Evangelicals know that theology matters, and we’re quick to remind others of this fact. What we’re not so quick to acknowledge is the focus of this blogpost: we do a poor job of teaching the very theology we claim is so important. Consider these steps for teaching theology in your church:
- Don’t assume that church members don’t care about beliefs. It’s precisely because people do care about beliefs that they turn to places and people other than the church for their belief system. Where the church fails, somebody else fills the void.
- Realize that attending worship and small groups does not automatically lead to doctrinal fidelity. To be clear, good doctrinal training does not happen apart from preaching and teaching the Word. However, our church members don’t typically hear our teaching and automatically connect the dots to form a biblical theology. Teaching good theology must happen intentionally.
- Begin in the home. Teach parents biblical doctrine, and then help them teach their own children accordingly. Our churches should work in cooperation with parents—not replace them—in teaching theology to the next generation.
- Include basic theology in a required membership class. Capitalize on the enthusiasm of new members by teaching early the inerrancy and authority of the Bible. Show why the exclusivity of Christ is non-negotiable. Talk about the necessity of the death of Christ. Build the theological foundation early, and build it well.
- Take advantage of doctrine studies. We don’t need to “reinvent the wheel” to teach theology. Case in point, Lifeway Christian Resources has developed The Gospel Project (“theological yet practical, age-appropriate Bible studies that immerse your entire church in the story of the gospel”[i]). Plan extensively, promote well, and prioritize this type of study.
- Raise the bar for small group leaders who teach the Word. We must hold group leaders accountable to holy living, sound doctrine, and good teaching. There is simply no excuse for allowing untrained, unfaithful, or boring teachers to drain the life out of Bible and doctrine studies.
- Preach an annual doctrine series. You might preach a series of sermons over one doctrine, or you might cover several doctrines—but either way, include this annual series in your preaching calendar. Lead your church to want to study more.
- Take advantage of what seminaries offer. For example, Southeastern Seminary (where I teach) offers a free online theology course and a fee-based certificate-level theology course to help church members grow. Let us help you as you train your church!
- Be willing to start with the few. Just as Jesus did, focus on the few rather than the many. For example, invite a few men to join you in studying theology one morning each week. Give them the Bible and a basic theology textbook, and I think you’ll be surprised by their interest.
What would you add to this list?