I don’t know if there’s anything to say but this: I really struggle to understand how people can find theology boring. Okay, actually that’s not true. I can totally understand why some people find books of theology boring, because (unfortunately) there are too many that are no fun to read.
But even so, I love theology. Since became a believer, I’ve always loved it. I love seeing how theology shapes how we see the world, how it challenges our understanding of ourselves, and how it changes what we love—where we find our joy. That’s what all biblically sound theology does, and why we all need more of it.
I suspect at least twelve of you reading said “amen” just now.
So how do we encourage people to see why theology matters? How do we help those who struggle to see theology’s value to embrace it as a good gift from God? Here are three actions we can take that may help:
1. Embrace your role as a theologian with joy.
No Christian can truly ever say that he or she isn’t a theologian. It’s simply not true. We may not all have the same academic credentials, but we are all theologians. We all make theological statements, whether implicitly or explicitly, with every word we say. We are all telling a story about God.
How we speak about our circumstances says something about our understanding of God’s character and goodness. How we speak of others says something about our understanding of His creation—and specifically, those created in His image. How we view, use and teach on money and possessions says something about our understanding of His provision and his kindness.
Chances are, many reading this would agree on this point, but even so, it is worth saying: if you’re a pastor, and you’re tempted to characterize yourself as “just a simple pastor,” or say that you’re no theologian when you preach, please don’t. When you do this, you actually undermine your own credibility. Those you serve may not need you to be an inexhaustible source of knowledge, but they do need you to shepherd them theologically, even if they don’t realize it.
Regardless of how we serve the church, whether vocationally or in the broader world, we are always in the midst of “doing” theology. We are all theologians. We are constantly telling a story—one that is either true or false—about God. Embrace that role with joy.
2. Empower others to pursue theological insight with joy.
This doesn’t mean that we should push everyone we know into seminary or to read thick books with lots of footnotes, although for some, that’s exactly the right thing. What it means is encouraging others by helping them see theology as intensely practical, as something that isn’t for those living in academia but for all who are a part of the priesthood of believers.
And one of the best ways to do this is to let them into your own world. Lead them through your own journey into developing your convictions. Show them how you got to the conclusions you have and point them to books that have shaped you. Give people the space they need to figure things out and ask important questions like “why”, even on important issues. But most importantly, let them into your life. Let them see how your own theological convictions actually play out in reality.1
3. Continually point your people back to the object of their joy.
Believe it or not, the first two points are actually really hard work. They require a lot of us, especially in exercising humility. But if theology is all about joy, it’s worth it. And because theology is about joy, we constantly need to remind one another to focus on the object and source of our joy, Jesus Christ.
So that means that if we’re preachers, we’re reminding our hearers of Jesus, and not with a brief gospel presentation at the end of a sermon. We’re introducing them to Jesus on every page of Scripture. We’re showing how he is so captivating in his beauty and power and authority that we do nothing but worship him. More broadly, it means we’re asking questions of one another about how what we’re doing, reading, watching, or whatever, helps us to glorify God (which is a much more open question than you may realize). It means we’re honest about when we’re struggling to believe this is true, but not comfortable with not believing it at all. It’s all this and a thousand more besides. Far too much to condense into a pithy or tweetable statement, at least.
But that’s the point. Pursuing joy isn’t easy. It’s hard, Spirit-enabled work. But it’s worth pursuing because nothing else is satisfying. So don’t settle for theological apathy. Don’t downplay its importance in your life. Embrace it, and encourage others to do the same.
- Incidentally, I suspect this is related to why so many people have confused ideas about complementarianism, on both the far right and left—they’ve not really seen it lived out, but only heard stories. ↵