Friday, May 01, 2009

Welcome Teaching

I have noticed in the past how often my pastor says "yes" when he's teaching. When he asks a question and hears a wrong answer, he will almost always find a way to "go with it." He will accept the answer and ask for more answers, or he will build on the answer offered up and go further with it. It is rare to hear him give an emphatic "no." You really know something was wrong if Pastor says NO. No matter what answer is given, he can usually use that answer as a stepping stone to bring about understanding in the hearers, or to temporarily go on a tangent that was brought up by the person's answer.

That kind of attitude in a pastor results in safety for the catechumens. Same for teachers and students. Is is safe for me to answer? What if I'm wrong? Will he make me feel stupid? Will he ridicule? Will other people think less of me? If we don't know where we're going on a topic, are we free to try to blunder our way through, with a loving shepherd/teacher guiding us to where we need to go? Or will we discover that pat answers are more important than the discussion & grappling & learning?

"No" is such a little thing. It shouldn't be a big deal. Sometimes, students' answers are right, but might garner a "no" if it's not the particular answer the teacher was looking for as she desires to take the class in a certain direction at the moment. And besides that, some answers are wrong, and we don't want to fall into the trap of protecting delicate little self-esteems while we make all answers (even wrong ones) okay.

And yet, if the atmosphere of "yes" (on the teacher's part) makes it possible for us who are learning to converse freely, to ask questions without fear, to tread out there into matters where we might make fools of ourselves, then it is a good good thing for a teacher to major in "yes" while still guiding his or her charges to what is true.


  1. You know... Pastor said "No" to me a lot. Wonder what that says about me...

  2. I think I too get more no's than most people at church. Maybe you and I just need more squashing. But overall, in a group setting, I've noticed that Pastor says "no" much less frequently than most other people leading a class (whether we're talking pastors or theology profs or history teachers or an office exec). Pastor mentioned at youth group last fall that sometimes visitors are amazed at how much interaction there is in Bible class, how willing people are to answer questions or ask questions. I think the relative infrequency of "no" might be a little bit of the answer.

  3. Pr. Long has that same excellent way with teaching. I always feel that Bible class is the safest place in the world when I'm there. I learn so much more when I'm not obsessed with being right!