“Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth. As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world’” (John 17:17-18).
It was Saturday. I was near the city of Marangu, Tanzania, at the eastern foot of beautiful Mount Kilimanjaro. I had conducted a seminar with the pastors and church leaders of the area the day before and visited a congregation in the area in the afternoon. On this day, Pastor Malyi (who is the leader of the Moshi district of the Tanzanian Church of the Lutheran Confession—TCLC) scheduled me to meet with his congregation and lead a Bible study for them. This wasn’t just for adults. It wasn’t just for children. It was for the whole congregation. The church wasn’t full, but I was excited to see how many of the members had come to church on a Saturday afternoon. Especially on a market day!
I had decided to teach a lesson on angels. I like to ask a lot of questions when I teach, especially in Africa. It helps me get a hold on how much the people are comprehending through the language barrier. When we read a passage, I ask, “What do we learn from this passage?” I could tell them what the passage means, but I want them to study it for themselves. I want them to look into the depth of God’s Word and find the riches which are to be found there.
Teaching isn’t so much about reciting or referencing a list of facts as it is about giving others the tools to discover the truth on their own. This is one of the greatest problems in education today, both secular and religious. This is part of the reason there is so much debate about what “truth” really is. Everyone has his own version because we aren’t being taught HOW to find the truth; we are just told, “This is what truth is” (even if it isn’t truth at all).
The same also applies in our witnessing to others. When we have the opportunity to witness to others, we can tell them what the Bible teaches, or we can help lead them to find the answer they are seeking on their own. Don’t you think that the second is the better approach in most cases? Witnessing shouldn’t be about reciting or referencing a list of passages that prove a certain Biblical truth. It should be about giving people the tools they need to read and understand God’s Word. We need to consider our approach with those around us. Paul says that God
“. . . desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4). This is the work of God through His Word, not our work. The Holy Spirit leads us to a knowledge of truth though the study of His Word.
Even though there was a difference in language, I was able to connect with the members of the congregation on that day. They were eager to open up and read their Bibles. They began to ask questions, and together we grew in our knowledge of God through our study of the Scriptures. In our study, it was amazing to me (once again!) how much we could learn about God, His character, His work, and much more—just from one small verse!
Yet, isn’t that the way God is? He reveals Himself to us slowly, a little bit at a time. Maybe He does this to keep us from being overwhelmed. No matter the reason, we see that there is much to be learned and comprehended in the treasure trove which is God’s precious Word. Even the smallest of gems should not be taken for granted. Even they are of greater value than we can comprehend!
Thanks be to God!
Nathanael Mayhew is pastor of Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church in Sleepy Eye, Minnesota, and part-time missionary to Africa.