timothy that an overseer in the church must also be "able to teach?" (1 Tim. 3:2)


Now, I realize that some of you will react to this by saying, "Yes, but is this not the exclu­sive domain of the ministers? Does Paul not also say to Timothy, 'the elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honour, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching'? Do these words not prove that there is to be a rather strict defini­tion of work between the elders and ministers in that the ministers take care of the preaching and teaching, while the elders deal with matters of oversight?"

Allowing for the fact that there has to be some distinction between these offices, the question remains whether or not the line can be drawn so strictly. Do the ministers not also deal with matters of oversight at almost every Consis­tory meeting? So, what is to prevent the elders from doing some of the teaching in the Cat­echism classes?

I would say that the answer to this is: "noth­ing." Indeed, for someone to be an elder in the church of Jesus Christ he has to have some ability to teach. When he goes on family and single visitations he will need to do a lot of listening, but he will also need to instruct from time to time. He will need to be able to present and defend biblical truth in a clear, orderly and concise manner.

If this is his calling in the homes of the mem­bers, why can he also not fulfill this type of calling in the Catechism classes? Naturally, such instruction may well take up more time, call for more structure and be more regular, but should it for these and other reasons be avoided altogether? I do not think so.

A Proposal🔗

Indeed, for starters what I would propose is that all Consistories take a good hard look at this Pauline qualification about being "able to teach" and ask whether it is a reality in the life and work of the elders. Is it a qualification that we take seriously or one that we close our eyes to?

In the second place, I would recommend that every elder teach at least one Catechism class for a number of months. One elder could teach from September to December, and the other from January to April.

In the third place, I would recommend that the minister continue to teach the majority of the students and the classes, but that the elders assist him in such a way that indeed the Catechism instruction can take place on just one evening a week.

Positive Spin-offs🔗

If such a course of action is followed there will be a number of positive spin-offs. These will include that the elders will improve their standing in the eyes of the congregation by showing that they are "apt to teach" and thus meet the biblical qualifications. In addition, the elders will become more familiar with the young people of the church, as well as with their questions and needs. Finally, the elders themselves will come away from this experi­ence enriched and strengthened. Time and again elders who have taught Catechism classes have said to me "I learned more than the students did." Through their preparatory work of reading, writing, researching and thinking, they found themselves stimulated by touching base with the truths of the Christian faith.

So, elders, why not step forward and volunteer to teach a Catechism class for either all or part of a year? Why not prove that you too are "able to teach"?

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