The following article by Jim McClarty was published in the Smyrna A.M.--- a Smyrna, TN paper that was seeking articles from local ministers.
The Message: Theology = education, not entertainment
By JIM McCLARTY For SMYRNA A.M.
I get a lot of e-mail. Due to the popularity of our Web site, I receive comments and observations from a wide range of denominations and countries. One of the most consistent themes emerging from my inbox is the general lack of doctrine and theology being taught in most churches. In its place, churches offer showmanship — clowns, puppets, lightshows, theatrical productions, surround-sound, smoke machines, rock bands, etc.
An elemental shift has occurred in the contemporary church. According to the Bible, although the followers of Christ are in the world, we are not to be of the world (John 17:14-16). We are called to reflect the principles and teaching of Christ, as salt and light in an otherwise decaying and dark environment. But, as church buildings and budgets have grown, churches have begun competing with the world over the disposable income people spend on entertainment. And in the process, doctrine and theology have suffered.
So, does that really matter? I mean, what's the point of theology anyway? Is doctrine really that important?
The word "theology" is a contraction of two Greek words, meaning "words about God." The Bible is full of such words. As you learn the Bible, you learn what God is like, how He thinks, how He acts, and what it takes to approach Him. It's not enough to simply think about God. It matters what you think about God. Proper theology teaches you how to think about God properly.
In his epistles, the apostle Paul urged the church repeatedly to concentrate on "sound doctrine." That means: solid teaching. They were not to merely imagine what Christ was like or what He taught. They were to devote themselves to the solid, provable teaching handed down to them by the apostles. Proper theology leads to proper Christianity.
Biblical theology answers the most pressing, important question any of us will ever face: "How can sinners stand forgiven and un-condemned before a righteous, holy God?" Given that we are all mortal and the ratio of death so far is a perfect 1:1, what you think about God's salvation is a very important consideration. Proper theology leads to peace with God.
And finally, once we understand our relationship with God and His Son, that knowledge affects every aspect of our lives. How we treat people, how we raise our kids, how we live in society, and how we treat our marriage, are all directly impacted by a genuine understanding of our position before God. In other words, proper theology leads to a proper life.
So, does theology matter? Yes. In fact, there is no other subject in this lifetime that will have a greater impact on your eternal destiny than the words you say about God.
Jim McClarty is the pastor of Grace Christian Assembly in Smyrna. GCA meets at 904 Hazelwood on Sunday mornings at 10:30 and Wednesday evenings at 7. For more information visit: www.salvationbygrace.org You can e-mail Pastor Jim at: firstname.lastname@example.org.