Have you ever wanted to be a teacher? Imagine the opportunity to shape young minds, to share knowledge and wisdom and see the reward of your students' great success. Sounds great in theory but it is more like trench warfare. What do you do with a classroom full of students who do not want to learn, who build walls and fail to see the importance of expanding their minds? So in reality, the greatest thing a teacher can ever achieve is to get his students to the point of wanting to learn. As soon as a teacher does that, he has equipped that student for the rest of his life. Is it better to give a fish or to teach how to fish? Is it better to give out knowledge or to teach how to gain knowledge?
The Church needs good teachers but the Word appears to make it a bit confusing. In one passage we are being chastised for not gaining enough maturity to be teachers and in another we are being told that we should not all assume to be teachers. The difference is the same difference between a school teacher and a parent.
There is no teacher more important or greater than a parent. Parents will teach their children to eat, walk, talk, sing, laugh, and share. Parents will teach the difference between what is good and what is bad and how to love. They teach them the foundations of life without an instruction book or curriculum. They do it with words and they do it by example. They teach as their parents'taught them. They teach the practical lessons of life. School teachers teach the formal education, which is also important but has a different nature and purpose. Sometimes school teachers end up teaching both because parents forget their responsibility.
In the Church all of us are like parents. We demonstrate the foundational aspect of our walk with Jesus. New Christians watch our example, listen to our testimonies and see how life is lived in a practical manner. We have our formal teachers, who are very important, who explain the words and teach us about things like the importance of love, but how that is applied is seen in the example of the "parents".
That is why we read from James:
My friends, we should not all try to become teachers. In fact, teachers will be judged more strictly than others. (James 3:1, CEV)
These are those of the five-fold ministry, who have a special anointing for the task, and who are responsible for bringing to us our formal "education". We need them but not everyone should assume to be one. However, we are all parents and should have such a maturity that we set a good example of the "working out" of our salvation daily. This is why we read this correction in Hebrews:
By now you should have been teachers, but once again you need to be taught the simplest things about what God has said. You need milk instead of solid food. People who live on milk are like babies who don’t really know what is right. (Hebrews 5:12-13)
We need maturity to be a good parent. I think we all understand that a 6 year old would not make a good parent. Either would a 14 year old or 16 or even in many cases an 18 year old, because they have not yet gained maturity. That is not saying they are not mature as an 18 year old but parenting often takes more than an 18 year old's maturity.
Spiritual maturity does not work in the same way; it is not based on time. Spiritual maturity is based on surrender and obedience. It is based on faith and trust. It is based on our centeredness in Jesus. This is important for church leadership to understand as well.
In his description of what Christians should look like, Paul told Timothy:
They must be kind to everyone, and they must be good teachers and very patient. (2 Timothy 2:24b)
Every Christian is a teacher but not formally. Everyone of us should have such maturity that we teach as parents teach. Few parents sit down with a blackboard and draw out how the principle of walking works. Instead, with a great deal of patience, a parent takes the child's hand and helps them learn to walk by trying again, and again, and again. When that first step of independence is taken there is a great celebration, the video is shared with everyone and a parent brims with pride.
New Christians need just as much attention and care. They don't need formal instruction from us because they will get that from those called to do so. They need people who will take them by the hand and will demonstrate a consistent, practical walk with Jesus. That new Christian will stumble and fall and will need loving, patient hands to help them to their feet again. But there is no excuse for parents who are impatient, unkind and fail to demonstrate the practical living of God's Word. Every Christian should have maturity to be kind to everyone, to be good parent-teachers and to be very patient.
The only real question to ask ourselves is, have we reached the level of maturity to be a parent?