This has been my first trip with TLI and has been an amazing
learning experience. When I was preparing for this trip, I was asked why TLI
doesn’t just send a video curriculum to train the pastors. That question had
been ringing through my ears as I prepared for the trip. I didn’t have a good
answer at the time.
We are currently half way through our second week of
training, and the answer has become very clear. Videos can only feed
information, they cannot interact with pastors, they cannot gauge the pastor’s
understanding, and cannot address areas of error in their thinking. This has
been evident as we have been teaching through the Gospel of John.
One of the passages that has raised the most interesting
discussion is John 5, which records Jesus’ healing a lame man. The question we
have been constantly asking the students is ‘What is John’s main purpose in
this text?’ When I came to this text, I taught the main point, which is that
Jesus is healing on the Sabbath and claiming to be equal with God, which is
made clear in 5:18.
After teaching this passage, I gave an example of someone
preaching a sermon on this passage and making the main point of their sermon
that God wants to heal all people if they would only have faith. When I asked
the students whether that sermon was faithful to the text of Scripture, they
all said, ‘Yes.’ This shocked me when I taught to the first group last week,
and shocked me more when the same thing happened as I taught a different group
today. I didn’t want to just give them the answer, so I asked, ‘What is John’s
main purpose in this passage?’ After a minute they all agreed it was to show
that Jesus is equal with God and to introduce Jesus’ conflict with the
So I asked them again, “Would a sermon focusing on
faith-healing be faithful to John’s purpose for the text?” Suddenly I saw the
lights turn on. After some more discussion, one of them said, “I taught this
passage recently and my main point was that Jesus wants to heal you if you
would just believe. I now realize that was wrong, that is not John’s purpose at
all.” The man who said this was one of the most educated in the group, so I was
greatly encouraged by his humility to admit that and his desire to be more
faithful to the text.
This and many other interactions have taught me that it is
not enough to just dump information on students. They need to be challenged to
think critically and think biblically. That cannot be done through a video
series. Praise God for the opportunities available to interact with these men
and encourage them to be more faithful stewards of God’s Word.