What, if any, is the difference between preaching and teaching? Some preachers teach and some teachers preach. Is a lecture more preaching or a speech more teaching? I am a pastor with nearly 20 years of preaching experience. I will attempt to explain the difference.
As a pastor, the difference is vital. I do teach. There is no doubt about that. But I am first and foremost a preacher of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The truth is I do public speaking 5-7 times a week. Half of which is preaching and half of which is teaching.
Here is the difference in a nutshell and a more detailed explanation to follow:
Preaching - Is trying to affect a person's thinking by appealing to a person's heart.
Teaching - Is trying to affect a person's heart by appealing to their thinking.
As a preacher, I believe that certain truths need to be acted upon immediately. It just may save a person's marriage, prevent a teenager from becoming an addict, and help nudge a person from falling into sin. A sermon, therefore, is an appeal to the heart, the emotions, and the soul of a person.
There is a lot of passion in preaching. It is designed that way on purpose. It seeks to fire the emotional drive of a person which is often the source of our desires. The Bible speaks of this when it states:
Proverbs 18:1 Through desire a man, having separated himself, seeketh and intermeddleth with all wisdom.
Desire is what drives us. It is what makes an artist successful, what drives a business owner to success, an athlete to be a star, a child to get straight A's. Preaching is meant to fuel good desires. To instill desires in young people to be pure before marriage, to build desires in married couples to have a stronger marriage, to encourage godly and holy desires!
This is what preaching sets out to do. Many, many people can point to a sermon as the turning point in their desires, the foundation of their decisions to stop a particular sin, to start some service for God, or to live a better life.
In secular circles, this is known as motivational speaking. It is preaching, just not on godly topics. Politicians will often preach in their speeches. They are trying to get people to vote for them or some agenda, and they appeal to a person's emotions and desires to achieve this.
As a pastor, I have discovered that preaching is a tremendous tool to help instill godly desires in people.
Also as a Pastor, I believe that certain truths need to be ingrained in a person's understanding in order to perform those truths well. This is accomplished through teaching. While preaching can create a desire to do something that a person does not fully understand--this can be both good or bad, depending on the desire--teaching attempts to reason with a person's mind.
Teaching presents the evidence, is rarely emotional, appeals to the intellect, and provides a person with many different angles of understanding. It usually does not accomplish quick changes in a person's behavior, like preaching can, but it begins to allow for a solid foundation upon which behavior is directed.
Many things need to be taught in order for them to be done or implemented well. Without teaching on the mechanics, the why's, where's, when's, and how's, the foundation of a passionate Christian is easily eroded. Jesus did both. He taught and He preached.
Let me give an example. A hot sermon on prayer may instill and create a desire to pray in the layman. But without any teaching on how to pray, his desire will go unfulfilled. And without the hot sermon, he may not have as strong of a desire to pray even if he has been taught to pray.
The disciples of Jesus understood this. Jesus had instilled a desire to pray, but they lacked the understanding on how to do so. So, they asked Jesus to teach them:
Luke 11:1 - And it came to pass, that, as he was praying in a certain place, when he ceased, one of his disciples said unto him, Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples.
A school lecture, is teaching. It is often boring to students because there is little to no emotional appeal. Still, teaching is essential.
Both are important. Both preaching and teaching are necessary to build a solid Christian life. In our church, our services are divided almost equally between preaching and teaching. People need the right desires and the understanding on how to direct those desires.
Greg S. Baker is a Pastor, Counselor, and Author specializing in building and strengthening relationships.
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