There is No Difference Between Preaching and Teaching
Preaching or Teaching: Is There a Difference
There is absolutely no difference between preaching and teaching other than what various denominations “expect”. Preaching is “presentation” and teaching is the same. I have reviewed the titles of other articles, on other sites, and their proclamation of difference is utter nonsense! For those who may not have attended advanced theological education, there are three (3) things you should know.
First, educated Christians tend to “make things up” to appear more intelligent than others. They, in the most literal sense, create “new lanes and avenues” out of thin air to appear “blessed” with secret knowledge no one else has. Next, advanced Christian education is not about learning to become a better witness for Jesus. Its primary goal is to study Christian scholars and their view of theological matters.
Third, the truth of the Holy Bible has not changed in the 5,700+ year expanse of human history. I am not stating these to be critical rather to expose the complete absurdity of Christian scholarships view that preaching and teaching are different. In more traditional African American churches, if one does not raise their voice and harmonize the sermon, we viewed as “teaching” and not “preaching as well. None of the greatest African American minds have been able to explain the difference in a satisfactory way either.
In the Bible, the words "preaching" and "teaching" are often used interchangeably. Further, they totally overlap one another. Both involve imparting knowledge or wisdom to others, with the goal of helping them grow in faith and understanding. Here is the opposing view: “preaching involves proclaiming the gospel while teaching God's word tends to be more focused on explaining the meaning of scripture or doctrine”. In my extensive preaching and Pastoring experience, and having heard hundreds of others, we do BOTH during Sunday service messaging!
What is the Definition of Preaching
The biblical definition of preaching is “the act of delivering a sermon to a congregation with the aim of inspiring or motivating”. Preaching involves proclaiming the gospel message of repentance, faith, and salvation through Jesus Christ. It is typically delivered by a religious leader or prophet. However, by simply sharing the message of Jesus to loved ones and friends, everyone “preaches” and “teaches” the gospel.
There are numerous examples of preaching in the Bible, particularly in the New Testament. For example, Jesus, Himself, is often described as a Preacher. His ministry was built on delivered sermons, parables, and healing. The Apostles, and early Christians, also engaged in preaching, often in public places or synagogues. For instance, Peter delivered a sermon on the day of Pentecost. This messaged urged people to repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus. Paul also engaged in preaching throughout his ministry, traveling to different regions to share the message of Christ and plant churches.
Here are biblical examples of preaching:
Samuel (Prophet) - 1st Samuel 12 teaches Samuel gave a farewell speech. He urged the Israelites towards faithfulness in God and away from idols.
Nathan (Prophet) - When reviewing 2nd Samuel 12, we see Nathan confronting King David about his sin with Bathsheba. He also gave a prophetic message about the consequences of his actions.
Elijah (Prophet)- In 1st Kings 17, this Prophet gave a message, from God to King Ahab, prophesying drought and famine as judgment for Israel's sin.
Micah (Prophet) - The Book of Micah reveals the prophet gave a speech to the Israelites, calling them to repentance and reminding them of God's mercy and justice.
Jeremiah (Prophet) - this prophet, according to Jeremiah7, preached in the temple, warning people that their outward religious practices were meaningless without true repentance.
Deborah (Prophetess & Judge) – Deborah had the distinction of being the only female Judge in the Nation of Israel. She constantly warned Israel against sin.
John the Baptist (Prophet) - This man, the forerunner of Jesus, preached a message of repentance and water baptism (Matthew 3).
Peter (Apostle)- Acts chapter 2 reveals Peter preaching to the crowds on the day of Pentecost. His message explained the meaning of Jesus as Lord and Messiah.
Stephen (Deacon/Christian) - During the narrative in Acts chapter 7, Stephen gave a lengthy sermon before the Sanhedrin, recounting Israel's history. This message also accused them of rejecting God and His messengers, including Jesus.
Paul (Apostle) - Continuing in the Book of Acts (17), Paul preached to the Athenians on Mars Hill. He explained the nature of God, and the need for faith in Jesus Christ.
James (Apostle) - The epistle bearing this Apostles name (chapter 2), addressed the issue of favoritism in the church. He further challenged believers to practice genuine faith by caring for the poor and oppressed.
In summary, preaching is defined as: "“the act of delivering a sermon to a congregation with the aim of inspiring or motivating”. However, there is no evidence this is any different than teaching. Both are presentations meant to inspire the hearers through teaching the Word of God.
What is the Definition of Teaching (Bible)
Teaching scripture described the process of imparting knowledge and understanding of God's word to others. When we combine this with “preaching”, and the fact that during “preaching” we impart God’s ways and knowledge, what, again, is the difference? Nevertheless, the teaching emphasizes the importance of transmitting accurate and truthful information. It further stresses the need for personal application and obedience to God's commands.
Again, this is the same with preaching! The ultimate goal is assisting God’s people to grow in their relationship with Him. The outcome is we then live according to His will, and then share His message with others. In both the Old and New Testament, teaching is seen as a crucial responsibility of leaders. These leaders were Prophets, Priest, Preachers, and Pastors. However, this can also be, as New Testament believers, anyone who desires to share Jesus with others.
Here are examples of people teaching:
Moses (Prophet) - The Deuteronomy narrative reveals Moses taught the Israelites the law that God gave him. He also reminded the people that God had called them to faithfulness and obedience to Him alone.
Ezra (Scribe) - Nehemiah chapter 8 shows Ezra reading from the Book of the Law to help God's people better understand. He also wept and prayed with them as they repented and renewed their commitment to God.
Hosea (Prophet) – the Book of Hosea opens with the Prophet teaching what God instructed him to with respect to Israel’s unfaithfulness.
Jesus Christ - Throughout the Gospels, Jesus teaches the crowds, his disciples, and individuals about God's kingdom.
Epaphras – He was a Pastor and Evangelist who helped establish the church in Colossae.
John the Apostle – John wrote the Gospel bearing his name.
In summary, people throughout the Holy Bible taught the Word of God to the people of God. This occurred in both the Old and New Testaments. As a Christian scholar and Pastor, I am yet unable to determine whether any preached or taught. Further, it simply does not matter! Those who listened heard the Word of God (whose Name is Jesus).
And the Difference is What?
The practical difference between preaching and teaching is non-existent. Whether the mono-tone Lutheran preacher or the charismatic Baptists, the end result is the same. Let’s look at several examples from the previous two sections. As was offered earlier, this is often a questions of “how the message is delivered” rather than any substantive differences.
Let’s examine a real-world example. As a Pastor/Preacher, I perform three (3) functions when imparting knowledge to God’s people: Sunday sermons, Bible study, and private counseling. In all three (3), I provide the knowledge of God, His Word, and how it applies to the given situation (or topic) we are dealing with. Granted, and as a more traditional African American Preacher, my voice is more elevated on Sunday, but everything else is the same.
Some websites claim the difference between preaching and teaching to be “level of inspiration”. As Mr. Scrooge said: “bah humbug”! The idea that decibel level is the key driver for level of inspiration is simply inaccurate. I have a Preacher friend who is also African American, yet he leads a mostly white congregation. I lead parishioners who are all black. I attend my dear brother’s service from time to time, and his delivery is radically different from my own.
His style is not as vocal, and almost “non-theatrical”. When compared to my more “theatrical” delivery, the power and inspiration is the same. I would say he is much more effective, even with a lower voice tone! The point is: whether Sunday sermons, Bible study, or even personal counseling, the same knowledge is imparted to the hearer even if styles are varied.
Finally, we must refrain from measuring effectiveness and power of preaching and teaching by such subjective measures. I have been, and am guilty of this as well. For instance, most “other” cultural deliveries are just not what I want to listen to. I tend to respond more to a more “excitable” preacher. However, that never means such gospel messages are “more inspired” and not from a “teacher”.
Header Image Courtesy of Ben White @ Unsplash