What’s The Difference Between Preaching and Teaching?

I recently received this question from Africa to answer for Got Questions. I thought it would be important to share it here as well. There is definitely an overlap between the two for sure, and in many aspects are indistinguishable from each other; But they have differences.

Preaching would involve exhortation, admonition, encouragement, and comfort. Preaching is more declaring the Word of God to move a person not only to a better understanding, but to do something with that knowledge. There is a “call to action” on the part of the hearer. There is an invitational and exhortation proclamation of biblical truth in one direction — from teacher to student, where the student just listens.

Teaching is more of a transfer of information from one person to another. This may be a more hands-on approach, showing how to do something as opposed to telling a person how to do it. Teaching in contrast is the explanation of biblical truth, but it is not in one direction like preaching. It involves students asking questions and there is dialogue between tutor and student.

Preaching also is something that a football coach would do: shout from the sidelines and tell his players what to do. This is over in a much shorter time, and could even be an instance. A teacher would actually come alongside the players and get in it with them. This is instructing from a place of “showing” or “explaining” how it is done. In this case, discipleship would be considered a teaching way of distributing information over a longer period of time.

In the case of Jesus, when He was presenting a sermon in the Synagogue or presenting it to a crowd as in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7), He was preaching. He was presenting and declaring the truth to get the people to act on it. In the case of walking from town to town and talking with His disciples, showing them how to do things and leading by example, He was teaching. The overlap between preaching and teaching would be a desire for a positive result and change from learning biblical truth.

Preaching and teaching do not contradict one another. Sometimes we need to be punched in the gut with preaching to stir us to move. Other times we need the slow burn and long time spent with those who are more mature in the faith. They complement each other as they are both vital to the growth of the Christian believer.

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