In Ephesus where Paul reasoned and taught in the synagogue until the Gospel of the Kingdom clashed with the traditions of men, he also lectured, taught, reasoned, and bore witness to Christ crucified and many other things. Like it or not, he used various mediums which are being held in contempt by post-modern thinkers. Yes, teaching, discipling, equipping, encouraging, and strengthening the brethren, all happen best when it’s life on life in one’s context. Better yet, in the location that God calls you to. That can be your neighborhood, the local Starbucks, the smoking section of an airport, or the Cloud Forest Region of Ecuador.
Paul lectured, taught, spoke, reasoned, preached, and interacted with students in the school of Tyrannus every day for 2 years! We have an ancient text that adds information to the end of Acts 19:9, saying that Paul taught there “from the fifth hour to the tenth” [manuscript D Syriac (Western text)]. This was probably something that was written in the margin of a manuscript and ended up in the text itself through a copy error. The point is, the information probably represents either an authentic tradition that those were the hours Paul used to teach there, or those were the hours schools of this kind were normally unused by the owner and could be rented out for other public purposes.
In Philippi, Paul worked from Lydia’s home (Acts 16:14-15), and in Thessalonica it seems he operated from Jason’s home (Acts 17:5-9). In Athens he used the marketplace and the Areopagus. In Corinth, he used the residence of Justus (Acts 18:4-7) Regardless, he had interactive “classes” with people which were sometimes practical in the sense of teaching as he did mission AND non-practical in the sense that he was passing on transforming information or data to be used later on in mission. There’s nothing wrong with a class structure so long as it doesn’t become the only structure or the simple acquisition of knowledge.
My friend Jeremy Pryor states;
“Many involved in church restoration see Paul’s methods as extremely simple and essentially free of structure; just encourage people to meet in homes, release gifts and live life in community. Each of these elements have been very helpful but they’ve neglected a necessary piece of Paul’s strategy which has thus far, rendered much of the house church / simple church practices virtually ineffective… I call this missing element the Tyrannus Effect.”
What is this Tyrannus Effect? Jeremy goes on to explain:
- Churches form naturally around those who are being trained
- Complacent converts are quickly changed to committed disciples
- The level of discipleship city-wide is continually increasing
- Unity among the churches is developed through a common discipleship process
- New believers are immediately immersed in the essential “renewal of their mind”
- Teaching and training gifts are released for the benefit of the whole city
- Disciples have a city-wide Kingdom vision vs. a preoccupation on an individual church
- Individual churches are deeply interconnected with one another and equipped simultaneously
- Discussion-based training replaces sermonizing as a means to a long-lasting, faith-building group discovery experience.
So, tell me again what’s wrong with seminary, lecture hall, local church, or a class room setting for teaching the things of God to growing disciples? Aren’t most objections to these “teaching” settings centered on the prevalent and unfortunate consequences of ecclesiastical laziness, lack of practical application, and the creation of an elite clergy force? What about all the good and biblically beneficial aspects of these sorts of seasonal respites?
One final thought: Some of you would simply say that no one in the body of Christ needs to be taught in those ways because the Holy Spirit teaches you directly and personally all you need to know to exist and equip others. You are mistaken. God gives the gift of teaching and teachers to the body for its edification. (Romans 12:6-8; 1 Corinthians 12:28; Ephesians 4:1-12)
So, what’s the real problem with seminaries, class room instruction, and the like?