Teaching on the Encounter (or Reflections on Teaching on a Sailboat)

Today the baton passed.

Eight days after arriving here, my job here is done. One of the distinctive features of Torchbearers bible schools like the Kingfisher Project is that they bring in teachers for 1-2 week intensive classes on books of the Bible, Theology, or the Christian life. So my job over the past week was to teach  the book of 1 Corinthians to 13 students living on a 90ft sailboat. Now, that job passes to Wayne Weissman, who will lead these students in studying the book of Hebrews.

As you might imagine, a 90ft sailboat was a unique context to teach. It is, as I noted during my last trip here, a unique classroom environment. Class sessions were held in the ship’s galley around two large tables. Space was tight, but this proximity aids community.  Around these two tables, we ate together, we learned together, and we shared our lives together. In this way they were not so different than tables elsewhere.

At some point, I hope to write about the genius of tables. Though humble and common, they shine as one of the most ingenious creations of the human mind. Cars and computers take the fascination of many, but it is the table that exceeds them both in terms of versatility, enduring value, and significance to the human enterprise.

Despite the peculiarity of the setting, the commonness of the tables and the task meant that for all intensive purposes, this classroom was no different than others. What was most peculiar is that rather than being a student, I was their teacher.

Youth has its advantages. They are few, but lively. In teaching the only advantage is that one often shares that youth with those being instructed. In this way rapport with students came easily, but the challenge then was to navigate the narrow channel between over-identifying with the students in our youth, and over-emphasizing my status as a teacher. Throughout this trip, I felt this tension continually; At times I felt as though I was scraping the side of over-identifying with my students. This led one student to remark,  tongue-in-cheek, that I was a “student teacher”.

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The Corinthian Canal

Given my youth, I actually found that comment to be apt. Having recently graduated from Moody Bible Institute and nearing my 25th birthday, my identity as a student lingers in my insecurity as a teacher. Before coming to teach, I felt inadequate to the task, under-qualified and under-prepared. The teachers for other weeks were seasoned bible teachers who were 20-30 years my elder. Who was I to teach the book of 1 Corinthians to these students who were so near my age?

Yet the saying held true this past week, “God does not call the equipped, he equips the called.” As it turned out, I had all that I needed to teach, having received it from from the gifting of the Holy Spirit and my education at Moody. Furthermore, throughout the week, there were times where I saw God provide insight and clarity to a passage from a student’s comment or reading through the passage once again during class. As Wayne Weissman remarked to me, “It is God who does the teaching, we are simply his instrument.”

This does not mean that my teaching was free from mistakes. Far from it. First, I did not spend nearly enough time preparing how I was going to teach the class. Part of this was due to lack of preparation, but the other part was simply inexperience. I am still learning how to teach. Though Moody did have a class on teaching the Bible specifically, that class did not prepare me to teach an intensive class like this one. Second, I had some trouble discerning what to teach from 1 Corinthians. Not every interpretive issue, nuance, or cultural detail needs to be communicated, and while I don’t believe that I made the mistake of simply communicating a commentary, there were times where I recognized that what I considered important in the passage may not have been what was important for my students to hear. In the future, I hope to be more intentional to foster discussion and dialogue in these settings in order to better involve students and get a gauge on what they need to hear.

Overall, I come away from this past week with immense gratitude. Not only did God give me an opportunity to teach his word, of itself an immense gift, but also a reminder of countless memories during my trip, a wonderful group of students who I came love during my short time, and even a few conversations that indicated that the content of Paul’s letter to the Corinthians was having an impact on the minds and lives of my students.

For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing but to us who are being saved it is the power of God ~ 1 Corinthians 1:18

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Kingfisher Project Class of Spring 2017
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