Theology Matters In Ministry

Theology is of great importance in ministry and it is imperative to approach theological studies with this truth in mind. Many church members are content with being theologically ignorant. However, theology is practical and important in the life of ministry. There are three main reasons why theology matters in ministry:

1. Theology matters because the Bible contains certain themes that must be compiled and clearly stated.

2. Theology matters because ministry must be concerned with the pursuit of knowing God.

3. Theology matters for ministry because it is not only concerned with knowledge of God but also right living in light of this knowledge.

When the Bible is revered and accepted as God’s perfect revelation of Himself, those in ministry (every believer is a minister) must be able to claim the truths that are stated in Scripture. This means those truths must be compiled and accessible. While these truths may be available, that does not mean that the task is easy. The theological task is one that takes a great deal of effort and is continual. One never arrives at complete theological knowledge but, in the pursuit, it is of great necessity for the discoveries to be defined and explained, insofar as one is able to do so. Ministry is dependent upon being able to lay hold of the truths contained in Scripture and theology allows one to do this. The ability to produce these truths in a cohesive whole allows others to more fully understand the truths of the entire Bible. It also allows those truths to be evaluated throughout history and serves as a guide for future generations.

The second reason theology matters in ministry is that ministry is completely dependent on knowing who God is. God is the reason that ministry exists in the first place and to effectively minister one must know the creator of ministry. When one realizes that the God of the universe has revealed himself in human language, the task of ministry must be practiced in light of this knowledge. Ministers of the gospel must seek to tell others about God, His will, and His ways. To effectively do this, the minister must know God and be able to tell others about Him in a complete and systematic way. The task of the church is to make disciples and this can only be completed when the theological task is rightly practiced. God desperately desires to be known and theology allows this knowledge to be attained.

The third reason theology matters in ministry is that in the pursuit of combing the Scriptures to know God, man realizes how he must respond to God. When theology lacks the aspect of application the theological task is not complete. Theology matters for ministry because theology is living rightly before God in light of who He is. It is imperative to discover who God is through the Scriptures but this cannot be the end of the theological pursuit. Ministry must be concerned with taking this knowledge and leading others to respond to God rightly (worship). This was the reason God placed Adam and Eve in the garden and told them to be fruitful and multiply (Genesis 1:28). He desired that they fill the earth with people that rightly worship Him. His desire remains the same and ministry must be concerned with showing people who God is, as found in the Scriptures, and how they should rightly respond to Him.

Ministry and theology must be wed. The theological task should be forefront in ministry and the purpose of theology must be to seek to understand God and determine how to rightly respond to Him. When this takes place God’s purpose for ministry will be accomplished. In light of this, the church must realize the importance and necessity theology.

Stop Going To Church (Confessions Of A Local Church Pastor)

Recently, Donald Miller lit a firestorm in the blogosphere when he said he has stopped going to church. Many people were outraged and others were relieved. Those who were outraged expressed concern that this is not biblical (I agree) not to mention the fact that, at least partially, the target audience of Miller’s books is churchgoers. Those who expressed relief at Miller’s confession pointed to their own negative experiences in the local church and the liberation they felt now that a “Christian leader” has said it was ok not to attend church.

As a local church pastor, let me openly and loudly declare that there are problems with the local church. I am saddened at the “Disneyfication” of the church. I am disgusted that the church looks very much like the world when we should be “salt and light.” I am troubled that false gospels run rampant throughout our “churches” and especially on “Christian” TV.

With all the problems with the church I can understand, for a brief moment, how someone could stop going. But, it is only for a brief moment because I am reminded quickly that Jesus loved the church. He loved the church so deeply that he gave his life for the church. The Bible knows nothing of a follower of Jesus Christ disconnected from the local church.

The early church was not perfect…far from it! Paul wrote scathing letters to the churches in Corinth and Galatia. If anyone could have thrown his hands up and walked away from the church it would have been Paul. But he did not walk away. He stayed. He prayed. He encouraged. He loved.

I think the language of “going to church” has caused a disconnect from what it means to BE the church. We go to restaurants. We go to concerts. We go shopping. And all of these places tell us that they are there to meet our needs and serve us. But, as followers of Jesus Christ, we ARE the church. So here is my encouragement to you, my faithful reader – stop “going” to church and BE the church.

1. “Going to church” makes you a consumer. Many people who attend church expect Burger King’s slogan, “Have it your way,” to apply in the church. They want their preferences met and when they are not, they head down the road to the next church to get what they want. This is what Donald Miller is saying – no local church in his community offers him what he wants. The problem with this mindset is that we are never encouraged to be involved in the church for what we can get out of it. We are to be involved in the local church to serve others and use our gifts to build up the body of Christ (Ephesians 4). Will we receive benefits? Yes, but that should never be our end goal!

**Being the church makes you an owner instead of a consumer.

2. “Going to church” makes you a critic. When you do nothing more than “go” to church, it is easy to criticize what you don’t like. You may say things like: “The sermon was too long, “The song was too loud,” “I don’t like the color of the carpet,” “The coffee is burnt.” When you have bought in to the vision of the church as an owner you have a different perspective. You will pray for your pastor recognizing the immense responsibility that comes with proclaiming God’s Word each week. You will rejoice that people who were once far from God now worship Him. You will recognize that a businessman whose life was radically transformed by Jesus donated the carpet to the church. You will praise God that someone is willing to wake up early enough to make sure hot coffee is available on Sunday mornings. You will struggle to have the perspective of an encourager when all you do is “go” to church.

**Being the church makes you an encourager instead of a critic.

3. “Going to church” makes you complacent. Here is what ends up happening when all you do is “go” to church: You sit, you soak, and you sour. In the book of Acts, the early believers were far from complacent churchgoers. They served, they loved, they gave, they sang, they praised, they prayed and they suffered. They did not have air conditioned sanctuaries and building funds. They had torturers and prison chains. Following Christ was not popular; in fact it was extremely costly. Being actively involved in the local church should pushes us away from complacency and into costly discipleship.

**Being the church stretches you instead of allowing you to become complacent. 

Still not convinced? Consider Paul’s words comparing the relationship between husbands and wives with Jesus’ relationship with the church. Think about how his church is described. Contemplate how precious the church must be if Jesus laid down his life for it:

Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.

Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband. (Ephesians 5:22-33, ESV)

Book Review: “Power In The Pulpit” (Vines & Shaddix)

powerinthepulpit1

Authors

Dr. Jerry Vines served as the pastor of First Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Florida from 1982 until his retirement in 2006. He was educated at Mercer University, New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, and Luther Rice Seminary. Vines also served as the President of the Southern Baptist Convention from 1988-1989. Dr. Jim Shaddix is the pastor for teaching and training at The Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, AL. He also serves as an adjunct faculty member at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and is the author of The Passion Driven Sermon.

Purpose of the Book

Vines and Shaddix stated that this book’s specific purpose “is to give practical help specifically to the man who is faced with the responsibility of preaching weekly.” They emphasized that pastors who preach on a weekly basis, as opposed to itinerant preachers, have a difficult job before them on a consistent basis. In fact, they stated, “Much of the preaching of our day is dry, irrelevant, and deadening.” Vines and Shaddix both agree that effective expository preaching needs to be emphasized and that is exactly what they seek to do in this book.

Organization and Content

This book contains steps and instructions on preparing and delivering expository sermons.  Vines and Shaddix explained in detail the preparation for exposition, the process of exposition, and the presentation of the exposition.  All three are vital to the work of an expositor.  A main concern of this book is to define the task of expository preaching and the qualifications of one who takes on this task.  Vines and Shaddix stated that this person must be called of God and participate in activities that help build a healthy heart, mind, and body.

Vines and Shaddix also offered a five-step approach to develop expository sermons.  Each step is progressive and the final product is an expository sermon that communicates a central truth, which is applied to a contemporary audience. A major concern for Vines and Shaddix is that many people view expository sermons as lectures, which are often boring.  They stated, however, that the text has a message for a contemporary audience and this must be communicated effectively. A sermon is not complete unless the text is applied to the contemporary audience and Vines and Shaddix emphasized the need for application in expositional preaching.

One of the major aspects of the expository method is the systematic preaching through books of the Bible.  Vines stated, “more profit will be realized by a systematic, book-by-book approach” than any other approach to preaching. They encouraged expositors to approach preaching from a canonical perspective.  Not only did they insist that it is beneficial to preach the whole counsel of God, they also made mention that one should study and preach with an understanding of all Scripture.  They wrote, “You must determine how your passage fits in with the overall context of the book in which it is found, as well as with the total revelation and message of the Bible.” This method, if used, will allow the expositor to preach canonically, draw one central truth from the text, and apply it to the contemporary audience.

Personal Evaluation

One of the greatest accomplishments of this book is that Vines and Shaddix offer an expository approach that pastors can implement on a weekly basis. Too often pastors stray away from the disciplined study of the text because of the time it takes to faithfully exposit the Scriptures.  However, the method in Power in the Pulpit allows the expositor to follow a step-by-step outline for accomplishing this task.  Scripture states the disciples gave themselves “continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” Expositors must decide that to fulfill their responsibility, in feeding the sheep, they must be as committed as the apostles and this method offered by Vines and Shaddix gives a great weekly plan to follow.

The greatest weakness of this book is the lack of emphasis on the role of the Holy Spirit in the expositional process.  While there is a great deal of information concerning the specifics of doing exposition, there is little mention that the expositor must rely on the Holy Spirit.  The expositor can only experience true power in the pulpit when the Spirit is upon him.  It would have been extremely beneficial had Vines and Shaddix explored and emphasized the role of the Holy Spirit more in the expositional process.

This book, overall, is a great work for expositors. Those who desire to preach expositional sermons will find it to be a great resource and step-by-step plan to follow. Vines and Shaddix offer encouragement and instruction in a way that the average pastor will appreciate.