Teaching Theology in the Local Church

Chuck Lawless
Theologian for the Churches

If you take look at virtually any poll, the signs indicate that most evangelicals (including Southern Baptists) are confused about theology. Of course, most pastors and other staff leaders understand (or ought to understand) theology because they’ve taken theology courses somewhere along the way as part of their theological education. Yet, most Christians, especially those of us who are Baptists, would argue that the teaching of theology shouldn’t be left solely in the hands of Christian colleges, seminaries, and divinity schools. Theology is for the church!

Fortunately, a growing number of churches are focusing more intentionally on teaching theology as part of their overall strategy for discipleship and spiritual formation. For example, in my church, First Baptist Church of Durham, I co-teach a nine-month Introduction to Systematic Theology as part of our Bible for Life (Sunday School) ministry. I’ve heard stories of other churches that have adopted a similar approach in their own Sunday School or small group ministry.  Other churches simply use one or more of the popularly written introductions to theology and take groups of members through the book as part of a theology discussion group.

Still other pastors will periodically preach a topical-expositional sermon series on a particular doctrine. My friend and former preaching professor Stephen Rummage has some excellent suggestions for how to do this in his book Planning Your Preaching (an excellent, practical resource that every pastor should own). Another fine book on this topic is Old Wine in New Wineskins: Doctrinal Preaching in a Changing World, by Millard Erickson and James Heflin.

Perhaps you are a pastor (or future pastor) who is pondering possible ways to teach theology in a local church setting. Earlier this week, my colleague Chuck Lawless published a helpful guest post at Thom Rainer’s blog titled “7 Steps to Teach Theology in the Local Church.” Many readers will know that Dr. Lawless joined Southeastern Seminary this past year as Dean of Graduate Studies and professor of evangelism and missions. If you haven’t read his post already, you should take a look at it over the weekend. He provides several helpful tips on teaching theology in a local church, as well as links to resources to help get you started.

 

Preparing SEBTS Students for the SBC Annual Meeting

As many readers will know, the SBC Annual Meeting will gather in Houston on June 11–12, 2013. In conjunction with the Convention, I teach an elective travel course at Southeastern Seminary titled The Southern Baptist Convention. The course is divided into three components. First, we meet on campus for one full day to discuss Southern Baptist history, theology, and polity, as well as specific information related to the upcoming annual meeting. Second, the students read several books and articles and listen to numerous audio resources related to these themes. Finally, the students attend the SBC Annual Meeting itself. While at the Convention, the students attend most of the proceedings, meet a couple of times with key SBC leaders, hobnob at the SEBTS booth, and attend the SEBTS Friends and Alumni Luncheon. Most also attend auxiliary events such as the Pastor’s Conference, Baptist 21 Luncheon, and 9 Marks at 9 events, among others.

I thought I would pass on to you some of the resources I use to prepare students for the SBC Annual Meeting. Obviously, we spend quite a bit of time walking through the Convention program, which, along with numerous other helpful resources, is available online. In addition to my lectures and guided class discussions, the students also watch or listen to several lectures, sermons, and panel discussions. This year, I’ve required them to watch the various Baptist 21 panel discussions from previous years (available at the B21 website), which are a helpful gauge of the “hot topics” in the SBC in recent years. I also required the students to watch one of the panels from last year’s 9 Marks at 9. The panel, which included Mark Dever, Al Mohler, and Danny Akin, discussed Fred Luter’s presidential election, the nature of SBC cooperation, and Calvinism, all of which remain important topics a year later.

I also point the students to four lectures or sermons. They watch David Dockery’s fine sermon “Participants and Partners in the Gospel,” which was preached in SEBTS chapel back in February. The sermon is vintage Dockery, calling for denominational unity around the gospel and basic Baptist orthodoxy for the sake of the Great Commission. Students also listen to Dockery’s lecture “The Southern Baptist Convention since 1979,” which helps to orient them to recent Baptist history. The final two lectures are Timothy George’s “The Future of Baptist Identity in a post-Denominational World,” which remains a timely topic, and Al Mohler’s “The Future of the Southern Baptist Convention,” an address that every Southern Baptist needs to listen to at least once.
The students read two books and over a dozen journal articles or book chapters. The first book is Roger Richards’ History of Southern Baptists (Crossbooks, 2012), which is the most recent history of the SBC. The second book is a helpful collection of essays titled The Great Commission Resurgence: Fulfilling God’s Mandate in Our Time (B&H Academic, 2010), edited by Chuck Lawless and Adam Greenway. The latter volume touches upon most of the current tension points in the SBC from a perspective that advocates unity for the sake of gospel advance.

Unfortunately, for reasons of copyright I can’t make most of the additional essays I require available outside of the class. The students read chapters, articles, and booklets written by SBC leaders and thinkers such as Danny Akin (on the Great Commission Resurgence), David Dockery (on Baptist theology), Nathan Finn (on Baptist identity, Calvinism, and the future of the SBC), Timothy George (on Baptist theology), John Hammett (on regenerate church membership and the ordinances), Chuck Lawless (on Calvinism), Al Mohler (on Baptist identity), Paige Patterson (on the Conservative Resurgence), Ed Stetzer (on missional churches), and Malcolm Yarnell (on the priesthood of all believers).

One resource that I can make available to you is Dr. Patterson’s e-booklet “The Southern Baptist Conservative Resurgence: The History, the Plan, the Assessment ” (Seminary Hill, 2012). In this booklet, was which was originally published as three separate articles in The Southwestern Journal of Theology, Dr. Patterson offers a first-hand account of the Conservative Resurgence. It is a helpful look at recent Baptist history from one of the most important shapers of that history. It is also a reminder that Dr. Patterson needs to publish a volume that brings together his collected articles and essays, a topic I have pestered him about in the past. (And again, now, on a public blog . . .)

Anyway, I hope you find these resources helpful. And I hope that many of you will consider attending the 2013 SBC Annual Meeting in Houston. Perhaps I will see many of you there.

(Note: This post was cross-published at Christian Thought & Tradition)online game car

Worth a Look: Gospel Conversations

We at BtT wish to recommend Chuck Lawless’ most recent blogpost, “Gospel Conversations.” Dr. Lawless is professor of evangelism and missions at SEBTS, where he also serves as Dean of Graduate Studies. He begins the post by writing:

“Brother Jack” was my pastoral hero, yet I heard him preach no more than twenty times. I met him after he retired from decades of ministry. He had no obligation to do so, but he invested in me as a young “preacher boy.” Every major decision I made in ministry I made at his feet until he passed away several years ago.

There is so much that made him a leader in my life. Availability. Wisdom. Experience. Knowledge. Commitment. Prayerfulness. Faith. Perseverance. Discipline. Ability. Humor. Respect. Love. This list could go on and on, but what I recall most about Brother Jack might surprise you. I remember what he said and what he did not say.

The remainder of Dr. Lawless’ post can be accessed by clicking here.