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 It will mean that you have a lot of wrong ones – bad, muddled, out-of-date ideas.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.
The weeks leading up to the coming of Christ are known as "Advent" in the Christian church - a period of waiting, anticipation, and reflection.
During this Advent Season, I've been reading through Tim Keller's Hidden Christmas: The Surprising Truth Behind the Birth of Christ as one way to foster personal relection on Jesus' coming to earth as a baby. (I'm not all the way through it yet, but I know enough to definitely recommend the book.)
In chapter three ("The Fathers of Jesus"), Keller reminds us what the incarnation (Christ coming to earth as a baby) is all about:
The incarnation did not happen merely to let us know that exists. It happened to bring him near, so that he can be with us and we with him" (p. 55).
And then Keller goes on to write about what it means to be with Jesus, and how can cultivate that "with-ness." The questions he is asking are these: "What does it mean to have Jesus in my life? What does it mean to be with Jesus?"
As he develops his responses, one thing Keller mentions - that we can too easily overlook - is that being with Jesus takes courage. Everything he has to say in this section is worthwhile (again, read the whole book), but let me quote from one of Keller's subpoints, that being with Jesus requires the courages to give up your right to self determination.
As you read through the extended quote I've included below, allow this to shape the way you view Advent, and the way you approach the coming of Jesus (and what that means for your life today).
I'm excited about Terry Linhart's (ed) recently released Teaching the Next Generations: A Comprehensive Guide for Teaching Christian Formation. As the title and subtitle make clear, this book's focus is on teaching for Christian formation. Among others things, chapters throughout the book highlight the contribution of teaching for discipleship (ch. 1), developing a theology of education (ch. 2), a scriptural basis for teaching (ch. 3), the essence of the life of a teacher (ch. 4), along with sections on learning theories (section 2), curricular considerations for various ages (section 3), methodologies and evaluation (sections 4 and 5).
I'm excited about how this book will be an ongoing resource for me in a number of roles - as a teacher and communicator, as someone who thinks about scope and strategy in a church context, and simply as an advocate for the teaching ministry of local churches. I'm looking forward to digging into the book further.
I was reading through the Introduction last night, and ran across this quote that further whets my appetite for the book; the quote draws attention to the challenge (but also the opportunity) of teaching for Christian formation today. Check it out:
We stand here in a new century with a significant challenge before us. Recent research suggests that the church is losing young adults, even those who 'grew up' in the church. David Kinnaman says young adults leave in part because the church as field to help them think about and answer difficult questions. Similarly, the largest study on the religiosity of youth in America showed that church teens were surprisingly inarticulate about their faith. When researchers posed questions about what they believed, young people said it was the first time that an adult had asked them about their beliefs, and they seemed unable to answer basic questions about the central doctrines of the Christian faith. Though there is a lot of teaching in the church, could it be there is not as much learning?
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?
"Curriculum" is a word that makes most people yawn. It might conjure up associations of dated clip art, irrelevant material, canned presentations, and more. But what if all of those things are BAD examples of curriculum? And what if curriculum - properly understood and excellently applied - is valuable and essential?
I've appreciated how James Riley Estep, Jr. draws attention to the valuable role curriculum plays, in Mapping Out Curriculum in Your Church: Cartography for Christian Pilgrims. He's speaking here specifically of the role curriculum plays in the life of a local church:
Anyone who has traveled knows what it is like to rely on a map to guide the way....Maps are also needed to guide us through the journey of faith. We are all pilgrims on a journey. For some, the pilgrimage is new and unknown. For others, the path is familiar. Identifying desirable destinations, pathways that have proven beneficial, and providing a means of navigation along the way are all part of the church's cartography, its mapmaking. Curriculum is a congregation's map though the process of discipleship, providing disciples, new and old, with the means to continue on their way toward Christlikeness, and the Christian educator is the cartographer" (pp. 1-2, bold emphasis added).
A little further along Estep continues:
When one fully appreciates the broad concept of curriculum, its critical importance to the congregation's ministry becomes self-evident. The curriculum provides the pathway for believers to grow toward Christian maturity. What do believers have to know, experience, and be able to do so as to mature? What do they need along the way to guarantee their continued spiritual growth? With whom should they travel the journey of faith? The curriculum answers these questions, and gives the believer some direction, some proven paths to travel, so they are not lost along the journey of faith, wandering without direction. Curriculum is a tool of the education ministry to provide for the spiritual formation of believers (p. 2, bold emphasis added).
All of this is why I'm passionate about catechesis, and about the Brookside Institute providing a relatively systematic and comprehensive grounding in core truths of the Christian faith. But these quotes also apply more broadly across ministries of the church - curriculum is simply an intentional way to guide others towards biblical objectives of being a disciple. Good stuff!
I recently ran across a 2009 article where Christian apologist, speaker and author Ravi Zacharias talks about "Defending Christianity in a Secular Culture." The whole thing is good, and I encourage you to read it.
In a few places throughout the article, Zacharias draws attention to the value of equipping the church, in the face of a secular culture that is increasingly hostile or indifferent towards Christianity. Below are some short quotes from the article where we see this:
(This is an updated version of a post I initially composed on July 22, 2014.)
I've recently gotten a few questions from people asking very specifically how they can get emails with updated posts from the Brookside Institute blog, without having to remember to check in periodically on their own. They want to stay in the loop, but they won't always remember to go looking for new content. And when they do remember, they may not be near a computer or it may not be a convenient time.
I love this question. I love it that people want to stay in the loop, and that we're providing valuable enough content that people want to stay engaged.
Here's how I respond to this question:
There's no way that I know of to get emails specifically from the Brookside Institute, providing updated content as new posts are published. (If I'm missing something on this, someone please let me know!) However that doesn't mean there's no way to conveniently stay in the loop. The solution is to subscribe to something called a "feed reader" that will collect the content (the "RSS Feed") you want from sites you subscribe to. Then, you simply monitor your feed reader and can conveniently stay up to date on the content you've chosen to subscribe to.
Below I've included some detailed steps on how to subscribe to an RSS Feed and have it collected into a feed reader. Before I get into that, though, let me briefly share WHAT an RSS Feed is and WHY subscribing to the RSS Feed can be helpful.
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