I recently read “Life Together” by Dietrich Bonhoeffer and I think it may have become my favorite book on the topic of Christian community. In his book, Bonhoeffer says something that I haven’t been able to escape since I read it.
“Therefore, the Christian needs another Christian who speaks God’s word to him. He needs him again and again when he becomes uncertain and discouraged, for by himself he cannot help himself with belying the truth. He needs his brother man as a bearer and proclaimer of the divine word of salvation. He needs his brother solely because of Jesus Christ. The Christ in his own heart is weaker that the Christ in the word of his brother; his own heart is uncertain, his brother’s is sure. And that also clarifies the goal of all Christian community: they meet one another as bringers of the message of salvation.”
“Sometimes I need to borrow someone’s faith,” a friend recently told me, and honestly, that statement struck me and I was instantly drawn back to Bonhoeffer’s words.
I began to think, “What if we actually lived in community honestly and openly?” Yes, I realize we say that all time.
“Be transparent and vulnerable in community,” we say.
But, what if we actually did it? What if our Community Groups were a place to be completely known and completely loved? What if we viewed community as a gift of grace, meant to draw us closer to Jesus? I think even in trying to create a culture of “being real” with each other, our natural tendency is to hide. We’re calculated in what we’ll share in an attempt to not come across as completely undone. However, the gospel gives us grace enough to press into each and actually be undone.
Here’s reality: life is hard! Yet, God has so gifted us with a means to remind each other of the gospel in Christian community.
We’re needy people and we often forget the truths of the gospel. Life happens, I get it. A person you love, or maybe even you get a diagnosis that knocks your off your feet, or you struggle to connect with a lost family member or neighbor. You hate your job, or your kids drive you crazy. You’re drowning in sin and you just want someone to know, but you’re scared of being seen as a monster or even worse, a fraud. Your marriage is seriously hard work, or maybe you’re going through a break-up and you’re heartbroken. You’re struggling to make ends meet.
We often find ourselves in seasons of life that we hate. What if our Community Groups were a place to let those things be known, and be met with overwhelming grace? A place where our brother helps us remember the gospel? What if we started living as though we actually need each other? We need our brothers and sisters to be beacons of the gospel reminding our confused minds and frustrated hearts of the grace of Jesus. We need to be reminded that we have a good and steady savior who is for us and He is working all things together for His glory and our good. (Romans 8:28)
We’ve got to get over the idea that our brother’s struggles are a burden and inconvenience to us.
The more we see community as a gift that we do not deserve, the more precious we will see our time together. We’ll be quicker to bear our brother’s burdens. Let us be quick to point each other to the gospel. It’s a gift that we even have someone to share our lives with. It’s a gift that we can confess sin and met with grace and restoration. It’s a gift to be able to look at your brothers and sisters and with tear filled eyes say “I’m not okay” and have them love us well enough to shower us with the gospel. Let us remember that God uses gospel community as a real and tangible reminder of who He is. Through it we see the glory and goodness of our King.
Last summer, I wrote about my experience teaching in an inner-city alternative school. Now, as my first “full” year of teaching is coming to a close, I find myself looking ahead to next year and what I can do differently. My list is full of small housekeeping items, like filing papers weekly and keeping student files up to date. These are important things to do, and I will probably have tons of sticky notes placed around my room to remember it all next year.
Even though these housekeeping items are important, the most important thing I, and every teacher, need to remember in preparing for the next school year is that there is no such thing as a “perfect teacher.”
THE PERFECT TEACHER MYTH
What does a “perfect teacher” even look like? Everyone has their own idea, and most teachers find themselves falling into this unhealthy comparison. Living in a technology filled world, we have so many model classrooms and teachers right at our fingertips.
I find myself scrolling through Pinterest and Instagram trying to find that one creative activity for the upcoming week’s lesson plan. I longingly wish my classroom was as cool as the classroom down the hall. I watch movies and T.V. and find myself dreaming about having the impact on a student’s life like Mr. Feeny from Boy Meets World or Hillary Swank’s character in Freedom Writers.
Unfortunately, comparisons like these cause us teachers – and specifically, us Christian teachers – to work like dogs at everything except what we are actually called to do: teach students, and share the light of the gospel of Christ with them.
OUR IMPERFECT REALITY
Becoming “the perfect teacher” is a task no one on earth will ever accomplish. The reality of the situation is that we are all imperfect sinners who will fail every single day.
Responding in anger when I hear my name called for the millionth time in an hour reminds me that I am a sinner. Giving up on a lesson and sticking my kids with busy work on their laptops after a failed Pinterest activity dumps shaving cream all over the floor reminds me that I am a sinner. When I am too busy to listen to my students’ stories, even though I am the only person in their lives that gives them the time of day, reminds me that I am a sinner.
The harder I strive for perfection, the more I am suffocated by the realization that I am not the perfect teacher, and I can never be the perfect teacher.
THE GOSPEL FOR THE TEACHER
Even though we are sinners, Christ died for us. He lived a sinless life, and died a sinner’s death on the cross so that we could be seen as righteous in the eyes of God (2 Cor. 5:21). His love for us is greater than our failures. (1 John 3:20) Just as we are called to salvation, He has also called us as teachers to teach. This calling on our lives gives us faith that through The Holy Spirit, we are equipped with the power and wisdom to overcome these sins and share Christ’s love with our students.
Christian teacher, I am saved and have been called by Christ to be a teacher, specifically an inner city teacher. Each day I have to be reminded of the gospel of Jesus. The gospel message does not stop with our salvation, because we are daily becoming more like Christ. The gospel tells us that, yes, we are saved, but The Holy Spirit is continually teaching us and forming us to be more like Jesus, who is the Greatest Teacher.
Rejoice, teacher, Jesus is better than our Pinterest catastrophes, our raised voices, and our selfishness. When you are feeling down after a day full of failed activities and angry responses, remember that you are not the perfect teacher. Some days you will feel inadequate, and that is ok. Rest in the fact that we are inadequate, but Christ is more than adequate. He is the only Perfect Teacher, and His love for us is so great that He gives us the power to overcome our sins and the confidence to share His love with our students.
HOW DOES THIS APPLY TO ME?
What does this look like for a Christian teacher on a daily basis? First and foremost, rest in the gospel. Remember that we have been justified of our sin, and that we have been united with Christ in salvation. This is the most important thing a teacher can do, and anything that we “do” to improve as teachers must be built on this reality.
But there are ways to daily live out this truth. I would recommend starting the morning by waking up early, getting some coffee, and digging into God’s Word. Spending time reading, meditating, and praying through scripture will prepare you for the long day ahead.
As you drive to school, pray for the day, and be specific with your prayers. For some, this may be a short drive, but for others this could be a long time spent pleading with Christ to use you to share His grace and love with your students. Talk with Him about the failures from the day before, and pray for the power to overcome those failures through Him.
When you walk into your classroom, pray for each student by name before you begin preparing for the day. You know your students struggles at home and at school. Pray for those specific needs. Ask Christ to let you be the tool he uses to shine His light on your students.
After your students enter the classroom, take time to talk with each child and hear those stories that they so desperately want to share with you. When meeting with them, let them know how proud you are of them, and remind them that you want them to be successful. They need to hear this, because they may not hear it anywhere else.
Share encouraging words to each child multiple times a day, even when it is hard. When you want to say something negative, replace it with a positive comment. They will remember the times that you could have been angry, and instead showed them love.
When you feel like yelling, close your eyes (but not for very long) and pray for patience.
These are not easy things to do, but remember that we are not teaching for our glory, we are teaching for Christ’s glory. We are not teaching to become teacher of the year; we are teaching to give Christ’s love to our students. If you win teacher of the year, Glory be to God. The Lord rewards those who are obedient to His calling.
Teachers, remember that we will not succeed without being completely dependent on the one who died for our sins. Cling to Him every moment of the day. Have confidence, and give your students what we all crave, Christ’s love.
This post was originally published on Tabitha’s own blog.
Tabitha Rainwater lives in Kansas City where she teaches elementary school in the inner city and serves as Director of Kids at her local church, Emmaus Church. She is married to her high school sweetheart Jake and has a Great Dane named Scotland. You can follow her on Twitter at @tabrainwater.
“But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.”
This may be my favorite line in all the Scriptures concerning the resurrection. Perhaps that sounds like a strange line for me to say such a strong statement about, but I can’t help it. I am greatly affected by this verse.
Mark is the only gospel to word this statement in this way. His record is the only gospel to mention Peter specifically. Why? I believe it’s because it’s the gospel written from Peter’s account of the story and this one little phrase, “and Peter” impacted him so profoundly that he couldn’t leave it out of the story.
Just a few days before this, Peter had shouted out that he would never deny Jesus. He’d even die for Jesus! The words of Jesus must have been a dagger to his pride as Jesus said, “You will deny me three times.” Peter must have wondered how Jesus could so easily doubt his loyalty. Then the night came. Jesus was arrested and was being tried while Peter warmed by the fire. A servant girl, of all people, recognized him, and the next few moments transpired to be the most regretful of his life. He denied even knowing Jesus.
Then he realized what he’d done and he broke down and wept.
What shame, guilt, fear, and regret must have torn through his soul. He proved to be so bold in word and so timid in deed.
Jesus went to the cross, was killed and buried. A few days passed. I wonder if anyone else knew of Peter’s denial. Did he keep it a secret and suffer in shame and remorse all alone? What a weight that guilt must have been upon his chest, nearly suffocating him at times.
Then the women came. Short of breath and white as a ghost, they came. “Jesus is not there! He’s gone, and an angel told us to tell you all that Jesus will meet you in Galilee as he said he would. Oh, and Peter, he said to make sure and tell you too.”
Oh the sound of that! The sound of the savior’s personal call to you is the sweetest sound to ever befall ones ear. He had not forgotten Peter. Amidst Peter’s denial of Jesus, Jesus did not deny Peter.
May we find hope in this truth today. Jesus does not deny those he has called, no matter how grievous their denial of him has been in the darkest moments of life.
We live in a world that is confused on what it means to be a man. Some will define it using ideals that are historically masculine and harsh. Others would rather throw all labels and defining characteristics away. We believe the Bible is clear on what it means to be a man. Specifically, we believe that the Bible calls all men to center their lives on the gospel and to lead others to do the same. But what does it look like to be a gospel-centered man? A few thoughts:
I have been at two churches were the pastor had to resign due to adultery and I have personally walked the journey of sexual addiction, confession, and recovery. As a pastor, I have seen dozens of men confess sexual sin and seek recovery, eventually finding freedom! Sexual addiction is a sin that seeks to destroy men, families, and churches. A gospel-centered man will strive for sexual purity.
Right theology is essential for leading a gospel-centered life. If you do not have right theology then you will not fully understand the gospel or our we are to live in relation to the gospel. Theology shapes the entirety of a man’s thinking, standards, and values, whether he recognizes it or not. Theological beliefs affect what truths men teach their children through bedtime stories each night, the culture of grace they create for their spouse, friends, and children, and how they respond when they fail to trust Jesus themselves at times. Not every man is a professional theologian, but every man, who desires to be gospel-centered, should pursue learning and applying solid theological truths.
In many ways husbands are pastors to their wives and fathers are pastors to their children. Biblically, a husband/father is called to lead his family spiritually and men are called to lead the church spiritually. Pastoral men patiently teach their children the ways of God, compassionately love their wife when she is struggling with fear, and they seek to teach their family the word of God. Gospel-centered men know that their mission starts at home, by teaching their families the gospel, and spreads out from the home into other areas of life.
Every man who is a follower of Christ is a missionary. Missionaries are people who travel to other parts of the world to give their life to the evangelism of other people. But missionaries are also every follower of Christ, wherever God has placed them. Men are missionaries in their homes, workplaces, and neighborhoods. They need to think like missionaries, give like missionaries, and share like missionaries. Men who are gospel-centered will learn their culture and will seek ways to engage those in their culture with the hope of the gospel.
A man must learn humility. The gospel is a message of humility. It’s a message of a God who humbly served to the point of death for sinful humans. It’s a story of men and women who must humbly come to the cross admitting that they cannot fix themselves and they are desperate for Jesus. It’s the story of men humbly instructing their children, humbly sacrificing themselves for their wives, and humbly leading and following those in their workplaces. When a man embraces humility, he will be forgiving with his wife, patient with his child, correctable when wrong, and teachable in all things.
A man who is not teachable is a dangerous man. Men make mistakes. Men sin. Men don’t know everything. We should be teachable. We should not only allow others to teach us, we should look for others to teach us, hungering after the knowledge and wisdom that can be shared. A gospel-centered man knows that he has nothing to offer in and of himself and he seeks to always grow in his love of Jesus and love of others by receiving correction and instruction. A teachable man is a usable man.
Joshua Hedger is the Pastor of Preaching & Vision at Emmaus Church. He is married to Tish and they have an adopted teen daughter and a biological toddler son. Joshua has served in several other ministry roles including Director of Church Planting at Midwestern Seminary, planting another church, a youth pastor, and as a missionary in West Africa.