Grab a piece of paper and pen for this exercise. Got it? Do you have a pen and paper? Im serious, you need pen and paper. Now that you do, please write down 10 sermons that have been impactful in your life. You have up to 30 seconds to do this.
Almost everyone struggles to remember 10 impactful sermons they have heard. My cousins and I struggled every Sunday at supper time when ubabomkhulu (Uncle) would ask what we learned from the sermon that day. And that was on the same day.
Now flip over the page and write names of people who have had an impact on your life. People you have learned lots from. Write as many names as you can in 30 seconds. How many did you get?
Most of us find it easier to remember people than messages. This is because lifestyle is a form of visual aid. It makes the message both visible and applicable. Theory on the other hand can sound complicated and hard to apply. Many of todays ministry programmes or tools are focused on the transfer of information only. Much time is spent on preparing material and ensuring the right context exists for delivering this material. This information is then often transferred by someone delivering the message, while the group sits passively listening to it.
To be effective in teaching for life transformation we will need to move from theory or information transferral to application or life on life transformation. This is not a call to dump theories and information but a challenge to empower our hearers to apply it in their lives.
Take smart phones or any other technological gadget for example. How many of us read the operating manuals? Most of us would rather have a demonstration from someone who is familiar with the gadget. We become more acquainted with the device when a technician or a young person coaches us on using it. The information we learn in the context of life on life becomes more applicable.
Jesus taught His disciples through His lifestyle. He preached sermons. He taught lessons. He told parables and performed miracles. But He did all this in the context of doing life together. Jesus used His life as a teaching aid. He invited the disciples to Come and see (John 1:39,46), Follow me (John 1:43) and to Learn from me (Matthew 11:29). He established a learning community for His disciples, and He modelled a lifestyle of obedience to God. He gave them an example of what it means to both be a disciple and to do disciplemaking.
There is a greater chance of seeing life transformation when we walk with the people we are teaching. The old adage holds true: you can impress people from a distance but you can only impact them up close. Paul learnt to use this form of teaching because he invites the Corinthians to Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ. (1 Cor 11: 1).
If we want to be effective in teaching for transformation we must move away from just giving information. We must empower our audience for application through life on life modelling.