Theology Matters – Part 1


Noun:  The study of the nature of God

Of the many things that can define the DNA of a church (from community to missional to programs), what beats in my heart the more I study the word of God and the more I preach the word of God is God-centered theology. That by the way, is a bit redundant to say, “God-centered theology”, because theology is by definition “God-centered”. And yet, I find it’s easy to make the bible and Christianity and the cross and the Jesus who rules over all that to be subservient to me, hence making my theology “me-centered”.

So what do I think about “theology” and it’s importance in a church?

Short Video

Let me start off by saying what I want to write about the importance of theology is summed up it this excellent short video.

Thinking About Finney

Lately I have been hearing the word “revival” a lot, and inevitably tied to that is the name Charles Finney. I’ve never studied Finney, I’ve only heard tidbits hear and there. In fact, just the a few months ago, I ended up using Finney in talking about the baptism with the Holy Spirit.  For that, I have some regrets.

In looking into Finney’s theology, my heart is grieved by the things that he taught. His views on the depravity of man, his views on progressive justification, his views on the atonement are not conventional nor orthodox, and if I was in ministry with him and I would have to end that relationship of ministry with him. And yet what is difficult to grapple with is that if you look into any book or talk on revival, Finney undoubtedly will be mentioned; for many, many people came to know Jesus through Finney’s ministry.

So does this man’s results cancel his failed theological understandings?

Thinking about the Holy Spirit

This year has been a year focused on the Holy Spirit for me. It’s an area of my theology that has been fuzzy at best. I have never studied nor taught much in this area, and yet God has so much to say in scripture abou the Holy Spirit. In wrestling through and teaching through a biblical understanding of who the Spirit is, what He does, and what the baptism with the Holy Spirit is, I came to the conclusion that my lack of dependency and experience of the power of the Holy Spirit in my life was because of my shallow THEOLOGY. I find that the things I am CONVINCED of and CONVICTED of are the things I will most often take risks in. So the more I studied the Holy Spirit, the more I came to believe that THEOLOGY MATTERS.

Thinking about the Gospel Of John

Now I’m teaching through the gospel of John in the Young Adult Ministry, and in giving an overview of the book, I tried last Thursday to impress on those I was teaching the heartbeat of John in writing his gospel. John says this:

“Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. ” (Joh 20:30-31)

In the past, I would have immediately zoned in on words like “believe” and “you may have life”, but things have changed in my heart. I’ve wondered how someone might “believe” and “have life” if they don’t in fact come to the belief that “Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God”. I’ve realized that at the heart of John’s gospel and at the heart of the hope for “life” is the believing in a non-ambiguous Jesus. He is the Christ and all that that means. He is the Son of God and all that that means. THEOLOGY MATTERS.

Thinking about Altar Calls

I’ve heard it before. “Altar calls are not biblical.” I’ve written it off as extremism teetering on legalism. Lately, I find myself wrestling through why we do altar calls instead of baptisms? What exactly do we convey when we call people forward? Is the gospel clear when altar calls are given? I just did an altar last night and I had to think long and hard about why I was doing it and how I would give the invitation. THEOLOGY MATTERS to me and I want to be true to the convictions God has given me in every aspect of ministry. If I don’t, then I lack integrity.

The Sum of It

All this to say, THEOLOGY MATTERS a great deal to me. In fact, I find that all I do and how I do what I do for the Lord (with either great or little courage / affection / love / fear / faith / hope) is grounded on my THEOLOGY – my understanding of who God is. So my prayer is that through any preaching God allows me to do and any leading God allows me to lead, that it would form and paint and teach and embed true and accurate THEOLOGY.

My heart is to be a part of a God-centered church that reflects God-centered THEOLOGY in every aspect of  it’s fiber and program and services. I want people to know primarily GOD, not primarily “how God can help their life.” Children should grow up in children’s ministry and understand more about who God is year by year. Youth should be navigate through their uncertain formative years with rock solid anchors in the unchanging character of God. College students and young marrieds and old marrieds and everyone else should pursue this boast in life:

“but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the LORD.” (Jer 9:24)

(NOTE: “understands” comes first and then “knows” comes second. The order I think matters in the verse.)

Bible studies that shows more of Jesus is to me considered successful. Application will flow easily from that. Bible studies that show little or none of Jesus but gives me palatable application points to apply the next week leads me to live “by the flesh” and lean on the flesh (my opinion). Church is a place to learn about God (that’s the sermon part) that then leads me to worship God (that’s the worship part).

Thinking about The Nitty Gritty

Not every theological point carries the same weight. Some you have to get right to be a Christian, some have deep bearings on unity, and others are important to come to a conclusion on, but is not critical to “orthodoxy” or unity. I feel it’s important you know where Julee and I stand on some issues and what importance we have on them. In the coming blogs I will expand on them.

(1) The “MUST” category (It will be impossible for us to do ministry together if we disagree on any of these)– the trinity
– the humanity and diety of Christ
– the necessity of the cross for salvation
– salvation by grace through faith alone
– the inerrancy of the bible

(2) The “IMPORTANT” category (things I deeply believe and may affect our ability to minister together … “may”)
– the absolute sovereignty of God
…. Yes – man cannot come to God without His help
…. Yes – God chooses whom He will save based on His desire and plan alone
…. Yes – God knows how to draw “irresistibly” people to himself
…. Yes – once you are truly saved, you are forever saved
…. I have no idea – “limited atonement”
(so I would affirm 4 points of Calvinism and stand undecided on one point)
– the active ministry of the Holy Spirit
…. Yes – I believe in all the active gifts of the Spirit for today (except the “office” of apostle and prophet)
– the role of the local church
– the distinct role of men and women
– the premillenial view of Jesus return (not to be confused with pre-trib / post trib)

 (3) The “THAT IS GOOD” category (important things to come to a biblical conviction on but probably won’t affect our ministry together … “probably”) 

– A pre-trib view of Jesus’ return
– A post – conversion baptism of the Holy Spirit

I’ve laid these out so you know when I say THEOLOGY MATTERS which THEOLOGY MATTERS most in my heart. I’m sure I left some things out, but this covers most of it 🙂

… to be continued

One comment

  1. Thanks so much for sharing this Tony. I was re reading over this a second time and something that I read over the first time that really stuck out this time that I totally agree with and has been something stirring in my heart. You said that bible studies that show more of Jesus and not just 3 things to better my life are successful. As an early believer all I looked for was application points so I could go try to “do” them in my flesh and left no room for the Lord’s work. Thanks for sharing.

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