I think the difference between good and bad writing boils down to showing verses telling. Telling your audience what’s happening to your characters is far less powerful than showing what’s happening. Can you imagine Walter White explaining to the camera all he was feeling? Or can you see Ace Ventura explaining why a joke was funny? What if JRR Tolkien just wrote, “There’s ring and it’s bad and a hobbit found it and gave it to his nephew and now he has to destroy it and along the way there are some battles and at the end he and his uncle sail away.”
Showing and telling work the same way in real life.
Lately, I’ve begun to think teaching isn’t as big a deal as we make it out to be. And I think that I think this across the board, not just as it pertains to faith. Teaching is important. Learning is more important. I know what you’re thinking — “How can you learn if no one is teaching?” I’ll explain.
We should learn from our pastors and preachers. It’s important and that’s how we learn about our faith most of the time. I think we can learn more from someone who’s imparting experiences onto us than we can from someone who is articulating knowledge toward us. Teaching without power is just articulation. Teaching with power is imparting. Imparting means to bestow. Seriously, that’s how the dictionary reads: Impart — to bestow (a quality).
Here’s an example. My dad, Dr. Stan Friend, has been a pastor my whole life. I learned more from him just being around him than I did from him being at the pulpit. His presence in my everyday life was more important than the teaching he gave on Sunday mornings.
I’m not saying we should do away with teaching and preaching, hear me. I love the church. I’m a pastor at a church and I love preaching and teaching. I’m saying preaching and teaching is not all that we are called to be doing.
We are called to be witnesses. Living examples of Christ, bestowing Christ on everyone around us because we have experienced power. We just looked at the dictionary, now let’s look at the Bible. It’s exegesis time.
Acts 1:8 English Standard Version (ESV): “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
This pericope, or scripture verse, is from the book of Acts and Jesus said these words. If you look it up in your Bible, the words are going to probably be red. Jesus said we will receive power and be witnesses. We will get to the power part later; right now we’re concerned with the witnesses part. Jesus said, “Be witnesses” not, “You will go witnessing.” The difference between imparting and articulating is the same difference between showing and telling and being and witnessing.
I once heard Pastor Rick Warren say it’s important to have models and mentors. I think models teach us and mentors impart experience onto us. Models are usually dead or they are people we’re never going to never meet. They’re examples of what we can become. Mentors are people we see all the time. They’re people we do life with. Jesus is a mentor. We are called to follow him. He has given us power. That means we can say to someone, “Follow me as I follow Christ. I am becoming like Christ. If you follow me and let me impart the experiences I have had, if you let me lead you into new experiences with Christ you will also become like him.” That is what being a witness is like. It’s not telling people your story and walking away. Imparting is letting your story show God’s power in your life. It’s looking attractive because you’re different than the world around you. It’s having more to offer than the world.
Power is powerful and it has to look that way. A life that shows the power of Christ and imparts it to others is more powerful than a life spent articulating Christ. Teaching is just as much a part of being a witness as it’s a part of articulating. I’m just saying one has more power than the other. And the good news is, power has come. And it’s available for all — says Jesus.
Tyler Friend is pastor of Connect at C5 Church, 1600 Snyder Ave.