Guest Writer: Jereme VanderWoude
When looking at the apostle Paul’s ministry and letters to the various churches, there are 3 typical tones of instruction. A tone refers to a certain inflection in sound that creates variance in meaning. A person could say a word or use a phrase changing nothing of the substance but changing the pitch or tone which could convey something different than simply the words themselves. A dear brother pointed out the necessity for “3 tones” in our discipling and was encouraged by the clarity. Then I really saw it in Paul’s life and ministry as well.
First Tone of Instruction
Paul’s first tone of instruction was to teach “how/what”. For example, in the book of Galatians, Paul is instructing them about sound doctrine, which in this case, was the importance of salvation by faith alone, no works included! The “how/what” that he is teaching is sound doctrine in regards to faith and works. Many of us are familiar with this tone, it is the baseline tone of all teaching and instruction.
Second Tone of Instruction
The second tone of instruction is teaching someone how to teach “how/what”. For example, Paul tells Timothy in chapter 4 of his first letter to Timothy, “Command and teach these things. Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity. Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching…” Paul is teaching Timothy to teach sound doctrine. He is not teaching Timothy sound doctrine in the tone that he did with the Galatians, instead telling Timothy to teach sound doctrine.
Third Tone of Instruction
The third tone of instruction is one that is not always easily recognized or taken into account yet nearly as crucial to a gospel movement as the rest. In this tone Paul is teaching how to teach others how to teach “how/what”. A good example is in the letter to Titus. Titus was in Crete and Paul says he left him there “so that you might put what remained into order, and appoint elders in every town as I directed.” In Crete, there were men who were teaching things that did not align with sound doctrine, they were “insubordinate, empty talkers, and deceivers..” In order to solve this disorder, Paul does not write a letter of instruction to those false teachers to tell them of sound doctrine like he did for the Galatians. Paul doesn’t even tell Titus to teach sound doctrine like he instructed Timothy to do. Instead, he taught Titus, to teach and raise up leaders/teachers (elders) to teach and correct these false teachers, and provide right instruction to the people. Amongst other reasons, many “revival”-like movements come and they go because the leaders and the pioneers do not grasp the importance of this 3rd tone of instruction and lack the willingness to embrace the intentional tactfulness of instructing in the 3rd tone. One person was never meant to bear the burden of teaching and discipling the many. In other words, tone one teaching by itself, lacks the capacity to see the longevity of depth and width in a gospel movement. Instead, the call is to pour deeply into a few faithful people, teach them the Word, then teach them to teach the Word to a faithful few, then teach them to teach others to teach others the Word.