#360 Timothy: Learning to Teach

October 18, 2023

Timothy quickly learned that a significant part of leadership is passing on to others what he knew and believed. He learned to teach. Reflect on the following instructions from Paul to Timothy:

And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful (2 Timothy 2:24, NIV).

Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction.  2 Timothy 4:2 (NIV)

1You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. 2 And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others (2 Timothy 2:1–2).

These are the things you are to teach and insist on (1 Timothy 6:2).

Timothy was a gifted teacher and served well by teaching well. All leaders, even those whose primary gifting is not teaching, can learn from him how to better serve those they lead through effective teaching.

Timothy learned to teach by defining his motive.   

Timothy first needed to learn to teach for the right reasons and with the right heart towards those he led. So, Paul instructs Timothy to check his motives for teaching. Some leaders teach to win an argument or prove their point. But Timothy learned that serving leaders are not to be “quarrelsome.” Some leaders teach with resentment towards those who know less than they do and are impatient with the learners. Timothy learned that serving leaders are not “resentful” and they have “great patience.” Serving leaders get their hearts in the right place before they open their mouths to teach.

Timothy learned to teach by determining his message.   

Timothy next learned to think critically about the content of his teaching. He learned from Paul to focus on “…the things you have heard me say…these are the things you are to teach.” Timothy learned that not every message is of equal importance. He learned to give careful thought to what he would teach. Some leaders teach whatever happens to be at the top of their mind in the moment. But serving leaders give careful thought to the content of their teaching and methodically share what is most important. Serving leaders focus their message on things that really matter for the organization, especially the vision, mission, and values.  

Timothy learned to teach by developing his methods.  

With the right motive and the correct message, Timothy also learned how to use effective methods as a teacher. He heard Paul insist that he be “able to teach” and to train those he served to “be qualified to teach others.” Timothy understood that effective teaching requires continual growth in learning what methods best serve the audience. Some teachers assume that it is the work of the audience to figure out what they are saying and what needs to be done in response. But serving leaders strive to use teaching methods that make the message crystal clear. They learn from their mistakes and adjust their style to serve those in the audience. They observe and learn from other communicators how to communicate effectively. And they ask for feedback from others to continually strengthen their teaching methods because they understand that teaching well is serving well.  

For further reflection and discussion:

  • How can I develop the ability to teach others in my own life? In the three areas we examined (motives, my message, and methods) where am I strongest? Weakest? When I examine my own heart and motive for teaching others, what do I discover? How carefully do I consider the content of what I teach others? What are the next steps for me to strengthen my ability to teach well?
  • Reflect on those you lead. What steps can I take this week to help them develop their own ability to teach others?      
  • In addition to the verses we used in this issue, consider the following: 1 Timothy 6:2-5; 2 Timothy 1:6, 13-14; and 2:14. What additional insights do you find from these verses about how Timothy learned to teach?         

In this series we have been looking at the life of Timothy. If you haven’t already this would be a great time to read through the two books in the Bible with his name, written to him by Paul. As you read, reflect on what Timothy did to grow as a leader and how his actions apply to your own growth. 

Until next time, yours on the journey,

Jon Byler,

In the next issue, we’ll look at a final characteristic of Timothy’s leadership, how he learned to fight!