First of all, I find it interesting to learn that as of 8/28/11 there are “0” Google results for any of these terms in quotations: Elementary Teachings for New Disciples”, “Elementary Teachings for New Believers”, “Elementary Teachings for Believers”, “Elementary Teachings for Disciples”, “Elementary School For New Believers”, “Elementary School For New Disciples”. After that, I quit trying. It doesn’t matter if you use lower or uppercase letters.
This evening I was among a group of leaders from our church, and some questions arose about making disciples, training new believers in Christ, and such. (Remember, we have de-programmed our church and are looking at everything afresh. See the post, “What Is Church???). Each new convert is often coming out of a situation that needs to be addressed immediately. Some are coming off drugs, some are going through divorce, some have a plethora of questions that need to be answered. The point is this; every situation is different and needs to be addressed accordingly. But after dealing with the immediate problems, what happens to these new converts? Some folks just stick them in a regular Sunday School class, encourage them to join the choir if they can sing, tell them to give money, and listen to the preacher. Others will do a little better and baptize them, teach them a little about the Great Commands, prayer, how to search the scriptures, Great Commission, all the basics. But after that, then what? After “Christian Kindergarten”, is there an “Elementary School For New Believers”?
What Did Jesus Say?
Let’s look at the discipling formula in Matt. 28:16-20. 16 Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” WAIT! I JUST SAW SOMETHING WHILE WRITING. I’d like to diverge from our path and refer back to my earlier post, “What Is Church???” and point out that they gathered to worship Him FIRST, and then they were commissioned SECOND. However, although ALL worshiped Him, some worshiped in doubt. Jesus didn’t rebuke them…Or did He? What were they doubting? They were doubting His Resurrection, they were doubting the reports that they had heard, and it seems apparent from this verse that although they were actively worshiping Him at that moment, they were doubting their very eyes that He was with them! Did He rebuke them for their unbelief? YES (Mk. 16:14). How did He rebuke them? He rebuked them through the Great Commission! The Great Commission is a command, an exhortation, an instruction, a challenge to strengthen their faith, and a rebuke in the form of a promise! He gave them the prescription that would cure ALL their doubts! The power that they would see in fulfilling the commission (Mk. 16: 17-18) would cure their doubts, solidify their faith, and serve to greatly enhance their worship of Him! You need both; Worship and Witness! Some may have had initial doubts, but the stories tell us that by the time they were facing the penalty of death for what they believed, not a single one would deny the Resurrection!
His last statement was His loving, rebuking, promise. They were doubting what they were seeing and He says, “AND (as in, “Oh, one more thing boys!) LO (here it means SURELY, behold, In our vernacular it would sound smilingly sarcastic like “Come on guys, really?”) I am with you always (very emphatic), to the very end of the age. They didn’t just go out in the power of Christ, they went out in the person and presence of Christ! BIG DIFFERENCE. Christ never left them. When you witness, are you more focused on a memorized set of scriptures and thinking about what you need to say next, or are you more highly aware and vividly attuned to the PERSON who is standing with you and waiting to demonstrate the reality of His resurrection through His Spirit-Person? Do you talk about Him as if it all happened 2000 years ago, or do you bring Him along with you? Do you carry His presence with you in such an acutely aware reality that you speak more of Him than about Him? That’s what real worship of Him will do to your witness of Him. If you worship in Spirit, the demonstration of Truth will follow. This is the completeness of faith. We say, “Lord I believe, help my unbelief”…And He responds, “I WILL.” I wonder if His Spirit is His presence, and the revealed Truth is the fact-proof-demonstration that He is there. Let me restate that another way. To worship both in Spirit AND in truth is demonstrated throughout the Book of Acts. They worshiped in the Spirit at the Upper Room. The Spirit translated that into Truth for all to hear. Peter then went from worshiping in the Spirit through tongues into declaring the Truth plainly which brought great glory (worship) to God. In Acts 4, they got filled with the Spirit again followed by speaking the Truth boldly. Both are needed to be worshipers in Spirit and in Truth. We need to both worship and witness in order to complete our eternal worship of Him. Am I making any sense here?
What Does The Writer Of Hebrews Say?
Whew! Now…Let’s get back to our subject. Is there an Elementary School For New Believers? We just heard Jesus say, “teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” Are there elementary teachings of Christ? Let’s look at Hebrews 5:11-6:3:
11 Concerning Him we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. 12 For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food. 13 For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is an infant. 14 But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil. 1 Therefore leaving the elementary teaching about the Christ, let us press on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, 2 of instruction about washings and laying on of hands, and the resurrection of the dead and eternal judgment. 3 And this we will do, if God permits.
There it is in plain sight. That is the curriculum for the Elementary School For New Believers! The word “elementary” used here means just what you think it does. It means “the origin, beginning, the first thing in a series”. What is interesting to me is that this idea is reinforced by the word “foundation” which means “the first principals of institution or system of truth”. By definition, the bottom line is that any discipleship training that does not contain these specific concrete bedrock teachings is “faulty” at best. Is that really true? Are there exceptions to this rule? Is it really as bad as that? The Bible answers that by addressing another question: Are there older believers among us who in reality need to be taught or re-taught these specific elementary teachings? Let’s look again: In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food!–Heb. 5:12 NIV. It’s a fact! If you don’t have it, you NEED to get it. If you have had it, you might need to be taught again. Don’t be fooled into thinking that if you have been taught these truths already that you can “fuggedaboutit” and leave it behind. Please don’t misunderstand. When Hebrews 6:1 tells us “to leave…and go on”, it means “to send forth”. In other words, use these elementary teachings as a diving board to spring you forward into deeper waters. Let it be the foundation that everything else springs from. Don’t stay on the diving board and play around all day…Use it to spring forth and go on! On the other hand, if you have a broken diving board, or you never had one at all, then your own discipleship or disciple-making is going to have “belly-flops”. I encourage you to read and re-read Hebrews 5:11-6:1 and evaluate your own foundation and the way you mentor others.
What Does It Seem That The Writer Of Hebrews Was Thinking?
How prevalent were these systematic foundational teachings in the early church??? I believe that they were so prevalent and well-known that the writer of Hebrews assumed that every reader knew exactly what he was talking about without going into a great deal of explanation. The writer just listed them in order in such a way as to say, “Hey, these teachings are soooo embedded that surely everyone knows what I’m talking about. This is elementary school stuff (1+1=2)! But since you seem to be so dull of hearing (Yes, that is the tone he’s using. He’s got attitude! Heb. 5:11 NAS) and need milk rather than meat, I’m going to go to the trouble of listing them in order for you ONE MORE TIME just so I know that you get it!” These teachings were so prevalent and embedded in the early church that He’s probably being insulting by actually naming them and listing them out in their order! Do you see the picture? Hebrew people were very highly systematic in their teaching/mentoring. Knowing the depth and width of THESE elementary teachings of Christ was probably like us knowing our multiplication times tables. That is how deeply embedded and prevalent these teachings were in the early church. It was elementary school stuff that you memorize and keep with you all your life. You expect adults to know 2+2=4. That was the level of understanding and discipline that the writer of Hebrews was expecting from his Hebrew readers. That is partly why he was so exasperated!!! I wonder what He would think about many of the discipleship methods used today?
The Challenge For Me
Well, the leaders of our church have assigned me with the task of researching afresh the Hebrews Guide To The Elementary Foundation Teachings Of Christ for the purpose of disciple-making. The challenge is this: I am not allowed to simply re-copy my old notes or re-hash older studies that I’ve had before on this subject ( A great one is Dianne Lambert’s “Solid Rock”). I have to dig in and be a detective and re-discover these truths and present them in my own words in a way that will serve to develop disciples today. Pray for me and watch for Lesson One on this blog…God willing!