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.
We're just wrapping up the "Things to Fight For" series that we've been in the last few weeks. (I encourage you to go online to www.brookside.net and listen to the sermons. Go to our messages link and find the sermons preached May 21-July 02, 2017.)
Each week, we've looked closely at the Bible to see what it says about the following topics:
To help Brooksiders get and stay "in the fight" in these areas, each week we've also been recommending books that will drill down more deeply into each of the topics. These book recommendations are a great way to multiply an ethos of equipping in the life of the church.
I figured it'd be worthwhile to collect ALL of the book recommendations across the entire series, and put them in one place. Check out what follows for the books we recommended each week during this "Things to Fight For" series:
Something big happens in Acts 2 - it's one of THE pivotal events of the Bible.
Before Acts 2, things are fairly still. We find Jesus’ first disciples huddled in an Upper Room. After Acts 2, we find Jesus’ disciples spreading out through Jerusalem, into the larger region, and even getting to Rome! (Which is a long way, especially when there aren’t airplanes or cars.) Something happens in Acts 2 that changes the playing board and Jesus’ followers go from huddled together to spreading out on mission!
Before Acts 2, we know that the sum total of Jesus followers was about 120. That’s not a lot of people! By the time we get to the end of Acts 2, we learn that number has multiplied to 3000 people - and then if you keep reading into Acts 4 you find that pretty quickly that number jumps from 3000 to 5000! Something happens in Acts 2 that catalyzes this exponential growth !
Something happens in Acts 2 where the gate opens up and the picture changes from preparation and anticipation to one of bold movement and fresh life! There's no way to exaggerate how pivotal of a turning point Acts 2 is in the story of the church!
So the question we should all be asking now is this: “What happens in Acts 2?!” What happens that propels the early church forward in all of these ways? And what does all this mean for our lives TODAY?
To dig into these questions, check out this sermon I preached on "The Gift of the Holy Spirit" (Acts 2:1-47) earlier this year.
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:
Earlier this week I had the privilege of teaching at the Middle School Chapel of Lifegate Christian School in Omaha, NE. The Middle School has been learning about the Holy Spirit, and so as part of that larger emphasis, I was asked to speak on the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22-23. Here's an edited (and somewhat abbreviated) of what I said.
I’ll get right to the point of what I’m writing about today. Here it is: Character counts. Who you are on the inside is a really big deal. The attitudes you have swirling around inside of you, and the values you have - these are way more important than people often think.
I’m generally a fan of superhero movies, so let me pull an example from one of the Spiderman movies. You know the story: Peter Parker gets bitten by a radioactive spider and can start doing all this crazy stuff like climbing all walls, he has super strength, and more. In the movie I’m thinking of, Peter Parker - that’s Spiderman - is just starting to realize what he can do with these powers. The thing is, early on he’s not always using his powers well. He’s using his powers in ways that are selfish.
And so Peter’s uncle, Uncle Ben, sees some of what’s going on and he pulls Peter aside and he says these words that are now at the level of "movie quote trivia legend" - even my 8 year olds could finish this line, even though I don't think they’ve never seen the movie. Uncle Ben tells Peter, “With great power comes great responsibility.” (Ready for a video clip? Check out the scene here.)
Peter was so blown away by the power he had that he wasn’t thinking about how to use it. Peter was so impressed by what he could do, that he’d taken his eyes off of who he was becoming.
Here’s why I bring all that up: Christianity isn’t primarily about what you’re doing for God (though that has its place); it’s also about who you’re becoming. We can't get so focused on the things God can do THROUGH us that we ignore who we're becoming. Character counts!
This is one of the things that you can't miss as you study the Holy Spirit.
The more you read your Bible and the more you learn about the Holy Spirit, you’ll see that the Spirit gives every believer in Jesus Christ spiritual gifts that empower us to do great things for God and His church. It’s awesome to know the Spirit of God works through us to accomplish God’s work!
But that’s not all we want to say. Just as importantly, the Spirit is also working inside of us - each of you individually - transforming our character from the inside out.
The Apostle Paul gives us a list of big ways the Holy Spirit should be transforming us from the inside out in Galatians 5:22-23: “…the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (NIV, 1984).
You see that Paul calls these things the “fruit” of the Holy Spirit. Here’s what he’s getting at: If I planted an apple tree in my back yard I’d eventually expect to see apples growing on it. Eventually that apple seed should produce something in my yard - fruit! Apples!
So too when the Holy Spirit is in our lives, something should happen! Our character - who we are on the inside - should be different! Over the course of time and in increasing ways, the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives should produce this fruit in us - love, joy, peace, patience, and so on.
All this means what we’re talking about in this post is REALLY important. This list of the fruit of the Spirit isn’t some random collection of nice things to consider if you’ve got the time and are interested. This is a clear list of the things that Spirit wants to do in you. This is a clear list of the difference the Holy Spirit should be making inside of all of us.
With all this in mind, then, I want to spend the rest of our time together today asking this question: How can the fruit of the Spirit grow in my life? I’m going to mention three things that followers of Jesus need to keep in mind.
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!
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.
If you're like me, you've perhaps seen some "Top Reading Lists of 2016" floating around the internet and social media. Rather than adding my own such list (though click here to see some other books I've recently recommended), I figured I'd continue my tradition of highlighting some of the "Top Reading Lists of 2016" that I've found beneficial.
In other words, check out these book lists and you'll find some books that are worth reading. Of course, keep in mind that not every book is created equal, remember to read discerningly, and always remember that a careful and responsible reading of the Bible should be our final authority. But I generally think these "sources" are worth listening to for some worthwhile reads (I know I'll hope to be reading many of these I've not yet!) - and to see what's current in Christian publishing today. (Or click here for a bit more on how to R.E.A.D. books well.)
If you're still looking for some last minute Christmas gift ideas or want some reading material for yourself while taking some vacation days, these lists can come in handy that way too!
Below I've included both (1) links to sites where you can see the "top reading lists" (often with some explanation of why books were selected), followed by (2) a listing of books that made their way onto multiple lists. Happy reading!
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).
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