(From the archives : this blog was originally posted on March 14th, 2014)
Have you heard the one about how the more theological you are, the less missional you will be? Have you noticed that some churches who want to be more theological tend to grow more slowly than those who are lighter on theology, and bigger on missional practice, contextualisation, and great programs?
Now we aren’t knocking the programs, and the missional practice, or the need to go deeper in theology, but we want to close the gap between theology and practice because the difference doesn’t make sense. Theology is nothing if it’s not practical.
Theology is practical because of the way God reveals himself to us in the gospel. God reveals himself through the life, death, resurrection and ascension of his Son. Theology is about the person and work of Jesus: the gospel. It can’t get more practical than that.
Theology is practical because of the response the gospel demands of us. Faith and obedience to the revelation of who God is in Christ are practical responses.
Gospel truth must impact practice and belief or it is not proper theology. Practice and belief must be shaped by who God is in Christ or it will rest on human effort alone, leading to empty religion and rule keeping, or immorality, or both.
The practical truth of the gospel and the gospel shape of the Christian life are wonderfully brought together in Paul’s own understanding of his identity. He understood himself in light of what happened to Jesus.
‘I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.’ (Galatians 2:20).
The gospel pattern is there again in his life’s mission statement:
‘..that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death.’ (Philippians 3:10)
And in his goal for his ministry to others:
‘..my little children, for whom I am again in the anguish of childbirth untilChrist is formed in you.’ (Galatians 4:19)
Everything that happened to Jesus, happened to, and for, Paul. It was as if his life had been woven into the events of the gospel.
The wonderful practical events of the gospel bring us into a new relationship. Through the death and resurrection of Jesus, we are brought through death for sin, and made fit for the presence of the Father. In Jesus, we are acceptable because he is acceptable to God. The Father loves us as he loves the Son.
As we are released by those truths from fears and the power of sin, we become conformed to the family resemblance of our older brother. Our identity, life goals, ministry and practice must be conformed to the truth of the life, death, and resurrection of the saviour. That is theology.
Theology is about gospel formation, not just information. And so, properly understood, theology is about gospel mission; to see people conformed to the gospel.
Therefore everything from leadership training, to pastoring, to planting, to contextualisation, flows from the gospel itself. The gospel is the starting place, the blue print, and the goal.
This post was written by Dr Jonny Woodrow, pastor of The Crowded House, director of The Porterbrook Network, and co-author of ‘The Ascension : Humanity in the Presence of God. The post was taken from the archives of the Porterbrook Blog..
Want to find out more? Our course ‘Gospel Change’ encourages you to apply the gospel deeply to your own life and to minister the gospel to those around you. See more here.