Why Did So Much of Christ’s Teaching Occur in the Outdoors?

Wilderness Trip Group Discussion in Romania

“I have led more than 35 groups of young people (group sizes averaging 10-15) on week-long wilderness journeys, encompassing over 365 days of leading and equipping in the context of outdoor adventure. These trips have spanned North America and 10 other countries, and that number continues to grow. We have observed that although the how, what, and why of Jesus’ teaching is vastly important, it is often the where, to whom, and when, of His teaching that fuels radical change of heart. In other words, being aware of the setting in which Jesus taught is just as important as understanding the form of His teaching. Timing and environment are critical elements in the learning process. Yet most contemporary paradigms of teaching focus only on style of communication. The emphasis in training Christian leaders is on acquiring speaking skills to effectively capture people’s imagination through intelligent rhetoric. Yet the weakness in this paradigm is that most teaching today happens in contrived settings, i.e. a church building, Sunday school class, through television or video programs, etc.

When Jesus taught His disciples He did so in real settings that were in a constant state of flux. From what we can tell, His stories and illustrations were not usually contrived to just make a point, but rather He crafted His teaching to sow seeds of life into people’s hearts in the context of a real experience the audience was either currently experiencing, or had recently experienced. Their frame of reference was genuine and fresh.

I am particularly fascinated with how often Jesus took His disciples on journeys in order to facilitate teachable moments from situations that occurred. He taught along roads, in fields, in boats, in the Temple court, and while resting in gardens. I believe that if you look at the setting of His teaching and try to discern the impact of the experiential aspect of the learning process, you might discover fresher ways to reach the hearts of people today.”

Excerpt from Ashley Denton’s book, Christian Outdoor Leadership:  Theology, Theory, and Practice.