What do you think about when hear the word "Theology"? Does it conjure up some grey haired, bearded old man who wears a tweed jacket and talks in a dreary monotone voice like Ben Stein? For many Christians theology equals boring. We want a feeling. We want a worship experience. We want the warm fuzzies. It seems like theology is largely out of style in most churches. Who cares about doctrine anyway? It seems like the local church has exported theological education to seminaries and reserved it just for pastors. As a result it is commone to find a Christian who has been attending church their whole lives to be but theological ignoramus.
Worshiping an UnKnown God
I fear that many churches look more like the greeks at the Areopagus where they are worshiping an unknown God. Many will enter into church longing to worship a God about whom they know very little. Could it be possible that many Christians are raising their hands and feeling warm fuzzies about a god of their own creation and not the God of the Bible?
I'll never forget visiting an older lady one time to help her learn how to work the TV (cause that's what young pastors do in an older church, help the older members with technology). We spent some time talking and she made reference to a recent sermon I preached. I don't even remember the sermon, but she referenced a comment I made about the Holy Spirit. The sermon wasn't even on the Holy Spirit, but she was curious. She told me, "You know I've been in Church a long time, but I know nothing about the Holy Spirit". I left encouraged by an older woman's desire and thirst to learn more about her God even in her old age, but I also left extremely disappointed. How is it possible that she has been in this church her whole life and never been taught on the third person in the Trinity?
The Pressure for Practicality
The failure is largely on pastors who fail to teach their people theology. This is largely because they feel the pressure to give the people what they want. It is easier to tickkle people's ears rather than teach theology. However, as pastors we must remember we must give people what they need, not necessarily what they want. Many people will tell their pastors, "I don't want to hear a sermon on the Trinity. Just give me five ways to get my kids to obey me."
Some how Christians have bought into the lie that theology is not practical or relevant to their lives. However for the Christian faith not only is doctrine and theology essential (less we cease to be Christian), but it is also incredibly relevant and practical to our lives.
Theology Increases Our Ability to Worship
Theology does not hinder worship but increases it. Doctrine does not hinder love but deepens it. It is incredibly hard to love someone you know very little about isn't it? In fact, as you get to know someone better your love for them deepens. I'll give you an example with my son Jude.
When Jude was born I loved him. He was my son; Yet, I did not know a thing about him. That little baby boy in my arms was but a stranger. I loved him, but I did not know him. Yet as he has grown into a rambunctious toddler, my love for him has deepen drastically over the past year and a half. Why? Because I know him, both intellectually and experientially. I know that his favorite movie is The Muppets that he watches at least once a day. I know that he loves to eat blueberries and that he can't go anywhere without his musical giraffe. The more I've gotten to know him, my love for him has deepen.
So too it is with God. In his letter to the Philippians Paul writes,
“Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of _knowing_ Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ” (Philippians 3:8, ESV)
Paul zealously desired to know Christ. In fact his love for knowing Christ deepened his desire to live for Christ. His thirst for knowing Christ was so powerful that knowing Christ became the ultimate treasure. Everything else was rubbish compared to this glorious privilege of knowing Christ.
Knowing Christ: The Task of All Theology
The aim of all theology is to know Christ. As we learn about who God is and what his word teaches, our love for him deepens and we live boldly for him as our chief treasure. When we have a thorough and ever increasing understanding of the Word of God we begin to experience true worship. Theology is not some dry, boring study reserved for seminary professors. Theology leads us to doxology. As we reflect on the glorious truths of the love of God in the sending of his son Jesus and on the costly redemption God has purchased for us, these truths lead us to deep, moving, and authentic worship.
Theology is for the Church. It is for the people of God to lead them to Worship. Doctrine is the treasure of the church, because it informs us about the God in whom we are worshiping. When a church properly studies and values theology it will always lead them to a rich, corporate doxology.