The Great Commission Imperative of Teaching: Why Christian Education Should Be On the Cutting Edge of the Church’s Mission Today -- By: Walter H. Norvell

Journal: Journal for Baptist Theology & Ministry
Volume: JBTM 01:2 (Fall 2003)
Article: The Great Commission Imperative of Teaching: Why Christian Education Should Be On the Cutting Edge of the Church’s Mission Today
Author: Walter H. Norvell


The Great Commission Imperative of Teaching:
Why Christian Education Should Be
On the Cutting Edge of the Church’s Mission Today

Walter H. Norvell

Assistant Professor of Christian Education
Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary
5001 N. Oak Trafficway
Kansas City, MO 64118

Christianity is a teaching religion. It is rooted in God’s revelation. Revelation is God’s self-disclosure to persons who could not know Him or find Him without such self-disclosure. Revelation is God teaching us about Himself and about His ways. The Scriptures are the account of that revelation. The writer of Hebrews begins that letter reminding the readers of God’s self-disclosure: “God, after he spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to use in His Son (Heb 1:1–2 HCSB). Such a simple but sweeping statement reveals the teacher character of God. Like one of Job’s friends, we must also ask, “Who is a teacher like him (Job. 36:22 NASB)?” The Great Commission draws all believers into the teaching process of God and shows us the centrality of teaching in the church’s mission.

To find teaching as an element in the Great Commission should come as no surprise. Jesus came teaching and he commanded that we make disciples using baptism (implying evangelism) and teaching as integral, necessary elements of the disciple-making process. Commanding such stood Jesus in the cultural and religious heritage of Judaism. Examining the teaching concept in the Old Testament lays the foundation for understanding this function’s imperative in the Great Commission.

Old Testament Roots

In the Old Testament, God invested the teaching function in patriarchs, parents, priests, and prophets, as they instructed others in the Law. But, before discussing those Old Testament roots of Christian teaching, one must remember in the broadest sense the meaning of “teaching.” In the broadest sense of the word, teaching was any effort, verbal or behavioral, aimed at assisting another to understand truth and live by that truth. Speaking, conversation, and observation were and still are teaching, even though such terms do not have the formality of the classroom. While we do not have explicit examples of the patriarchs teaching in the formal sense, imagine the lessons Abraham taught Isaac as Abraham was obedient to God’s command to sacrifice Isaac.

The most obvious injunction to parents about teaching their children is found in Deuteronomy 6. This passage ...

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