Alright, it’s confession time: I fought God tooth and nail against my calling to preach. I just refused. The list of reasons are long and varied, and the story is, mostly, entertaining and informative, but my last hold out was a little verse in the New Testament book that bears my name.
As you can see in the picture above, the very first verse of the third chapter of James is a stark warning to teachers. Today, I encountered someone who reminded all too clearly of the danger of being a teacher. His name: Justin Lookadoo
As you can read in this article at Salon.com, Justin Lookadoo recently found himself in a bit of an embarrassing situation. Apparently, the guy who likes to ask “Is it Holy?” and “R U Dateable?” – and, what is almost hilariously ironic, “Is Alcohol Consumption Okay?” – was found lying in his car in a pool of his own vomit. He had a BAC of .07. And, yes, due to his incarceration stemming from this incident, he missed a speaking engagement meant to encourage teens to live holy lives.
I read about this today and felt genuinely sorry for not only Lookadoo, but for those who have supported him in his ministry, for those who trusted him, for all those he let down. Then I remembered something Paulette Phillips, a great teacher of the Bible and my mother in the ministry once said to me:
James, you need to be careful when you teach something – anything really – but especially if it’s something controversial or something you feel like is revolutionary. You need to be careful because while I can’t guarantee that what you teach will be well-received, I can promise you that you will be tested in that very thing either immediately before or immediately after you teach it.
While I don’t know Justin Lookadoo, I feel pretty safe saying that he probably could have used this bit of advice. The fact is there are three things that every teacher needs to remember (and every person who thinks they might “enjoy” teaching should know).
- You will endure a higher level of scrutiny.
- You will endure testing.
- You will be judged more severely.
This is true across the board. It doesn’t matter if you’re a school teacher, a Sunday School teacher, a collegiate professor, or a preacher. People will question every word that comes out of your mouth. This will be especially true if the things you say challenges their long-held beliefs or makes them rub against the edges of their comfort zones.
This goes back to what Paulette Phillips told me. If you’re going to teach about finances, you can probably bet that you’re going to encounter a financial issue in your personal life. If you’re going to teach on marriage, you can expect your marriage to come under attack. If you’re going to teach about it, you will be tested in it. Period. It has happened to me EVERY time, and I hear it from colleagues constantly.
This isn’t a bad thing, you understand. I am convinced that if you aren’t being tested in what you’re teaching, you probably aren’t receiving anything of real value (and it might not be from God in the first place).
We don’t like to talk about judgment in the 21st Century Church. “God is a God of love not a God of judgment, right?” While the full exploration of the error of that statement is the subject of another article, I think the point is that when you have a position of authority – like that of a teacher – you have to remember that you are responsible for the words that come out of your mouth and for the lives that those words impact.
In closing, I’m going to ask you to pray for Justin Lookadoo, for his family, for those who have trusted him and feel betrayed. But also, be in specific prayer for those teachers in your life: your pastor, your life group leader, the pastoral staff at your church, your boss at work (you learn stuff from her too, right?)… ALL those people.
Then, take a minute to pray for yourself. Why? Because even if you’re never a pastor or a Sunday School teacher or anything like that, at some point you will encounter someone who needs to learn something from you. When that happens, remember, that you’re going to be scrutinized, and tested. But don’t worry. That just means you’re doing something right.
“Rely on your leaders and defer to them, because they watch over your whole being as people who are going to be held responsible for you. They need to be able to do this with pleasure and not with complaints about you, because that wouldn’t help you.” – Hebrews 13:17