Teaching vs. Training


Learning to live a life of discipleship is a process that requires teaching and training; teaching focuses on principles while training translates those principles into behavior, actions, and habits.


The living Word of God (Jesus Christ) is made known through the written Word of God, and the written Word of God is disclosed through the proclaimed Word of God in preaching and in teaching. Solid teaching helps renew the mind and enables believers to adjust their thinking in light of the worldview revealed in Scripture. Our thinking molds our lives, and progress in true spirituality requires the development of a biblical filter system. As we conform our thinking to the Word rather than the world, we become increasingly confident in God’s sovereign and loving purposes, and this growing level of trust spills over into our priorities and the decisions that flow from them. There is no permanent change without a change in perspective, since our perspective shapes our priorities, and our priorities shape our practice.

A wealth of teaching tools is available today, and a few of these will be mentioned below. Basic teaching programs usually provide an overview of core issues such as salvation, elements of spiritual growth, Bible reading, prayer, marriage and parenting, evangelism, and stewardship. Intermediate and advanced teaching programs often include apologetics, Bible book studies, Old Testament and New Testament surveys, biblical and systematic theology, and church history.

However, some crucial areas are frequently overlooked in discipleship programs, and this is unfortunate, since a number of these have far-reaching practical implications. These areas include:

• A biblical view of the authority and truth of Scripture

• A biblical value system

• A biblical view of hope

• A biblical view of purpose

• A biblical view of motivation

• A biblical view of contentment and gratitude

• The development of personal convictions

• The role of tribulation in our lives

• A biblical view of work and leisure

• The challenges of our culture to the application of biblical truth

• The nature of the spiritual warfare and of our spiritual resources

• The process of spiritual formation

When laypeople are taught to think through these issues, they are better equipped to relate timeless truths to the concerns of daily experience.


Discipleship programs that are limited to imparting knowledge run the risk of orthodoxy without orthopraxy, correct thinking without appropriate application. Teaching equips disciples with truth, but training equips them with skills. Training programs center on the formation of holy habits and practical skills so that disciples will acquire ingrained responses to the opportunities, challenges, and temptations they encounter every day. Teaching without training can lead to a growing disparity between what people claim to believe and what they really believe as evidenced in their actions. When people experience increasing tension between their beliefs and their behavior, they will usually opt to modify their beliefs rather than their behavior. Since this process is often unconscious, people are capable of living with a prodigious gap between their profession and their practice. Thus, it is just as important to focus on practice as it is on principles.

Training in positive habit formation and life skills relates to the disciplines of the spiritual life. These, in turn, are modeled after the disciplines Jesus practiced (e.g., solitude, silence, study, meditation, prayer, and fasting). In this way, disciples are shown how to become apprentices of the Master in their habits of thinking, feeling, and action. These developing skills and habits equip them to respond spontaneously in biblically appropriate ways to people and circumstances.

Discipleship training programs stress different skills and techniques, but the most common training objectives include:

Bible study skills (e.g., reading, inductive study methods, memorization, meditation), cultivation of a daily quiet (devotional) time, methods of prayer, how to share one’s faith with others, discerning God’s will, identification and use of spiritual gifts, laying hold of spiritual resources, dealing with temptation, and leadership development.

Since there is a reciprocal relationship between thinking and habits, attitudes and actions, belief and behavior, it is important to avoid the two extremes of all theory or all technique. The equipping dynamic in the discipleship process should strive for a balanced combination of teaching and training.

While there are basic things all believers need to know and practice, it is helpful to be familiar with more than one of the many teaching and training resources that are now available. If we limit ourselves to a single approach, we will be less capable of effectively adapting the discipleship process to the disposition of an individual or a group.

Taken from Ken Boa’s Handbook to Spiritual Growth


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