Is facilitating better than teaching for disciple-making? In my opinion, both are essential for disciple-making. An online search on the difference between facilitators and teachers found the following:
Traditionally, teachers are the ones with knowledge and expertise in a particular field. They impart knowledge through a variety of means to their students. Facilitators build on the knowledge base of the group of students to find the answers to questions. Both methods of instruction serve a purpose and allow students the chance to grow.
The above quote sees both facilitating and teaching as methods of instruction. The key difference noted is the source and location of knowledge. The traditional teacher imparts knowledge through various means (note that teaching is not only lecturing). The facilitator builds on the knowledge base of the group.
In order for facilitation to be effective, there needs to be an adequate knowledge base for the issues being discussed. Discussion can degenerate into a pooling of ignorance. A good facilitator will help a group recognize the need for additional knowledge. In the absence of an adequate knowledge base, the facilitator will need to teach or refer the group to sources that provide the knowledge base needed.
Building a knowledge base in disciple-making requires, at the very least, developing Bible study skills. Developing Bible study skills is best accomplished by a combination of teaching and facilitating. Explaining the skills, demonstrating the skills, and providing for guided practice combines the strengths of both teaching and facilitating.
Those who are professional teachers or professors need to learn and practice both the skill of teaching and the skill of facilitation. I think that facilitation has been a significant part of teaching in my own experience as a professor for many years at Alaska Bible College. But many see teaching as primarily imparting knowledge. Teaching needs to go beyond just imparting knowledge and needs to employ facilitation to put the knowledge accumulated to work. In the same way, Christian teaching and disciple-making are not satisfied with just imparting information but seek to impart wisdom.
Wisdom is knowledge lived well. This is vital for disciple-making. Vanhoozer and Treier write:
To reflect the truth of God’s word, then, disciples have to do more than think thoughts. Discipleship is having the right beliefs, yes, but also acting on them, demonstrating our understanding of Scripture by the shape of our lives. Wisdom is precisely this lived understanding of the Word of God in the power of the Spirit.
Theology in the Mirror of Scripture: A Mere Evangelical Account, 257.
Facilitation helps develop this wisdom from the knowledge of Scripture. Disciple-making involves teaching to provide a growing knowledge base and facilitating to develop wisdom from that knowledge base.
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