I've just finished reading the recently released third part in the "Inheritance Cycle" - a book called "Brisingr" and greatly enjoyed it. Briefly it's a book about a young hero called Eragon who becomes a "Dragon Rider" and his realising that his destiny is to have to fight an evil king called Galbatorix - who is also a Dragon Rider. In many senses it has many similar themes to other fantasy and fiction novels (all of which I greatly love!). But the one theme that gripped me particularly in the reading of "Brisingr" is the theme that is ever so common in many novels - and it's that of the "teacher and pupil".
Here's a few of my other favourites - that prove my point. In "Starwars" - Luke Skywalker is mentored by firstly Ben Obi-Wan Kenobi and then by the Master Yoda. In "Lord of the Rings" - Frodo Baggins is mentored and cared for by the wizard Gandalf (with input from the elves Eldrond and Galadriel. In the "Matrix Trilogy" - the One Neo receives advice from the Oracle and from Morpheus. And of course the "Harry Potter" series - the young wizard Harry is accompanied by the formidable Headmaster Albus Dumbledore right through to the penultimate book.
In the "Inheritance Cycle" - Eragon spends some considerable time with another Elf Dragon Rider called Oromis and his dragon and then again some final training in the third book; "Brisingr". I was gripped by the account of the training. Much of the final preparation before Eragon is sent into battle involves talking which perhaps isn't very dramatic - but what gripped me was the vital relaying of information and experience. At the end of the book much to Eragon's surprise, Oromis and his dragon follow him into their own battle elsewhere.
So here's some of my thoughts about how these teacher/student themes may apply to the Kingdom of God;
1. Teachers are VITAL to the continuation of the Kingdom of God.
Jesus spent just 3 years in ministry and although those who preach and teach the gospel of salvation single out Jesus Christ's death on the Cross as central to everything (the "Gospel Song" is an example) - we also cannot forget that Jesus chose 12 disciples to spend those three years with Him. At the end of those 3 years He didn't just abandon them and go back to heaven. He commissioned them with a command to take the Gospel to the ends of the earth - He empowered them with the promise of the enduement of power from the Person of the Holy Spirit. That empowerment would enable those disciples to "do the works ... and greater works". But I'm jumping ahead of myself - those disciples had their lives changed FOREVER by being called by Jesus and those 3 years with Him. What He taught them in those 3 years was more than vital. What He taught them surely ensured the first step in the "spreading flame" of the Church that would come.
2. Teachers MUST make their students go FURTHER than them in the Kingdom of God.
One of my concerns with the gospel of salvation emphasis is that we are forgetting that Jesus Christ Himself said to His disciples; "It is BETTER for you that I go away". It's not blasphemous therefore to say we are in a far better position to have the outpoured Holy Spirit - because the Son of God said it Himself! So surely our responsibility is to remain ever grateful and ever worshipful for what Jesus Christ did in that key moment on Calvary. As a matter of fact I was at the gym yesterday and was listening to Whitney Houston's incredible; "One Moment in Time" and I feel that God spoke to me very powerfully about "that moment" when the veil was torn in two. I'm just praying about it to see whether it is something to share publicly or just for me.
But the theme that goes throughout the novels. Eragon, Harry Potter, Frodo - they all spent this absolutely invaluable time with their mentors and teachers and fathers - Gandalf, Dumbledore, Oromis. But there comes a point when the teaching is done and the mentoring is over and the students have to step out on their own and all of them face a moment of loneliness and absolute vulnerability. There's a key moment in "Brisingr" where Oromis stuns Eragon even further. Eragon has just learnt that his mentor Oromis will go to war. He says;
"But if you die" said Eragon, feeling very small, "and yet we still succeed in killing Galbatorix and freeing the last dragon egg, who will train that dragon and his rider?". Oromis surprised Eragon by reaching out and clasping him by the shoulder. "If that should come to pass" said the elf, his face very grave, "Then it will be your responsibility, Eragon ... to instruct the new dragon and Rider in the ways of our order".
There comes a moment when the student must realise that the time has come for him to become a teacher or mentor or father. And surely any teacher that doesn't push their students to go further and accomplish more in the Kingdom of God than they are falling a little short of what they could be doing.
3. Teachers CANNOT simply lecture theoretical knowledge ... it MUST be impartations of power.
One of my favourite insights into the role of the apostle came from Dave Holden. He said that apostles have;
"To impart the Holy Spirit. This could be introducing people to the baptism in the Holy Spirit, or enabling a church to have fresh encounters of the Holy Spirit. It may also be signs and wonders. Apostolic ministry is far more to do with impartation than administration".
Surely any professor of theology can sit and absorb text book after text book and then re-hash it in a classroom. Surely any student of theology can sit in the said classroom and write notebook after notebook and sit an exam and then declare himself or herself "trained in theology". There is a massive difference between that and the true teachers in the Word of God - and indeed in my favourite novels. How so?
Jesus Christ "breathed upon" His disciples and said; "Receive the Holy Spirit". I realise that there are different theological views on whether anything actually was imparted when He breathed on them (I personally think something did). But that aside - Jesus is known as the "Baptizer in the Holy Spirit". It was His ascension and glorification that meant the Holy Spirit could be poured out. Jesus was a teacher who imparted power and encounter. Even Paul the great apostle to the Gentiles knew far more about spiritual life than just theoretical knowledge. He had 3rd heaven encounters, he saw miracles and signs and wonders. And any student of his would have known that and would have learnt the secrets of staying fresh in the supernatural.
In my novels? Well as I mentioned in "Brisingr" - I was gripped by reading the vital conversations that occured between Eragon and Oromis. The young Eragon learned some vital secrets that could mean the difference between success and failure. But I wasn't expecting the climax of the book. It read something like this;
"Saphira descended towards the clearing by Oromis's pinewood house, where Glaedr and Oromis stood waiting for them. Eragon was startled to see that Glaedr was wearing a saddle nestled between two of the towering spikes on his back and that Oromis was garbed in heavy travelling robes of blue and green, over which he wore a corslet of golden scale armour ... a tall, diamond-shape shield was slung across his back, an archaic helm rested in the crook of his left arm and around his waist was belted his bronze-coloured sword Naegling".
I got a shiver of excitement when I read that! The teacher is going to war. It reminds me of something Rob Rufus said;
"Let me say this - I strongly believe with many others that I have studied and investigated who have got such wonderful results - I don't listen to theologians who talk about healing and who are not seeing the sick healed. I'm not interested in them - they are not producing the fruit then I am not listening to their doctrine. Because they are eating from the tree of knowledge of good and evil not from the tree of life".
I have to say that the only teacher I can really relate to in this manner was my pastor Dr Stanley Jebb - with whom I was so SO fortunate to be able to go and visit for some months a few years ago. Now Dr Jebb was and is a theologian par excellence (my big regret being that he hasn't put any of his teaching into print). And admittedly a lot of the time we spent together, he was lecturing me and teaching me. But the amazing practical impartation came from hearing him pray. What a man of prayer!
So ... for those who have been blessed to sit under teachers and fathers. Count yourselves blessed. But remember - we must go further than our teachers! Are your teachers imparting power to you? Are your teachers taking part in spiritual warfare? And above all - don't forget. The day is coming when YOU may have to teach and father others too. The Kingdom of heaven is waiting to break out on Planet Earth!