Today I was seeking God on a further understanding of the role of the FiveFold Teacher within the leadership of the church. Interestingly, and for no (initial) apparent reason, I felt complled to read the story of Balaam and the donkey. Perhaps this was because I’d just heard a teaching on it by Joseph Prince, but in it I found a key truth that links to the outcomes of a fivefold leadership as well as a story about Jesus in Matthew 8. First off, here’s what happens to Balaam, after the angel causes the donkey to speak…
Numbers 22:30 The donkey said to Balaam, “Am I not your own donkey, which you have always ridden, to this day? Have I been in the habit of doing this to you?” “No,” he said. 31 THEN the Lord opened Balaam’s eyes
Because I had this open alongside of, and had been just reading, Ephesians 4 (the fivefold passage) I connected the two “then”s in these passages and wondered if perhaps God was trying to teach me something.
Ephesians 4:14 THEN [after we reach maturity in the faith, and because of the fivefold offices vv.12,13] we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming.
Here I was reminded of the story of Jesus calming the storm after the disciples wake Him on the boat
Matthew 8:27 The men were amazed and asked, “What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!”
And to complete the links, I immediately saw that this story ends with a question – linking it back to the story of Balaam. Now at first all these ideas may just seem random and arbitrary. And you might even be right to accuse me of drawing conclusions where there are no legitimate cross-references to deal with. However, these three passages to me answered some very important questions about what it means to be a FiveFold Teacher, or ‘Teaching Pastor’ if you prefer. So whether they’re legitimately linked in scripture, were randomly selected, or were divinely inspired this day to illuminate a truth is not really the point – the point is what I found in all three that helped me understand my role as a Teacher.
1. The immature are tossed back and forth on the waves like infants. Maturity in Faith is key to not conforming to the patterns of this world (Rom 12:2). Infants can’t actually swim, so not only are they simply going wherever they waves take them – they’re in danger of drowning!
2. The immature don’t ask the right questions. Balaam was just doing his own thing, even though God had told him not to. And when his donkey began misbehaving he didn’t seek to understand why. How often does God put a barrier in our paths and we just keep smacking that donkey with a stick.
3. When they learn to do this THEN God will open their eyes. Only when Balaam asked the right question (or in actual fact the donkey had to ask it for him) was he able to see the whole picture – the Angel standing right there! What is God trying to show us that our lack of – or fear of – questioning is blinding us to?
4. That’s why Jesus called them “of little faith” The question they should have asked is… Is this even a man? Or even, who is this guy that he can sleep through this? The obvious question stands out BEFORE the miracle.
5. How embarrassing if we get to the point where God sends a donkey to get us to think about the obvious questions.
6. Questions are far more powerful than answers. I’m reminded of a story where a Christian pastor was studying under a Jewish Rabbi in Israel and his homework was to read a chapter of Genesis and write down as many questions as he could about it. The next week he brings in about half a dozen well thought out questions and when he began to show them to the Rabbi, the Rabbi slammed his fist on the table and said – “how dare you presume to know so much and have so little respect for the Torah!” The Rabbi then pulls out a stack of papers and says to the students, “These are my questions on that chapter.” In Hebrew culture, the right way to wrestle-with (Israel) the text is to create more questions than answers. Never to definitively arrive at an answer that essentially cuts the conversation short.
7. Learn to teach people to ask questions – the right questions. That’s where real maturity comes from. Religion is afraid of this, and so only provides answers and refuses to allow you to question those answers. A culture and an environment that is Question-Rich is not, as some might out of fear suppose, an unstable set of Jenga blocks, in which each question represents the final move that may topple the whole system over. No, in fact it’s quite the opposite. A Question-Rich church culture will inevitably create intelligent ‘questioners’ of its people. The key is never in the answers (although that shouldn’t dissuade our pursuit of them), but if you look at the way Jesus taught, it was almost always with just as many questions as answers. We’re not strengthened as a body by our collective agreement upon this creed, or that doctrine – But by our joint efforts to wrestle with the text, join in the conversation, and pursue Jesus within the questions themselves.