What, if any, is the difference between preaching and teaching? Some preachers teach and some teachers preach. Is a lecture more preaching or a speech more teaching? I am a pastor with over 20 years of preaching and teaching experience. I will attempt to explain the difference.
As a pastor, the difference is vital. I do teach. There is no doubt about that. But I am first and foremost a preacher of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. But of all the public speaking I do, half of it is preaching and half is teaching.
Here is the difference in a nutshell and a more detailed explanation to follow:
- Preaching – Is trying to affect a person’s thinking by appealing to a person’s heart.
- Teaching – Is trying to affect a person’s heart by appealing to their thinking.
As a preacher, I believe that certain truths need to be acted upon immediately. A sermon may move someone save a their marriage, prevent a teenager from becoming an addict, or help nudge a person away from falling into sin. A sermon, therefore, is an appeal to the heart, the emotions, and the soul of a person.
There is a lot of passion in preaching. It is designed that way on purpose. It seeks to fire the emotional drive of a person, which is often the source of our desires. The Bible speaks of this when it states:
Proverbs 18:1 – Through desire a man, having separated himself, seeketh and intermeddleth with all wisdom.
Desire drives us. It is what makes an artist successful, what drives a business owner to success, an athlete to be a star, and a child to get straight A’s in school. Preaching is meant to fuel good desires. Preaching tries to instill desires in young people to be pure before marriage, to build desires in married couples to have a stronger marriage, to encourage godly and holy desires!
Many, many people can point to a sermon as the turning point in their desires, the foundation of their decisions to stop a particular sin, to start some service for God, or to live a better life.
In secular circles, this is known as motivational speaking. It is preaching, just not on godly topics. Politicians will often preach in their speeches. They are trying to get people to vote for them or support some agenda, and they appeal to a person’s emotions and desires to achieve this.
As a pastor, I have discovered that preaching is a tremendous tool to help instill godly desires in people.
Also as a pastor, I believe that certain truths need to be ingrained in a person’s understanding in order to perform those truths well. This is accomplished through teaching. While preaching can create a desire to do something that a person does not fully understand–this can be both good or bad, depending on the desire–teaching attempts to reason with a person’s mind and to meet a need.
Teaching presents the evidence, is rarely emotional, appeals to the intellect, and provides a person with many different angles of understanding and tools on how to accomplish something. It usually does not accomplish quick changes in a person’s behavior, like preaching can, but it begins to allow for a solid foundation upon which behavior is directed.
Many things need to be taught in order for them to be done or implemented well. Without teaching on the mechanics, the why’s, where’s, when’s, and how’s, the foundation of a passionate Christian is easily eroded. Jesus did both. He taught and He preached.
EXAMPLES OF PREACHING AND TEACHING
Let me give an example. A hot sermon on prayer may instill and create a desire to pray in the layman. But without any teaching on how to pray, his desire will go unfulfilled. And without the hot sermon, he may not have as strong of a desire to pray even if he has been taught to pray.
The disciples of Jesus understood this. Jesus had instilled a desire to pray, but they lacked the understanding on how to do so. So, they asked Jesus to teach them:
Luke 11:1 – And it came to pass, that, as he was praying in a certain place, when he ceased, one of his disciples said unto him, Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples.
A school lecture, is teaching. It is often boring to students because there is little to no emotional appeal. Still, teaching is essential to provide the tools and knowledge needed in order to get to where you want to go.
Both preaching and teaching are important. They are necessary to build a solid Christian life. In our church, our services are divided almost equally between preaching and teaching. People need the right desires and the understanding on how to direct those desires in order to meet their needs.