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Teaching vs Training

By Dan Vis
March 04, 2019
Comments: 66

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.”

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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.”

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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?

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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
Posted by Lillian E. Cepeda on 07/15/17
I am beginning to work with a family. Please pray for them. I am also talking to my neighbor. For now, it's interrupted due to an emergency / my mother is critically ill. I am traveling there now.
Blessings! And pray for these people.
Posted by Dan Vis on 07/14/17
Glad this was a blessing, Chidinma, Vani, and Kathy. If you haven't already, make sure you sign up for the Blueprint class. It goes into how we can transform our churches into training centers in even greater detail.

Lillian, that's a beautiful picture of seeing everyone who learns some skill instantly going and sharing it with others. If we all did that, how rapidly the church might grow!
Posted by Kathy Rosenberger on 07/12/17
I have never heard this concept put so clearly and simply. It has helped me greatly. Thank you.
Posted by Lillian E. Cepeda on 07/10/17
This topic brought to mind the story found in the Book of Acts 8:26-4026 And the angel of the Lord spake unto Philip, saying, Arise, and go toward the south unto the way that goeth down from Jerusalem unto Gaza, which is desert. 27 And he arose and went: and, behold, a man of Ethiopia, an eunuch of great authority under Candace queen of the Ethiopians, who had the charge of all her treasure, and had come to Jerusalem for to worship, 28 Was returning, and sitting in his chariot read Esaias the prophet. 29 Then the Spirit said unto Philip, Go near, and join thyself to this chariot. 30 And Philip ran thither to him, and heard him read the prophet Esaias, and said, Understandest thou what thou readest? 31 And he said, How can I, except some man should guide me? And he desired Philip that he would come up and sit with him. 32 The place of the scripture which he read was this, He was led as a sheep to the slaughter; and like a lamb dumb before his shearer, so opened he not his mouth: 33 In his humiliation his judgment was taken away: and who shall declare his generation? for his life is taken from the earth. 34 And the eunuch answered Philip, and said, I pray thee, of whom speaketh the prophet this? of himself, or of some other man? 35 Then Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same scripture, and preached unto him Jesus. 36 And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water: and the eunuch said, See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized? 37 And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. 38 And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him. 39 And when they were come up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip, that the eunuch saw him no more: and he went on his way rejoicing. 40 But Philip was found at Azotus: and passing through he preached in all the cities, till he came to Caesarea., the Ethiopian Eunuch reading in the Book of Isaiah 53, and the Holy Spirit sent Phillip to explain it to him.

How wonderful it would be that after taking the training, the Holy Spirit takes control and help us train others too. I do know that the Holy Spirit is our Helper, because Jesus sent Him. The more we learn,memorize, and study the Scriptures, the better equipped we are to teach and train others.
Posted by Vani Kaisuva on 07/10/17
Very clear. Thank you. Pray the Lord will keep the above in mind as I continue to minister.
Posted by Chidinma Jenny Ukoh on 07/08/17
This is really eye-opening. Thank you for this site. God bless.
Posted by Dan Vis on 07/05/17
That's the difference exactly, isn't it Carole. Not just telling someone what to do but showing them how... And it applies to some many areas beside just Bible reading. Thanks for the comment!
Posted by Carole Bliss on 07/04/17
Telling one to "read the Bible" and showing them how, is so important.
Even at my age, I am learning to go slower, and digest each word, instead of reading a chapter, just to say, I read a chapter.
Thank-you for this training series.

Posted by Angie Leimena on 07/04/17
Thank you Dan. I am encouraged.
Posted by Dan Vis on 07/04/17
Great posts everyone. Joyce, I think you described the process of training quite well. Kendra, so happy you are having such a wonderful experience.

Angie, you are right. Leadership is so important. I'm sure God will use you as you continue to look for opportunities to share. Stay encouraged! :)

I talk more about the process of training in our Blueprint challenge. Hope you all get a chance to take that...
Posted by Angie Leimena on 07/04/17
It is very essential to have training skills to practice what the Bible says, and manifest genuine true results. Yet in my church surrounding, the response to invitation to join training seems unappealing. Have tried to give them inserts in bulletin about join a fast training, but no results so far. Seems it requires a permanent standby leader to demonstrate excitement, and proven results in order to contaminate. I do not have such leader, GOD willing there will be more young people joining the church plant. As for me I am very thankful to Fast ministry even I am not good enough.
Posted by Kendra Jumbo on 07/04/17
This is really true. Bible study used to be very boring for me until Elder Johnny Wong taught me how and how to memorize scripture. Since then, every word in the Bible seems so fresh and new. I hope God uses us to teach others. Thanks for this post.
Posted by Joyce Augustinis on 07/03/17
I believe what is involved in passing on a skill is first working with the person to show them how, even doing it with them for a few times. Then let them try it themselves and don't worry about mistakes. You can keep giving them tips. After a while they will become more skilled until they themselves can train someone else.
Posted by Sherry Olson on 04/27/17
I too love the swimming analogy, it really showed the difference between teaching and training.
I was baptized in 2001, and no one ever offered to sit with me and teach me how to study the Bible, I cannot leave home to go to Bible college to learn, which seemed to be what a lot of people do. And I always wondered why we didn't have something like that in our churches.
Thank you so much for your dedication Pastor Dan.
Stella, your children are the Lord's vineyard; after you have trained them up in the way they should go, you will have fined tuned your skills to continue your work for the Lord! (Sorry, I need to go back and figure out how to tag someone, just cannot remember how to do it!) God is rejoicing over you Stella :)
Clarris, I think you hit it on the head, a lot preaching at our youth, not training them.(my grandkids informed me that I "lecture"; now I know what I need to do) If they were trained in these important skills they would be less likely to leave the Shepherd's fold.
The grace of our Lord Jesus be with you all!
Posted by Dan Vis on 04/19/17
Thank you Wendelina! Appreciate your kind words. Stella Tigere, if you haven't signed up yet for the Journey, that's the best place to go to get training in all these areas. Ton's of great content there for anyone else who wants more.
Posted by Wendelina P Deligero on 04/17/17
Wow, another gem of thought. I did conduct some bible studies, sit with members, but those were just teaching. It's much different from what were doing at FAST. THANK YOU SO MUCH for conceiving it. GOD BE PRAISED ! I've been through with a number of discipleship training. FAST is different.

More so, you continue to feed us with spiritual gems to keep our hearts burning.

May God continue to mightily use you.
Posted by Stella Tigere on 04/17/17
I can certainly identify with the above comments I was born into an Adventist family, educated in an Adventist school and worked most of my early years in an Adventist school. All through out my experience I have been told/taught not trained. I would really love to learn how to study the Bible, mediated, pray and fast. I am grateful for FAST I have now learnt how to memorise and retain scriptures. Please direct me to the rightful class so I can learn and also be a trainer firstly to my children then in the Lord' s vineyard..
Posted by Lisa West on 04/16/17
Fast4god! Wow! I had a wonderful Christian mother who instilled in us biblical truths but after reading your article I've realized that she taught but didn't train. At least I don't remember that part!! Even praying had been somewhat of a struggle.....getting fulfillment; satisfaction; a sense of "wow, my prayer was really heard, I can feel it!" Your comment of telling someone what to do, but not showing them how only creates frustration, guilt, and a sense of failure really hit home.

I pray the God continues to bless you in your mission to teach AND train others. Thank you!!!
Posted by Dan Vis on 04/15/17
Hi Qing! Great post! I like what you put about companionship and "doing" things together. We are so prone to teach classes rather than train people. There's a huge difference, isn't there?
Posted by Jacqueline on 04/15/17
I want to be able to teach and train
Posted by Colette Guthrie on 04/14/17
Amen Qing. F - A - S - T trainees!
Posted by Qing Ling on 04/14/17
Colette you mention one of the essential components of training - time.
Helene you give a very good example of HOW effective training happens- through POSITIVE experience in COMPANIONSHIP, both trainer and trainee doing it TOGETHER.

Most of all, as trainers discipling/training others, we need to pray for our trainees and let the Holy Spirit bring conviction into their hearts and empower them to be Faithful, Available, Spiritual, Teachable :)
Posted by Dan Vis on 04/13/17
Clarris, it is true--we could do a better job of incorporating more training into our schools. It's not easy, and many teachers try, but we could definitely be more intentional about it!

I pray God blesses your efforts Ruth! It's definitely more work to train someone, but the rewards are worth it. Let us know how it goes.

David, it will be great to have you as a partner, and we would love to see your church get on board too. We have some big things plan for our training centers later this year. It would be good to start getting people plugged in now. Thanks for your kind words!
Posted by David Jeffrey Grabe on 04/12/17
Greetings to all in our Lovely Saviour's Name!
Thank you Pastor Dan, for "...setting in order these things we are lacking"... (Titus 1:5For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed thee:). As a Bible Instructor for several years, these two (teaching & training) have somehow eluded my understanding and more often than not, I have confused them for each other! No wonder, as you said, "telling someone what to do, but not showing them how only creates frustration, guilt, and a sense of failure." This Memo has spoken to me & clearly shows the path I need to take! I shared the FAST Mission Program to our church board-and they are "on board" to implement the resources that are here. I will purchase a single membership today, & will get the Church membership Training Program soon! Thank you again everyone for your shared thoughts, vision, and commitment to Discipleship! I will be, "putting a stronger focus on training that will create disciples who are fulfilled, competent and successful."
Blessings to all Exodus 33:14And he said, My presence shall go with thee, and I will give thee rest.
Posted by Ruth Mea Paun on 04/12/17
It is so very clear the difference between teaching and training! And I had never really thought about this or try to understand the difference before. I have been telling my Sabbath School Class to get involve in the TMI but have not really train them how.
I will take some class time to train them how to conduct small group bible study and how to memorize scriptures starting with the memory verse.
Posted by Clarris Magadza on 04/11/17
I really can relate to this. I have always heard people saying you must study the word and meditate upon it but, I was never shown or told how. It's only now when I did the BMC that I learnt what medidation means.
As I read the lesson above, it got me thinking about a lot of students who learn at our church schools but end up leaving the church or getting involved in crime or some other serious mischief. Could it be that our institutions are doing a lot of teaching and very little training???
Posted by Dan Vis on 04/11/17
Hi Bryn! Words are slippery things sometimes. I'm sure even today, there's a lot of things that are somewhere between the two--it's not really a black or white thing. I perhaps over simplified things for the sake of illustration.

I had a similar experience Leslie. So surprised there was so little available when I first started out. So I set my life goal to try and fill that gap. Thank you for the call to share FAST with others.

Hi Rhonda! Great to see a comment from you. :)
Posted by Rhonda D. Coleman on 04/11/17
I liked the analogy of the swim class. I find that I learn better by having a skill demonstrated than just reading about how to do it.
Posted by Ajay Nenavathu on 04/11/17
Hi Leslie
Thanks for the link
Posted by Leslie Caza on 04/10/17
I was an Adventist for years and never thought about discipleship until my children's Baptist piano teacher shared a discipleship booklet with us. It was refreshing! I wondered why SDAs didn't have anything like this. We are very good and organized with teaching doctrine and have many Bible study sets, mostly all teaching basically the same information. All good, but not enough.

Then I found FAST. I asked people in our church if they felt they had ever been discipled. I got something like this for an answer, "Yes, I went to an evangelistic series."

So it seems that perhaps we're not training because we don't even seem to recognize the need.

I'm so thankful for FAST materials and for Johnny Wong's materials as well from

Let's spread the word as this is needed by all of us. The blessing needs to be brought to the front so others can see the need.
Posted by Bryn Jones on 04/10/17
A relevant and needed post, thank you. Like a lot of words, definitions and meanings change over time.
One hundred years ago, teaching involved training.
Eg. "Give a man a fish and feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and feed him for a lifetime."
Posted by Dan Vis on 04/10/17
Dixie, using a good lexicon can definitely help! And comparing Scripture with Scripture can definitely help increase our theological understanding. Meditation with a view towards personal application involves other skills however. We'll be focusing on those in Basic Training.

Ann, my daughter just got a dog. It's been interesting watching her learn to train the pup. Definitely involves more than just telling her to do something!

I'm ready to go back and rewrite For Such A Time right now! :) Thanks Ajay!
Posted by Pamela Kendall on 04/10/17
I can relate. I really appreciate the training aspect of FAST classes-instruction in how to meditate on scripture has been very helpful. I'm looking forward to instruction in how to pray in a meaningful way as well as time management. Thanks for this helpful article explaining the difference between teaching and training and for all the great education provided here at FAST-especially the practical "how to" training aspect!

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