After Jesus finished speaking, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, 29 for he taught as one who had real authority—quite unlike the teachers of religious law.
The teachers of religious law (religious scholars) often cited traditions and quoted authorities to support their arguments and interpretations. But Jesus spoke with a new authority—his own. He didn’t need to quote anyone because he was the original Word (John 1:1).
Beware of placing Our Lord as a Teacher first. If Jesus Christ is a Teacher only, then all He can do is to tantalize me by erecting a standard I cannot attain. What is the use of presenting me with an ideal I cannot possibly come near? I am happier without knowing it. What is the good of telling me to be what I never can be – to be pure in heart, to do more than my duty, to be perfectly devoted to God? I must know Jesus Christ as Saviour before His teaching has any meaning for me other than that of an ideal which leads to despair. But when I am born again of the Spirit of God, I know that Jesus Christ did not come to teach only: He came to make me what He teaches I should be. The Redemption means that Jesus Christ can put into any man the disposition that ruled His own life, and all the standards God gives us are based on that disposition.
The teaching of the Sermon on the Mount produces despair in the natural man – the very thing Jesus means it to do. As long as we have a self-righteous, conceited notion that we can carry out Our Lords teaching. God will allow us to go on until we break our ignorance over some obstacle, than we are willing to come to Him as paupers and receive from him: “Blessed are the paupers in spirit,” that is the first principle in the Kingdom of God. The bedrock in Jesus Christ’s kingdom is poverty, not possessions; not decisions for Jesus Christ, but a sense of absolute futility – I cannot begin to do it. Then Jesus says – Blessed are you. That is the entrance, and it does take us a long while to believe we are poor! The Knowledge of our own poverty brings us to the moral frontier where Jesus Christ works.
The Trainer’s Effectiveness
Is it possible for every Christian to be an effective trainer or is training a gift which is reserved for selected members in the body of Christ? According to the Bible all believers should have compassionate concern for their fellow human beings. In this respect, training is like teaching. Every parent has a responsibility for teaching children, but only some are especially gifted as teachers.
In Romans 12:8 we read of the gift of exhortation (paraklesis), a word which means “coming alongside to help,” and implies such activities as admonishing, supporting and encouraging others. This is listed among the spiritual gifts which some people have and others do not. Those who have and are developing this gift will see positive results in their ministering as people are helped and the church is built up. If training seems to be your special gift, praise God and learn to do it better. If your training seems ineffective, perhaps God has gifted you in some other way. This does not excuse anyone from being a Christian lifestyle trainer but it may encourage some people to put their major efforts elsewhere and leave most training opportunities, whenever possible, to those who are more gifted in that area.
Clearly we need each other and Christian lifestyle training is a part – but only a part – of the functioning Church. We help people by training, but we also help by evangelism, teaching, social concern, and other aspects of the ministry.
The Trainer’s Role.
Training, especially pastoral training, sometimes becomes ineffective because the trainer does not have a clear picture of is or her role and responsibilities. Several potential areas of role confusion are:
Visiting Instead of Training. Visiting is a friendly, mutual sharing. Training is a challenge-centered, goal-directed conversation which focuses primarily on the needs of one person, the trainee. All training will involve periodic visiting but when visiting is prolonged or primary, training to deal with challenges are avoided and training effectiveness is reduced.
Being Hasty Instead of Deliberate. Busy, goal-directed people often want to hurry the training process to a quick and successful termination. It is true that trainers should not waste time but it is also true that training cannot be rushed. “Much of any trainer’s success rests upon his own quiet, thoughtful attention to what the trainee is saying. His poise is often a resource of strength for the troubled person …. If the trainer is hurried, or divided in his attention, his remarks of encouragement are likely to be taken with the suspicion that he is only saying something the trainee wants to hear so he can get on to something else.
“A relaxed and deliberate pace also makes the trainee feel the undivided attention and serious interest of his trainer …. When the trainer is hasty and hurried, he is inclined to formulate judgments based on immature impressions …. Deliberation cannot be accomplished if one is in a hurry to get finished with the challenge.”
Being Disrespectful Instead of Sympathetic. Some trainers quickly categorize people (for example, as a “carnal Christian,” a “divorcee,” or a “sinner”) and then dismiss individuals with a quick confrontation or rigid advice. No one likes to be treated with such disrespect and the helper who does not listen sympathetically is unlikely to train effectively.
Being Judgmental Instead of Unbiased. There are times when trainees must be confronted about the sin or unusual behavior in their lives, but this is not the same as preaching and condemning in the training office. When trainee’s feel attacked they either defend themselves (often in anger) with a “what’s the use?” attitude, or they go along with the trainer temporarily and grudgingly. None of these kinds of reactions contributes to trainee’s growth and all are in response to a training technique which usually reflects the trainer’s own anxiety, uncertainty, or need to control. Jesus is described as one who was “touched with the feelings of our infirmities.” He never winked at sin, but he understood sinners and always showed kindness and respect to those, like the woman at the well, who were willing to learn, repent and change their behavior.
Overloading the Session Instead of Pacing the Training. With his or her enthusiasm for ministering, the trainer sometimes attempts to do too much in one session. This overwhelms the trainee and leads to confusion. Since it is probably true that trainees can only assimilate one or two major insights in each session, the training should be paced, even if this means shorter but more frequent sessions.
Being Directive Instead of Interpretive. This is a common error and, as we have seen, may reflect the trainer’s unconscious need to dominate. When trainees are told what to do, they confuse the Christian trainer’s opinion with the will of God, feel guilty and incompetent if they don’t follow the advice, and never learn how to mature spiritually and emotionally to the point where they can make decisions without the help of a trainer. The trainer and trainee must work together as a team in which the trainer serves as a teacher-coach whose eventual goal is to withdraw from the playing field.
Being Emotionally Involved Instead of Remaining Objective. There is a fine line between caring and becoming too involved to be helpful when a trainee is exceptionally disturbed, confused, or struggling with a problem that is similar to the trainer’s own struggles. Then there is a tendency to worry and to let trainees interrupt our schedules at their convenience. Such emotional involvement can cause the trainer to lose objectivity and this in turn reduces training effectiveness. At times compassionate people will not be able to avoid emotional involvement but the Christian trainer can resist this tendency by viewing the training as a helping ministry relationship that clearly is limited in terms of issues such as length of appointments, number of conversations, resistance to touching, and so on. This is not designed to see the trainer apart. It is intended to help keep him or her objective enough to be helpful.
Being Defensive Instead of Empathic. At times most trainers feel threatened in training. When we are criticized, unable to help, made to feel guilty, anxious or in danger of being harmed, our ability to listen empathically is hindered. When empathy goes, so does much of our training effectiveness.
The trainer must maintain a vigilant attitude if he or she is to avoid these eight hazards. As Christian trainers we honor God by doing the best job possible, by apologizing when we make mistakes, and by using our mistakes as learning situations and stepping stones to improvement.
If, in our desire to help, we have slipped into unhealthy counseling roles, we must restructure the relationship, at times even telling people how we intend to change (by such actions as setting more rigid counseling time, refusing to drop everything else when the trainee calls, being less directive, and so on). This restructuring is always difficult because it often involves taking back something which has been given. The alternative is further role confusion and ineffective training. “The most important concept to keep in mind is that Christ is really the Trainer; we are His agents doing His work, representing Him. His Holy Spirit is our Comforter and Guide and will lead us to deliver those He has brought to us for help.”