Every year my wife plants a big garden, and we look forward to all the fruit of that garden throughout the summer and into the Fall. She plants lettuce and tomatoes and peppers and whole lot of other things.
But we also know that if we’re going to eat the fruit of the garden, we need to actively be dealing with the weeds in the garden. Because weeds will steal light and nutrients from the plants we want to grow. Weeds crowd out space you want for the crops to flourish.
Dealing with weeds is a struggle. It’s work! But it’s worth it.
In Colossians 3:5-11, the Apostle Paul tells us to make sure we're dealing with the weeds in our garden. Listen to what he says:
5 Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality,impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. 6 Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. 7 You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. 8 But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. 9 Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. 11 Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.
In his recent book, Preaching: Communicating Faith in an Age of Skepticism, author and pastor Timothy Keller summarizes the storyline of the Bible - climaxing in the sending and sacrifice of Jesus Christ - in a helpful way. And all in about 300 words. (306, to be exact.)
His summary is too good to pass up. I've included it here (from p. 58 of his Preaching book):
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 "What is Moralistic Therapeutic Deism? And How Does it Stack Up against Biblical Christianity?" has been on a #1 streak for a while (a long while!). And it's understandable why.
Moralistic Therapeutic Deism (MTD) is often called the "default religion" of many Americans - whether they consciously articulate it or not. And MTD is definitely NOT a direct overlap of biblical Christianity. To understand the "background noise" that informs the perspective of many Americans - even American Christians - one needs to understand MTD.
If you've not checked out the post, you can do so here.
So as a nod to the popularity of this post, I'm officially going to "retire the jersey." I'll leave the post just as it is on the site and will include it in the "retired jersey" category of this site's "Library" page. However, moving forward I'll no longer include it in numbers 1-5 of each month's top posts (even though it continues to rank highly among 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!
Interested in seeing all of the "retired jersey" posts up to this point? Here they are:
I've mentioned a few times already on this site that theology is important in and for the life of the church, but that sound theology isn't the ONLY the thing a church should be concerned with. Here's one short excerpt from a previous post:
So a right theology is not enough - at least not if we define theology primarily in terms of what we KNOW at a cognitive level. We also need to respond rightly - with faith, trust, awe, worship, and obedience" (We NEED Sound Theology. And We Need MORE THAN Sound Theology.
We need to keep this mind - in all the ways this quote highlights and more.
But I also want to keep my foot on the gas pedal of the important - essential! - contribution that sound theology does make in and for the life of the local church.
I love how Keith Johnson brings this out in his recent Theology as Discipleship (p. 77). Read this slowly:
We practice theology in order to guide the church as it thinks and speaks about God. This work is our specific commission. God has given us the task of bringing order to the church's language, and this task puts in a position of service rather than superiority. We are responsible for directing the church so that its prayer, worship, and preaching correspond to God's being and character. Our goal is to help the church become confident that its claims about God are true so it can teach believers within the church - and proclaim the gospel to those outside the church - in grace and truth" (Keith L. Johnson, Theology as Discipleship, p. 77).
Let's not abandon this "specific commission" Johnson calls us to. We need to champion theology, we need to create space to read and study theology, and we need to teach theology. As we do this, our posture is one of service. Our goal is to faithfully align with God's self-revelation in the Bible (no more, but no less) to equip the church in her prayer, worship, preaching, service, and witness.
The local church needs the essential contribution theology makes.
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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 - January 2017 through June 2017. 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.
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!
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