In the model of a healthy church I mentioned in yesterday’s post (seen in the diagram above from my book, Discipled Warriors[i]), I argue that a strong theological foundation is non-negotiable for a healthy church. To build that foundation, though, takes intentionality. Here are some questions to ask about your church regarding this topic:
- Does your church emphasize the importance of theology? I realize that’s a simplistic first question, but that’s the point. If you don’t know for certain that your church emphasizes the significance of theology, they likely do not.
- Has your church taught you how to understand and interpret the Bible? Raising up disciples means helping them understand basic Bible hermeneutics so they can apply what the Word teaches. Folks who don’t know how to interpret the Word sometimes develop strange beliefs.
- Does your church have regularly-scheduled classes or emphases that focus on building a theological foundation? I’m thinking sermon series, small group studies, churchwide doctrinal studies, discipleship classes, and even university and seminary classes offered in conjunction with our local churches. There are a lot of options if theology matters to us.
- Do your church leaders talk in detail about your church’s doctrinal statement in the church’s membership class? Members who join without ever hearing that doctrinal fidelity matters to your church might conclude that it really doesn’t. Those who do learn what your church believes will, on the other hand, have to decide whether they are on board. That’s not a bad thing.
- How much attention does your church give to helping children and youth develop a strong theology? One of my PhD graduates at Southeastern Seminary has written and illustrated children’s theology books (see the set here), and he reminded me of the responsibility of parents and churches to train the next generations theologically. Our kids and teens face so many issues today that we must not neglect this responsibility.
- Does/do your pastor(s) point out theological truths as they preach the Word? I trust they do, but I’ve seen many pastors miss opportunities to teach theology from the pulpit. The preaching event may, in fact, be the opportunity to influence the greatest number of people in one setting.
- Does your church include theological questions when interviewing prospective pastors/elders? Deacons? How about small group leaders? Potential new members? Most churches I know ask questions of the first two groups, but not necessarily the second two groups. Those latter omissions can become problematic in the long run.
- Do your church leaders talk much about the relationship between what we believe and what we do? Good theology should lead to right living. I appreciate how one pastor describes theology: “It is not an exercise in head-scratching puzzles, but a discipline that should lead to heart-stirring emotions, which in turn leads to worshipful obedience in every area of life.”[ii]
Again, how do you evaluate your church in this area?
[i] Chuck Lawless, Discipled Warriors (Kregel, 2002), 26.
[ii] Matt Capps, “Why Theology Matters,” https://research.lifeway.com/2015/08/03/why-theology-matters/.