The Difference Between Preaching, Teaching, and Training


The Apostle Paul lays out clear expectations for those of us who are ministry leaders.

“So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip His people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.”
Ephesians 4:11-13

As ministry leaders, our primary task is this. EQUIP.

What does that look like in your ministry? What does that look like in mine? My guess is that many of us firmly believe that the primary way that we equip workers is through our preaching and teaching. Am I right?

For the past ten years, I’ve been training young leaders in Haiti through a residential leadership development program called SOYM, the School Of Youth Ministry. Sonlife’s disciple-making training based on a careful study of the life of Christ forms the foundation for everything we do in SOYM. Each year, we’ll have between 10-20 young leaders, men and women, in this disciple-making leadership development training program. It’s been one of the greatest joys of my now almost 30 years of ministry. Each year, our group of young leaders has a group assignment… they help to plant a church! Our SOYM graduates are serving as pastors, church planters, youth pastors. The director of Open Door Haiti’s orphanage is a SOYM graduate, as well as the administrator for that ministry’s Medical Center that treats over 1000 patients a month. We’re transforming young leaders into disciple-makers, with the hope of transforming a nation, one life at a time!

Early on in our disciple-making training at SOYM, I give an overview of the life of Christ and the development of His disciples using the 4 Chair Discipling training.

  • CHAIR ONE: WIN the Spiritually Lost
  • CHAIR TWO: BUILD the Believer
  • CHAIR THREE: EQUIP the Worker
  • CHAIR FOUR: MULTIPLY Disciple-makers

From the very first year of our training at SOYM, I have used baseball as an example for what it means to equip. I’m sure all of you long-suffering Cubs fans will appreciate the baseball analogy (sorry Clevelanders). Everyone in Haiti knows about baseball. Haiti is one half of the island known as Hispanola. The other half of the island? The Dominican Republic. There’s probably a player from the DR on every single team in the Major Leagues. It’s every young boy’s dream from the Dominican that they will one day grow up to be a professional baseball player… and a multi-millionaire! But right next door in Haiti, you will not find a baseball field. The only sport they really know in Haiti is futbol, the world’s game.

baseballSo I begin by asking our SOYM students if they would like for me to teach them how to play baseball. They enthusiastically agree. They’re interest is piqued. So then I tell them that I am going to teach them to play baseball by preaching a message to them about baseball. For the next 10 minutes, I preach a powerful message about baseball. I tell them how great the game is. I tell them about the fans cheering when you hit a home run, throw a strikeout, or make a great catch. I throw in lots of “hallelujahs” and I get lots of “amens”. There’s lots of laughter. I’m pretty animated, over the top even. But then when my sermon is done, I ask them if they are excited about baseball. “Yes,” they agree. Then I ask, “Do you know how to play baseball?” The answer is much different now. They have to agree that, while they are excited about baseball, they don’t yet know how to play.

Then I go to the blackboard. I tell the students I’m going to teach them. I grab the chalk and draw a baseball diamond. I draw a ball, a bat and a glove. I begin to explain the game of baseball in its simplest terms. Heads are nodding. They seem to be understanding. After about 5 minutes, I ask the students if they understand the game of baseball. They say “yes.” Of course, they don’t really understand, but they think they do, based on what I’ve been able to teach them conceptually in five minutes. But then I ask, “Do you know how to play baseball?” Again, they all agree. “No, we don’t know how to play baseball.”

It’s at this point that a grab an equipment bag that’s been hidden in the room. It’s filled with baseballs, gloves, bats and bases. I tell the students it’s time to learn to play baseball. Let’s go outside and I’ll train you how to play. We distribute the gloves, and I begin by teaching them how to throw and catch the ball. The basics. We do this for about 15 minutes. They’re starting to get the hang of it. Then I divide them up into two teams and take them on the soccer filed. We make a baseball diamond and I begin to throw batting practice. With each new batter, I show them how to hold the bat, how to position their feet, how to keep their eye on the ball, and how to swing. I’m amazed as batter after batter eventually makes contact. And when they do, jubilation erupts across the field. Now… yes, now… they are learning to play baseball!

I’ve given about an hour for a simple, teachable moment. I gather the students, and right there on our baseball field we talk about the difference between preaching, teaching and training.

If you’re a parent, you’ve probably experienced the frustration and joy of teaching your child to ride a bike. How do you teach them? You put them on the bike. You help them figure out their balance. You run alongside next to them to make sure they don’t crash. But is that how we train people in ministry? Usually not.

If we think we’re really equipping people through our preaching or teaching, we’re fooling ourselves. We can motivate, encourage and instruct from the pulpit. But train? What does training look like?

A simple five step process for equipping that I share with our SOYM students in Haiti is this:






Remember what Jesus said.

“Come, follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”
Matthew 4:19

Come, follow me… Jesus was their model. He would do it and they would watch.

I will make you… Jesus would equip them, helping them to learn the skills they needed.

Fishers of men… Jesus’ goal was to equip them to do the work.

Like Jesus, if we want to truly equip people for disciple-making, we have to come alongside them. We have to be their model. We have to provide practical skills. We have to shape their heart as well as their hands for the work. We have to give them opportunities to do the work. And then, we have to lovingly coach them to help them improve.

For Further Consideration:

1 – How were you equipped for ministry? What was most effective in helping you to become a disciple-maker?

2 – What current plans do you have in place to equip workers for the harvest? How well does your approach balance teaching (lecture) versus training (practice)?

3 – One simple way to equip is to include. Allow someone to shadow you when you’re preparing a message or planning an event, when you’re meeting with someone or just running errands. Allow them to “come and see.” Is their someone you could invite to be your shadow?

By Doug Holliday of Sonlife.


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