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Fisher of Men

Teachability (2019)

Teachability (2019)

I’ve written in the past about the five “C’s” I look for when hiring staff or inviting volunteers into strategic leadership roles: competence, character, catalytic ability, chemistry and calling.

But in various settings, I’ve found myself talking increasingly about the defining character trait of those who pass those five and grow with an organization—the defining mark of someone who truly succeeds. I don’t mean the world’s definition of success, but those who make a mark for the Kingdom and who stretch toward their full redemptive potential as an ambassador for Christ.

It’s “teachability.”

Not sure that’s a word, but it works for me.

It means someone who is (obviously) teachable. This is more than being able to learn, but being willing to learn. Eager to learn. Desiring to learn. 

And what does it take to be teachable?


The pride that keeps someone from being teachable is one of the subtlest forms of pride there is, and I’ve seen it take root and keep many people from developing into who and what they most needed to become.

So let’s tease this one out.

Here are a series of questions to ask yourself:

Do you…

… eagerly seek counsel?

… have a sense of entitlement—that you should be given position, prominence or platform?

… fly across the country to give a sermon, but never walk across the street to hear one?

… automatically assume you pretty much know everything about what it is you currently do?

… put what you do before others for review?  

… work to be genuinely open to new ideas and perspectives, as opposed to simply shutting down or arguing against them?

… look to be intentionally mentored and coached?

Notice the questions I didn’t ask. I didn’t ask whether you are reading the trendiest titles, visiting the hippest websites or availing yourself of the most cutting-edge blogs. 

You can be doing all of those things and not be teachable.

My questions were aimed at attitude. At spirit. At the humility necessary for teachability.

Because in the end, teachability isn’t about learning.

It’s about knowing you need to.

James Emery White

Editor’s Note

This blog was originally published in 2014, and the Church & Culture Team thought you would enjoy reading it again.

About the Author

James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and the ranked adjunct professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, where he also served as their fourth president. His latest book, Meet Generation Z: Understanding and Reaching the New Post-Christian World, is available on Amazon. To enjoy a free subscription to the Church & Culture blog, visit, where you can view past blogs in our archive and read the latest church and culture news from around the world. Follow Dr. White on TwitterFacebook and Instagram

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