“To write the same things again is no trouble for me, and it is a safeguard for you” (Philippians 3:1).
“Now, students, as I was saying….”
“Some of you in the congregation have heard me tell of the time….”
“We’re in a series on “Steps to Finding the Perfect Church.” Let’s begin by reviewing the first 153 principles which we covered last week….”
We all repeat ourselves, whether by intention or omission. We seniors get accused of repeating the same stories over and over. (I tell people I’m a pastor, and “Hey–it’s what we do!”)
The effective pastor-teacher not only may repeat himself, but must. Good teaching involves something called spaced repetition. After saying something essential, the teacher goes on to something else or tells a story, then returns and repeats it, often making an additional point.
Your audience is always changing. New people arrive, people grow, people become more teachable than previously, people don’t always “get it” the first time through. So, you’re always repeating yourself.
If you’re wise–and you are–you will not bore your audience by a dull repetition of the previous message, but will find new ways to say the same thing.
Jesus, the Master Teacher
Want to see our Lord doing this? Watch Him during the Upper Room discourse–John chapters 13 through 16–in which He is preparing the disciples for the days ahead. (We should probably include John 17 in this, since the “High Priestly Prayer” was part of the same evening.)
For convenience sake, let’s say the Lord spent four hours with the disciples in the upper room that night. And let’s say He had four basic subjects to cover. Now, given such an assignment–four topics in four hours–the typical pastor would have spent an hour on each point. Not so our Lord.
They don’t call Him the Master Teacher for nothing.
Jesus braided the four strands of His teaching together, returning to each one throughout the evening. Here they are:
–Love for one another. Our Lord covers that with them in John 13:14-20 and13:34-35, then returns to it in 15:12-13 and 16:26-27. Woven throughout His prayer of chapter 17, particularly verses 21, 23, 26,
–The coming of the Holy Spirit. Jesus gave the disciples this in John 14:16-21 and 14:25-26, then picked up the theme again in 15:26 and 16:5-15.
–The uncertain days that lie ahead. This theme is woven throughout the discourse: 13:31ff. 14:1-6. 14:28-31. 15:18-27. 16:1-4, and 16:16-22. Mentioned also in 17:11,14-18.
–-Necessity of staying close to the Lord in the future. Abiding in Him, Jesus called it. See this point made in 14:9-14; 14:23-24. 15:1-11. 16:23-33. Mentioned also throughout the High Priestly Prayer of chapter 17.
Paul, a Great Teacher
In the amazing eighth chapter of Romans, we see him using spaced repetition also, much in the same manner as our Lord in the Upper Room Discourse. In this case, Paul is telling how “God is with us,” i.e., what He has done for us. Verse 31 of that chapter says, “What shall we say then? (as a basis of all that has gone before)” And he answers his own question: “If God be for us, who can be against us?”
The point of that answer is that He has just spent the first 30 verses of Romans 8 emphasizing how God is indeed for us. Consider, for instance…
–The law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free (vs 2)
–What the law could not do, God did. (And what did He do?) Sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh…He condemned sin in the flesh…. for those who walk by the Spirit. (vs 3-4)
–We are to set our minds on things of the Spirit…. We are not in the flesh but in the Spirit… If anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him. (v.5,8,9)
–If the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus lives in you, He who raised Jesus (that would be the Father) will give life to your bodies through His Spirit (v.11. All three members of the Trinity in this verse.).
It’s this way all through those 30 verses. The workings of the Father, Son, and Spirit are braided together.
All through Scripture
Take the subject of faith. Genesis 15:6 tells us “Abram believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness”, a truth quoted in Romans 4:3 and 4:20-22, as well as Galatians 3:8. And on the same subject, Habakkuk 2:4 gives us the memorable line “The just shall live by faith.” That is quoted in Romans 1:17, Galatians 3:11, and Hebrews 10:38.
When you start with scriptures on faith, pull up a chair because you could be here a while…
–When Jesus saw their faith…. Mark 2:5.
–Why did you fear? Where is your faith?” Mark 4:40
–According to your faith be it to you.
–If you had faith as a mustard seed, you could do miracles. Luke 17:6
–When the Son of Man returns, will He find faith on earth? Luke 18:8
–For we walk by faith, not by sight. 2 Corinthians 5:7
–For by grace are you saved through faith…. Ephesians 2:8-9
–In addition to this, taking the shield of faith… Ephesians 6:16
–Without faith, it is impossible to please God. Hebrews 11:6
–I will show you my faith by my works. James 2:18
–This is the victory that overcomes the world, even your faith. I John 5:4
And that’s not half of them! Written over a period of many years by numerous authors in several languages, but all of them working in great symmetry and harmony.
So, pastor, teacher–go ahead. Repeat yourself.
Yesterday, as I write, a denominational leader was chatting with several of us about the frustrations of his job. “So many don’t know what the Cooperative Program is! We have to keep on explaining it every time we stand up in a church.” (He was referring to our denomination’s plan of distributing offerings from the churches.)
He’s a younger friend of many years, so I took the liberty of gently reminding him that new people are always being reached by our churches, coming in from the cold, without a clue as to what we stand for or how we operate. “So,” I said, “you and I will never be finished explaining these things.”
My wife is a lifelong teacher. I asked her, “Why does a teacher repeat herself?” She jumped on that. “We’re told people black out every few seconds. So many do not get all of what we said. And some where not listening the first time. So we repeat it for them and it helps those who did get it the first time. And then, there are times when the teacher did not explain it clearly. So, she has to repeat it and try to get it right this time.”
As Paul said to the Philippians, “Repeating myself is no trouble. And it might help you!” (my paraphrase of 3:1)
Everyone get that? I said, “Repeating myself is no trouble. And it might help you!”