Back to the Bible...
Note: This week, I'm reposting an old classic from our archives at FAST. It's the perfect introduction to this month's featured class: The Explosion Blueprint. To learn more about training, and how to transform your church into a true training center, be sure to sign up for this class. Grab it while it's free!

Over the years, I've become more and more convinced that one of our greatest problems today in the area of discipling is our failure to understand the difference between teaching and training. While both have a place in raising up workers, making disciples is primarily a process of training. Teaching will never accomplish what's needed.

“One of our greatest problems today in the area of discipling is our failure to understand the difference between teaching and training.”

Click to Tweet

Think of it this way. I live in the state of Illinois. If I wanted to teach you various facts about my state, like its population or its capital, that is a relatively simple process. I just need to communicate that information to you in a way you can understand. And you just need to remember it. The population by the way is approaching 13 million, and the capitol is Springfield. I just taught you something. Easy.

But if I wanted to teach you to swim, however, simply transferring information would not be enough. I could give you hours of lectures, show you dozens of powerpoints, bring in scores of competent swimmers to share their favorite tips, and more--and you would still not know how to swim. To learn that, you are going to have to get in the water! That's because being able to swim is a skill, and skills are transferred through training.

In other words, teaching communicates information. Training communicates skills. Teaching requires the student to understand and remember. But training requires the student to implement and practice.

An Early Experience

This difference became obvious to me many years ago in one of my very first discipleship teams. I was meeting with a group of very dedicated young high school students to do some advanced discipleship training. They had all been raised in Christian homes, and had all freely chosen to be part of my team because they wanted to grow spiritually.

One meeting, when we got to the point where we were starting to talk about the devotional life, I asked a simple question: "How many of you have been told all your life you should study the Bible every day?" Every hand when up. Then I asked another question: "How many of you have ever had someone sit down and show you how to study the Bible so you can get something out of it?" Not one hand went up.

They had all been taught the importance of Bible study, but had never been trained in how to do it effectively. Unfortunately, their situation is not unique. Believers are told to pray, but not shown how. They are told to overcome sin, but not shown how. They are told to witness, but not shown how. Telling someone what to do, but not showing them how only creates frustration, guilt, and a sense of failure. Putting a stronger focus on training creates disciples who are fulfilled, competent and successful.

The Great Commission

The Great Commission calls us to make disciples. While that certainly includes teaching them the basic doctrines of the Bible, it is not limited to that. We must also train them in the basic skills of the Bible, how to "observe all things" commanded by Christ. We must help new believers not only know what the Bible says, but also equip them to do it. We do a fair bit of teaching, but not near enough training.

“The Great Commission calls us to not only help new believers know what the Bible says, but also equip them to do it.”

Click to Tweet

This focus on training is one of our foundational principles at FAST. Our resources are all designed to not only impart information, but also skills. To show what the Bible says, and also how to do it. To make disciples today, we must understand the difference between teaching and training!


Can you relate to the story in this article? Have you been told various things to do, but not been shown how? How important is it for believers to acquire the skills of Christianity? What is involved in passing on a skill?

Can you help by sharing this article with a friend?
Use this link:
Posted by Dan Vis on 03/03/23
Thanks Lana! That means a lot. This is the one thing we've tried to do--focus on training not teaching. Most of us have information a plenty, but it's the skills we're lacking. And I believe these skills are going to be critical given the challenges just ahead. No time to waste!!!
Posted by Lana Rose on 03/03/23
Great thoughts here on the difference between teaching and training.
I have been feeling the difference, but had not been able to put it in this simple to understand way. It is what I have felt for a long time. It was not til I came to FAST that I began to understand the how to's. Appreciate your work, Dan!
Posted by Dan Vis on 02/21/23
I love your paragraph on the kinds of skills we should think about teaching. I think many of these are topics we've never really touched on here at FAST. Fascinating list Angie!
Posted by Angie Leimena on 02/20/23
The great commission instructed to observe all things which means a requirement to obtain skills.
Therefore, one of the greatest importance in discipling is giving an effective training. Through training the learner is trained to have skills to implement and practice the Bible principles in their lives. Students are told to witness, but not yet shown how. The command of the Lord Jesus is to observe all things which is similar to give an effective training, which result in acquiring skills.
The skills may include, how to implement the teaching such as how to give a correct response to any challenges rather than responded with being emotionally reactive, how to give Bible study. how to relate to invite others to study the Bible, how to witness, how to memorize. Basically, how to model the Lord Jesus, when He was living on earth. That includes how to teach, how He manifested His faith in the Father, how He faced Satan, how to face any kind of opposition- rudeness- social and physical attacks. How He managed His time while working all day till sunset, how He care for the sick, the needy, the list can go on.
Posted by Dan Vis on 12/30/22
Congratulations on learning to swim Valerie. I practically grew up on the water and swimming is one of my favorite things to do. Which is just to say, the more direct exposure we have to something, the more comfortable it becomes. I also really appreciated your point that the best teachers were those in the water with you. Which is why I love these cubicles! :)

I think those are both great takeaways about discipleship...
Posted by Valerie Wise Burrell on 12/28/22
This article hit "home" for me as a former college teacher. I learned over the years that I had to readjust my perspective because I encountered many students who did not have the foundation for learning which I assumed college students would have. I could "teach" them the content of the chapter but I had to "train" them on how to apply what was in the book.
Also, your example about learning to swim hit home because I just learned to swim three years ago. I had the theory but until I got into the deep end of the water and faced my fear of doing so it was to no avail. Now when I get in the pool, I start at the deep end and I see that the longer I am in the pool the more comfortable I become in doing so.

Now the connection from my swimming lessons example and what you shared here is that the best training I received was from those who were in the pool with me. The example of the youth who wanted to learn more about the Bible but who had never been shown how to do so really resonated. How many of our young people want to know more about our faith but go unfulfilled because there is more talking at than talking to them? How many more adults are in the same predicament?
I praise God for FAST.
Posted by Dan Vis on 12/27/22
Amen! That's so true Doug. This is really what this whole site is all about. Or at least we're trying! :)
Posted by Doug Schoch on 12/26/22
Very good article. Training is what we need to do. Back to the Great Commission, don't stop at baptism, keep trying. Without this training they come in the front door and go out the back door.
Posted by Dan Vis on 12/11/22
Yes, we can (should) start learning the basics of these various skills right away, and then advanced to deeper levels as we grow. Good point Carlota!
Posted by Carlota Belmo on 12/11/22
When we are newborn we need milk, but as we grow, we graduate to more solid food.
(I Peter 2:2As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby:)I’m thinking the same applies here, we should acquire the these skills right after baptism, so that the reflection of Christ can duplicated over and over again.
Posted by Dan Vis on 12/08/22
Right! Reading books alone would never do it. The information there had to be combined with action. Congrats Wayne. I did a half marathon once. A whole marathon is even more impressive! :)
Posted by Wayne Senner on 12/07/22
In learning how to run a marathon I had no trainer or training but I read a lot about it. But it was when I got out of bed or out of the chair or out of the house and hit the road on a daily basis that I became a marathoner.
Posted by Dan Vis on 10/25/22
I think you make a couple good points there Gail . First, that we should be careful to not minimize the importance, or difficulty of good teaching. Especially with complex concepts, teaching all by itself can be a significant challenge. Training is harder still, but because training builds on top of teaching, having that in place securely is essential too.

Another point that struck me is that of timing. Sometimes a concept (or skill) doesn't really click until we are ready for it, or in a position to use it. Which is why going over training more than once is often so helpful. We're at a different place in our growth the second and third time through...
Posted by Gail Lutton on 10/25/22
I love this, as I definitely learn better with/from "hands on."
This sentence from your article: "Telling someone what to do, but not showing them how only creates frustration, guilt, and a sense of failure," I can really relate to!
A favorite experience I recall is when I was in nursing school and struggling with a certain math concept. My husband could draw well and a lot of times when he was trying to explain something to me and he could see my eyes glaze over, he'd get out pencil and paper and draw me a picture/diagram which would usually clear up my understanding. This time however, with the math concept, his drawing didn't help with my understanding. It wasn't until I was a newly graduated nurse and had just started my first job. One day as I had two actual items in my hand and was working with them, that suddenly I remembered that picture my husband had drawn, and everything made sense!
Information, power point, teaching... all have their place, but teaching is definitely the way to go!
Thanks for offering these teachings!
Posted by Dan Vis on 10/05/22
Two great points Jo. We can't share a skill we don't have. But we can share whatever level of proficiency we do have! :)
Posted by Joanne Laing on 10/04/22
You have to be doing a skill before you can pass it on. I learned today that even though Apollos only knew the baptism of John, he taught that. I don't have to be thoroughly proficient in a skill before demonstrating it, I can share it now with the little I know.
Posted by Dan Vis on 09/26/22
That's such a valuable point Julio. That this difference between teaching and training not only applies to our ministry to others, but also Christ's ministry to us. Or perhaps I should say how we relate to Him. We can approach Him as a teacher dispensing information (true), or as Master that we loyally follow (even more true). And our approach will determine what we get out of our walk with God.

And of course, the kind of discipleship we practice determines what we have to give to others. This site, for example, is largely the result of trying to follow Jesus as Master. It's simply sharing what He has trained me to do. Our ministries will bend this direction as well, the more our walk with God bends this way. Great post!
Posted by Julio Useche on 09/26/22
So many of us (myself included) often read through the Word and gain valuable insight into it's teachings, but never write those insights down and repeat them to others because we've not been trained to do this, and sometimes because we're just lazy. Psalms 32:8-98 I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go: I will guide thee with mine eye. 9 Be ye not as the horse, or as the mule, which have no understanding: whose mouth must be held in with bit and bridle, lest they come near unto thee. says "I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go: I will guide thee with mine eye. Be ye not as the horse, or as the mule, which have no understanding: whose mouth must be held in with bit and bridle, lest they come near unto thee". Often times we just want to be told what some verse means or to be led as a horse, but God wants us to use our minds with the wisdom that He has given us and with the instruction we find in God's Word. When we do this, then we are able to train others in doing the same.
Posted by Dan Vis on 09/25/22
The difference is super obvious once you see it, Rebecca. But because the general culture sort of goes a different way we don't even think about it. I'm praying God will wake many people up to really pursuing a deeper experience. Soon! Time is short...

Thanks for another affirmation of the importance of this Belain. How many have been discouraged, or just given up on trying because no one every explained the nuts and bolts. I'm praying this class will answer many of those kinds of questions!

I really appreciate both of you for your commitment to be an instrument of change--in helping others to grow!
Posted by Belain Kinfu on 09/25/22
I can relate to what you’re saying Dan. I grew up a Christian being taught that I need to read my Bible and pray but didn’t get a training how. I feel like a big part of my life has passed wanting to but not knowing how. I pray that this will change for me and God will use me to train others.
Posted by Rebecca on 09/24/22
Wow can I relate!! Being brought up through Christian schools, knowing doctrines but never knowing how to study the Bible, or how to apply it to my life! How can that be? Being convinced of truth but never convicted. I’m praying God will use me as He sees fit to help in teaching and training.
Posted by Dan Vis on 09/24/22
I'm sure we've all been there Barbara, where we were told to do something but not really shown how. Or not given time to really internalize the requisite skills. Definitely frustrating. We can do better with those we are trying to help grow. In the long run, slow and steady wins the race...
Posted by Barbara E. LaRose on 09/24/22
Yes, I’ve been shown something once and expected to understand at one of my jobs. I learned to carry a pad and pencil with me to remember and often times asked another employee to help me understand and show me. It’s very important to understand the skills of discipleship, you don’t want to loose one soul if you can help it. To pass on a skill is to know how to teach but most importantly, how, as you said Dan, how to help the student to know how to understand and remember.   
Posted by Dan Vis on 09/23/22
Ha, I think that's kind of what happens sometimes in our church, isn't it? Nice story Louise! :)

And I love that last point. If we don't teach someone first how to follow, teaching is less likely to make much of an impact.
Posted by Louise P on 09/23/22
Training versus teaching reminds me of the cartoon about two boys and a dog:

First boy: “I taught my dog to whistle.”
Second boy: “I can’t hear him whistle.”
First boy: “I said I taught him, not that he had learned.”

Maybe that’s why the Great Commission exhorts us to make disciples before it mentions teaching...
Posted by Dan Vis on 09/22/22
Posted by Richard on 09/22/22
So true thank you
Posted by Dan Vis on 09/22/22
Thanks for sharing Tonya. You are definitely in for some treats in the coming months. We are going to go through each aspect of discipleship from the perspective of training. I believe it has the potential to change all our lives. Learning how to live as a Christian is so much more than just knowing what a Christian is supposed to know. Can't wait!
Posted by Tonya Anspach on 09/22/22
Thank you for sharing the difference between teaching and training. It makes me think of my daughter who is in her second year of nursing school. She is now being TRAINED on what to do. Trust me, I know, because she is coming home every day asking to get my vitals etc...LOL.

I can see the real value in training and realize that is what is completely missing in my Christian life. Only I didn't realize it. Digging into the Bible has been difficult for me. I see the joy on others' faces when they study their bible, but have yet to really experience that total joy myself. I know now that it is because I have never really been trained on how to do it. I look forward to the rest of this class. THANK YOU!
Posted by Dan Vis on 09/21/22
Most theology programs, are just that: theology. It's intentional so the pastors are prepared for any theological challenge--which is important. But there's a real place for practical discipleship training too, and I fear sometimes that is neglected. Thanks for your commitment to growing as a disciple-maker Mike!

Oh, and I like your training progression! We teach something similar later in Basic Training.
Posted by Mike Carner on 09/20/22
I can definitely identify with the story. Sounds like my upbringing. Even taking theology in college was mostly teaching with much less practical training. So it is something I have struggled with even in my ministry. I learned lots of facts I could teach others, but the practical has been a challenge. Always looking for opportunities to become better a training people.

I think it is very important for people to learn the skills of living out the Christian life.

The basic steps in training in a skill are:
  • Watch me as I do it
  • We do it together.
  • I watch you as you do it.
  • You find someone else to train.
Posted by Dan Vis on 09/20/22
Yes, exactly Sam. Demonstration is a critical part of the training process. We can teach without demonstration, but not train!
Posted by Shawnda McKnight on 09/20/22
Demonstrating is required in order to pass on a skill. That is why it took me so long to fall in love with Jesus when I grew up in the SDA religion. I didnt have anyone to show me how it was supposed to look.
Posted by Dan Vis on 09/24/21
That's a good word Colette: apprenticeship. Too often we think of them as students and just give them a teacher. But an apprentice is expected to learn a craft or skill. They need a trainer. A very different process!
Posted by Colette Guthrie on 09/24/21
Dan I heard of this concept in a leadership development seminar which zoomed in on equipping leaders for success.

Becoming a Christian is like being an apprentice. It sure helps if you put that spiritual babe in the care of an experienced worker. II Timothy 2:2And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also. (substitute train for teach).😇
Posted by Pathy Neijo on 03/13/19
Very informative, encouraging and inspiring! Thank you very much!
Posted by Dinah Robles on 03/13/19
this is very relevant— the “how to” will help me/us to learn not only the facts but how to put into action the facts learned. Many times we assumed that the skill is already part of the teaching but as I am learning teaching is different from training. Thanks Dan.
Posted by Floride Leonce on 03/04/19
Hi Dan,

I can relate well with that story. The funny thing is that I sometimes repeat the same thing with my children. I’m happy to have the opportunity to learn and get the skills needed to practice and teach others. I will sign up for the Explosion Blueprint class.

Thank you and may God bless you!
Posted by Dan Vis on 03/04/19
Thanks everyone for your comments!

Thanks for pointing out how the method we use definitely impacts the outcome Claudette! Definitely appreciate your perspective on this as a professional in this area.

Information certainly starts the process, doesn't it JoDee. But the process can sometimes go along slowly without access to good training resources.

Praise God for that family Tanya! I had a family like that in my life too.

Like they say Carole, it's better to teach someone to fish than to just give them a fish. Glad to hear your pastor is modeling good study methods. In our Explosion Blueprint class we define 4 biblical steps to training. Showing how is step 2.
Posted by Carole Bliss on 03/04/19
This comes right to the point. I am in a Bible study at prayer meeting, where my Pastor is showing us how to read slow, digest it, and discuss it with the help of the Holy Spirit. So important.
Posted by Tanya Telis on 03/04/19
Yes, I certainly can. I wanted a true Adventist home for myself and my children, but I did not have a clear picture of what that would look like, or how to go about creating it. I had read EGW and had the information, I needed the loving family in my church that took us under their wing and showed me all my home could be AND how to go about getting there. They encouraged each positive step and were there to guide when I was heading the wrong way. I thank God for them every day!!
Posted by JoDee Shoffner on 03/04/19
Yes, I was truly wanting to be a Christian. I believed the information and that began a transformation of the way I think. Slowly I knew that Word was reparenting me. I belong to a small church of mostly elderly people with one young couple and a few younger ones. We certainly don’t have the training. ...
Posted by Claudette Haynes on 03/04/19
As a certified trainer, I can certainly attest to the premise of this plan. I find that when I teach vs. train, I receive a very different response from the participants to when I train vs. teach. Yes, I’ve discovered that there is a very big difference.
Posted by Dan Vis on 03/01/19
Looks like I missed a few posts, below. Sorry about that! :) But it's pretty clear this article strikes a common chord. I appreciate Danny's comment below about the combination of classroom teaching and clinical training in preparing nurses for their profession. That's much closer to what we need in the church. Good post!
Posted by Nancy on 10/31/18
Yes, i can relate, learning from others who have walked the path before you is helpful, but putting things into practice is getting the training that is needed.
Posted by Linda on 10/24/18
I can definitely relate the this story. To be successful in discipleship you truly have to be trained.
Posted by Danny on 10/21/18
Yes, I can relate to the story very well. I am a nurse teacher. In nursing, I give my students theoretical knowledge. After that, we apply theoretical knowledge in the clinical area and showing students how those concepts they learned can be applied while taking care of their patients. They do these things repeatedly while in the clinical area until they can do it on their own. This is how it should be when teaching on how to study the Bible. Looking forward to the class.
Posted by Lillian E. Cepeda on 07/18/17
I am very sure I will enjoy the Bible Class.

In reference to my Mom, unfortunately, she has gotten to a point where she can no longer take care of herself. Everything is in God's hands now.
Thanks for caring!
Posted by Dan Vis on 07/16/17
Hope all goes well with your mom, Lillian. My prayers are with you. Excited to hear about your new study.

I mentioned it somewhere else, but thought I would repeat it here: our next challenge is going to be part of a future course I'm building on how to give Bible studies. I think you will enjoy it!
Posted by Lillian E. Cepeda on 07/15/17
Thanks Dan

Join the Discussion!

Want to read more articles, or leave a comment of your own? Please login. Not yet a member? Why not join our community...


About Us
Terms of Use
Privacy Policy
      Join the Mission
Leaders Council
Training Centers
Online Store


Copyright © FAST Missions. All rights reserved. Click here for sharing guidelines.