Why the Teacher and the Exhorter Need Each Other


My primary gift is exhorter. One of the giveaways is that I write a blog in which I give people simple steps towards inner healing. That is what we exhorters do. We try to motivate everyone around us to get to know Jesus with these five simple steps! And we know it will work because it worked for us. When it comes to believing in others, we tend to be a bit gullible. But hey, that’s what makes us effective. We believe what we preach.

But the free-spirited exhorter runs into issues pretty easily. We tell a lot of stories and we don’t mind using a verse or so out of context if it seems to further our point. After all, our theology tends toward the practical. Understanding exactly how the atonement works doesn’t matter as much as making sure people are growing spiritually, right?

It isn’t that we don’t know scripture. We pore over it looking for the answers about how to live the abundant life Christ promises. But our focus is exhorteroften on the subjective, experiential and intimate relationship with God. And because we are such motivationally minded, more often than not we find our way into the teaching profession. You know us. We are the fun, popular teachers. Probably better not to focus too much on what we accomplish in the classroom. But one thing is for sure. Our students leave believing in themselves because we believe in them.

All of this is why I am so glad I married a teacher. Contrary to popular opinion, teachers are not always in the teaching profession. They are lawyers and accountants, executives and editors. And we exhorters can drive them crazy. Where we are vague on the details but big on theexhorter concepts, teachers like to assemble all the information available. Methodically they delve into doctrinal points and can debate all of the various end-time tribulation positions with depth.

Teachers like knowledge for knowledge’s own sake. Exhorters want to know how to fix problems. But both really benefit from each other. Teachers tend to get bogged down in their own data overloads. But they keep the feet of exhorters firmly planted on the ground.  Exhorters can start big projects. Teachers finish them.

Exhorters are sometimes impulsive. Teachers rarely are. We need each other to act as a counterbalance for one another. I am often so grateful for my husband’s input when it comes to my posts. He steers me away from any inaccuracy. I spread hope. He understands realistic expectations. Both have very important roles in encouraging growth in others.

But to be honest, it is because we need each other that our gifts can sometimes chafe at one another. I say embarrassingly transparent things, ready to immolate myself on the altar of someone else’s growth. I have had to learn discretion. (Well, still learning that one). One of my favorite times with the Lord was when I was complaining to Him about my big mouth. He told me But I am going to use your big mouth. It was very comforting. I have had to learn, however, not to always go for the laugh. So. Hard.

But my husband has his own trials. He gets bogged down in the minutiae. If I ask him to chop an onion, by the time he is finished dicing it into a thousand uniform pieces, dinner is done. He absorbs facts for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. And sometimes, he relies a lot on his fine mind rather than the subtler promptings of the Holy Spirit.

Iron sharpens iron the saying goes. I have always thought that was a poetic way to say that married couple can really irritate each other. But the truth is that we have helped each other to polish the spiritual pearls that God has given us.

When I give too much of my time away and start moving towards burnout, he gently nudges me back home. When his mind keeps him busy hunting down arguments, I nudge him back into relationship. The needy exhorter and the pre-occupied teacher must meet in the middle. I laugh at the things we have taught each other.

I am now an organized (for the most part) housekeeper. He kept telling me I needed a system. I thought I just needed to somehow get motivated. He was right. I use the Flylady and now my house is reasonably clean. When we got married, he showed me his five-year goals. My exhorter reaction was What are these things called goals you speak of? I have three or four goals now. Don’t push me. I’m doing what I can do.

And he has learned how to move in relationship. He puts people ahead of ideas. He doesn’t just theorize about what a good husband or father is; he lives it. I invite him into spontaneity and he keeps us safe. I may be the fun one, but he is the one that people go to when they need solid information. That is why he runs medical practices. If anyone can wrangle doctors, he can. He speaks their language.

My heart says We can do this. You can make it! His heart says This is what you need to know to be successful.

Every gift comes with its weaknesses. Exhorters tend to be fixers. We sometimes see people as projects, until, that is, we mature out of our tendency towards codependency. Teachers can be critical, maybe a tad arrogant. A mature teacher doesn’t see ignorance as stupidity but as an opportunity to inform.

An immature exhorter thinks his or her charisma is more than the personality trait that it is. I have come to view charisma as a bit dangerous. It can exhorterlead to a power trip. But then so can too much knowledge lead to pride. But in God’s wonderful economy, He so often pairs exhorters and teachers, especially in marriage. It is the fastest way to cure each of their flaws. That is if they participate. Teachers aren’t fooled by personality and exhorters force teachers to apply what they know.

Paul was an exhorter. I think he would not have written as much as he did if he was not regularly imprisoned. I know that my life circumstances have been confining enough to make writing doable for the first time in my busy life. Luke was a historian. The most accurate gospel, he takes us through carefully factual events. We need both in the church. If you are a teacher, take some time to appreciate that flighty exhorter. Exhorters touch people’s hearts. And if you are an exhorter, the best thing you can give a teacher is an attentive discussion. Teachers show people truth.

8 Replies to “Why the Teacher and the Exhorter Need Each Other”

  1. Teachers come in all sizes, shapes, professions and in many other ways. 🙂 We have opportunities to learn lessons from each other.

  2. Sarah Sundin says: Reply

    Wonderful post! I’m a teacher, and I was drawn to this post by the title – because I’ve found I have a lot of exhorters in my life. Not only do I need them to draw me out of books and into the real world, but they perform another vital function. Many teachers have melancholy personalities – I’m one of them. It’s easy for me to get discouraged or down and tell myself all sorts of awful things. Exhorters cheer me up! They say nice things to me – and true things. Their cheer and optimism are vital in my life, and I admire those traits and crave them. So thank you, exhorters! You do important work.

  3. Heather Hart says: Reply

    I have traits of both the exhorted and the teacher, which means I need someone else to hold me accountable. To either come up with the idea for me to help them finish, or to push me to finish my own. But I definitely know I need others.

  4. My favorite style of preaching is from an exhorter/teacher. The resulting sermons are convicting and powerful. We definitely need people with these spiritual gifts working together as brothers and sisters in the body of Christ.

  5. What a interesting post! I can see parts of my husband and I in being teacher/exhorter too. You’ve given me many thoughts to ponder!

  6. My husband is a teacher and I’m a bit of both depending upon the situation. We certainly balance each other out!

  7. This was totally amazing. You had me laughing outloud about the cut up onion into uniform-sized pieces when the rest of supper was already done. I loved your comparisons. So true. I’m a teacher but have some exhorter in me too.

  8. Thank you for sharing – your words spoke into my life and provided a new perspective of our marriage of 40+ years.

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