Luke Holmes is looking for a church. (Incidentally, he has moved to Sherman, which means there are now a grand total of TWO bloggers here!)
Do I put up with the 40 Days of purpose, the legality, the business meeting and committees? Where is the line? Which doctrines are essential and which are not? Most people will say as long as the true gospel is being preached. But I say that everything, I repeat everything, a church does affects the gospel. From the obvious things like music and preaching, to budgets, nursery, sunday school, and meetings. I will be honest. I want a perfect church. A church that is biblical in everthing that it does.
Worded another way, the gospel affects everything we do, particularly when we come together as a body. Or at least, it ought to.
I’ve been reading No Place For Truth by David Wells. His contention is that we modern evanglicals have pigeonholed theology such that it does not significantly affect how we “do church”. It’s very similar to the argument(s) in The Coming Evangelical Crisis that we have, practically speaking, abandoned sola scriptura.
Theology is everything. Non-theological types are quick to assert that the practical is more important than the theoretical. I take issue with that, but there is an important corollary that is true: If your beliefs aren’t manifested in your life, your beliefs are worthless. I’d argue that they aren’t real beliefs. If I genuinely believe something, then as a rational creature I will adjust my worldview and behavior to account for it.
For instance, your theology about the nature of an unregenerate man will dictate your approach to evangelism. Is there any such thing as a “seeker”? Will an unregenerate man be attracted to the gospel? Is he capable of understanding it? What draws a man to hear the preaching of the word? Is it the speaker’s ability? If the speaker is a celebrity, does that help?
Our theology should inform our worship services. What is the point of coming together for worship? What is worship? Do we sing songs and do things so we felt “led into the presence of God”? Or is the intent to magnify and honor God? What is Sunday corporate worship all about, anyway? What are we here to do?
If worship is about me and how I feel, then that dictates one style of worship. It would require us to be very intentional about eliminating all potential disruptions and distractions. Especially kids. They would go to “children’s church” where teachers could more effectively connect and communicate with them.
On the other hand, if worship is better understood as covenant renewal, then it’s vitally important that we gather corporately – all the members of the covenant community. Elderly saints in wheelchairs using breathers, and younger saints-in-training wiggling and whispering, are all part of the body and should be there.
Certainly our theology about the kingdom of God and the world, not to mention our eschatology, should inform what we think and do when it comes to interacting with the world. Is the world hopelessly lost, and are all attempts at improving it simply polishing the brass on the Titanic? Should I try to engage the world and positively influence it? Do I live a separate, distinct, sanctified, counter-cultural life? My theology must answer those questions. The way I live will demonstrate my theology, whether or not it lines up with what I think I think or what I say I think. It will show what I really think.
What is our theology about the larger body of Christ, the catholic church? How closely are we connected with it? These are theological questions. The answers will help us decide whether we do things like recite creeds, subscribe to one or more historical confessions of faith, and maybe even what version of the Bible we use. If we are tightly connected to a larger contemporarly and historic body, then it is important that we manifest that connection even at the expense of our own interests. So we might choose to use the KJV simple because it is, and has been, widely used in the English speaking world. We would highly value ecumenical councils and the creeds they produced, even if they imperfectly align with our opinions. But if we are only loosely connected with the local and catholic church, then we are free to accept or reject according to our local or individual opinions and tastes.
Several of these theological issues touch on what the church thinks about families. Is it proper to have youth groups and youth ministers? Does a family function generally as a single entity in the Lord’s work, or are we generally individuals? Am I serving God best by catechizing my children and loving my wife, or by serving on a civic board, or by working in a soup kitchen? How much of my time should be spent at church vs at home?
These are all theological questions at their core.