Summer is almost upon us!
If you've got some extra time over the next couple of months - maybe you're traveling a bit, or your summer schedule allows you more time to read for other reasons, or you just want some book recommendations as you maintain a habit of reading - here are a few books you may want to consider. These are books that I've either read recently myself, or am hoping to dig into in the next couple of months.
I encourage you to explore these books a bit (each is looked to their Amazon page where you can learn more) and jump in - the water's fine!
Every now and then I try to take some time and reflect on why the intentional teaching ministry of the church remains important. Whatever shape it takes, why is equipping and a teaching in the church, for the church, and by the church valuable?
At least one reason is the growth of secularism, pluralism, and "indifferentism" in America. Very simply stated, secularism is a worldview that pushes God to the margins. It's fine to believe in God on your own, the secularist may say, just don't bring any religious ideas or reasoning into the public square. Pluralism flows out of the reality that we are surrounded by people who believe very different things than than us - and it often goes a step further to say the no one religion can be exclusively true. "Indifferentism" (this is my term, I think) tries to explain the religious apathy of the "nones" and "dones" - those who adhere to no single religious expression (the "nones") or those who have "tried out" some religion and - for whatever reason - didn't stick with it.
So what does all this have to do with catechesis - an intentional and systematic approach to teaching in the local church? Here's what:
This is an updated/revised version of a post I originally wrote on October 14, 2014, "Theology: A Mosaic of Four Pictures."
In previous posts, I've written a fair amount on WHAT theology is and WHY it's valuable. I've linked to a number of these at the end.
In this post, though, I want to go a step further and try to bring the "what" and the "why" together in a few mental images that I hope come to people's minds as they consider theology. After all, the pictures we paint in our minds about certain topics play a BIG role in how we approach those topics, whether we see them as positive or negative, etc.
With that in mind, here are 5 pictures that I want you to bring to mind when you think about theology. These five images should be taken together and - when done so - show us more about what theology is and why theology really is that important.
All of us are theologians - we all think about God, have some conception of what the future holds, try to articulate what's wrong with us (and around us), and more.
So why is theology important? Because we all do it. We're ALL theologians.
Few people capture this as well as C.S. Lewis. Listen to what he says:
Everyone has warned me not to tell you what I am going to tell you… They all say 'the ordinary reader does not want Theology; give him plain practical religion.' I have rejected their advice. I do not think the ordinary reader is such a fool. Theology means 'the science of God,' and I think any man who wants to think about God at all would like to have the clearest and most accurate ideas about Him which are available. You are not children: why should you be treated like children? "Theology is practical. Everyone reads, everyone hears things discussed. Consequently, if you do not listen to Theology, that will not mean that you have no ideas about God. It will mean that you have a lot of wrong ones – bad, muddled, out-of-date ideas. For a great many of the ideas about God which are trotted out as novelties today, are simply the ones which real Theologians tried centuries ago and also rejected. To believe in the popular religion of modern England [or America] is retrogression – like believing the earth is flat."
Retiring a Jersey: Gregg Allison on the Importance and Role of Christian Education in the Life of the Church
If you ever check out the footer of this site, where we highlight the top 5 posts of the previous month, you'll have seen "Gregg Allison on the Importance and Role of Christian Education in the Local Church" has been on a #1 streak for a while (a long while!). And it's understandable why. Allison's excerpt resonates so closely with values that keep people coming back to this Brookside Institute site: multiplying ideas for equipping the church, theological formation, and more. (If you've not checked out the post, you can do so here.)
So as a nod of honor to Allison's material, I'm officially going to "retire the jersey." I'll leave the post just as it is on the site and will create a "retired jersey" category in the top posts section of this site's footer. However, moving forward I'll no longer include it in numbers 1-5 of each month's top post (even it continues to dominate the website "hits" for individual posts), thus allowing room for other posts.
Interested in other posts that have gotten a lot of traffic on this site recently? Click here to check 'em out!
As the Brookside Institute works to build and reinforce foundations of the Christain faith, one of the things we keep coming back to is theological formation. And that means I'm always on the lookout for places that champion the value of robut theology.
I found support for strong theology in a place I didn't expect earlier this week: in an article by David Millard Haskill titled "Liberal Churches are Dying. But Conservative Churches are Thriving." The whole article is worth reading - I encourage you to check it out. But I wanted to simple include a few key quotes from the article here:
Over the last five years, my colleagues and I conducted a study of 22 mainline congregations in the province of Ontario. We compared those in the sample that were growing mainline congregations to those that were declining. After statistically analyzing the survey responses of over 2,200 congregants and the clergy members who serve them, we came to a counterintuitive discovery: Conservative Protestant theology, with its more literal view of the Bible, is a significant predictor of church growth while liberal theology leads to decline. The results were published this month in the peer-reviewed journal, Review of Religious Research" (bold emphasis added).
Or a little further down:
Outside our research, when growing churches have been identified by other studies — nationally and internationally — they have been almost exclusively conservative in doctrine. As we explain in our academic work, because of methodological limitations, these other studies did not link growth to theology. But our work suggests this is a fruitful avenue of research to pursue" (bold emphasis added).
The bottom line? This research supports the case that theology matters. And strong theology actually bears fruit and leads to health (rather than the opposite). Let's keep at it!
You May Also be Interested In...
Based on the number of "hits" each month, here are the top 5 posts here on the Brookside Institute blog for the last six months - June 2016 through December 2016. Take a minute to scroll through the list below and either catch up on things you may have missed or revisit things that were especially helpful.
Christmas is officially five days away (!!), and that means many of us are considering last minute gift ideas for others in our lives. If you're looking for ideas for the "reader" you know, here are six accessible suggestions based on books I've read and recommend, or books that are very much on my radar screen to read soon.
Each of these suggestions has been recently published (in the last 2-3 years) and will be linked to an Amazon page where you can learn more. You'll see they're listed under 6 categories that I try and stay loosely tethered to:
What other books (in any of these categories listed above) would you suggest people consider? List 'em here!
2 Timothy 4:1-3 is a great "go to" passage for preaching. Listen to what Paul says:
1 In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: 2 Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. 3 For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.
There are all sorts of reasons this passage shouldn't be overlooked by those who preach. The importance of preaching is clearly highlighted: Paul's command in verse 2 is to PREACH THE WORD. That simple command drives this passage. If you look closely, this passage highlights the gravity of preaching (v. 1), its importance (v. 3), and different ingredients that will make their way into our preaching over the course of time ("correct, rebuke, and encourage"). All of these things are worth thinking about.
But the place I want to focus is on the two "qualifiers" that Paul mentions at the end of v. 2. As we "preach the Word," we're to do so with "great patience" and "careful instruction." I'm worried that these important qualifiers can be too easily lost by some who want to focus exclusively on other parts of this passage, and so let's look briefly at each of these, as we factor them into our preaching (and teaching).
Recently I had the privilege of presenting at a Teacher In-Service for Cornerstone Christian School in the Bellevue, NE area. The topic I was asked to teach on was "The Need for Biblical Truth."
Here's an edited form of my first major point: Why does biblical truth need my attention?
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