Are Theological Debates Useful To The Church?

I was recently in a conversation where it was argued that theological debates, particularly Calvinism vs. Arminianism, are not useful to the church and belong only in the realm of academia. As I pondered this statement I wondered if there is any truth to it? Do some theological conversations only belong in a classroom or academic journal? Are there areas of theology that should not be discussed or debated within the church? My answer to this question is no. No, we should not reserve certain theological topics for academia. But why?

I am sure that the sentiment of leaving things to academia is the idea that they hurt evangelism or the mission of the church. But what exactly is the mission of the church, within the church? For the purpose of this article I am talking about the church worship, service, meetings. I am no referring to the body and what our mandate from Christ is in going into all the world.

The mission of the church is to disciple the body of the church. To train, to educate, to worship God, to glorify God, to learn more about God. That is the purpose of the meeting of the church. To encourage, to lift up, to strengthen. The purpose of the meeting of the church is not evangelism. The church service is not for the unsaved. Now, do not get me wrong on this, I am not saying the unsaved should not be welcome in a church service. They should. And I pray that they are converted as well. But what I am saying is that our services should not be designed with the unsaved in mind. The purpose of the services of the church are for the believers.

So back to the question of theological debates. I not only believe that they are proper for the church, they are necessary. We should all be wrestling with Scripture. We should all be striving to know God better in all aspects. We cannot effectively do that if there are areas of theology that we shy away from because they are uncomfortable or can lead to heated opinions. So have the discussions, have the debates, but make sure that we are doing things in love, something I do not always follow.

Islam and the Gospel

I have started teaching a series on world religions to a group of teens at church and last night we focused on Islam. As I was preparing for the study I could not help but think of the horrors of 9/11 and what we have seen in the last decade with ISIS and other terror groups. And, of course, there is always the threat of what is Iran going to do with their push for nuclear weapons?

It prompted me to think about what we should do? How can we best reach Muslims for the kingdom?

I think that far too often we try to come up with creative ways to evangelize. We think of strategies, we think of programs, we think of what might be useful. What can we do to reach these people? Where should we reach them? What should we say, or better yet, what should we not say?

When we ask all of these questions, I believe it hinders our mission. It holds us back. The Bible does not instruct us to come up with all of these programs and ideas. What does the bible actually say? It says to GO. It says to teach what we have been taught. (Matthew 28:18-19)

In Scripture, we do not see them coming up with strategies, programs, materials, etc. No, we see them going out and preaching the untainted Gospel of Jesus Christ. That is what we should do. That is our calling. The Gospel is enough. I firmly believe that. We don’t need to dress it up, it will cut like a two-edged sword just as it is (Hebrews 4:12).

So let’s go. Get out of the planning rooms. Get out of the meetings. Just go and preach the Gospel!

Go Ye All Into the World?

At the end of Matthew’s Gospel we see the final instructions given by Christ to His Disciples:

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  – Matthew 28:19 (ESV)

This command is pretty straightforward if read at face value with its plain meaning. They were to go and preach the Gospel to all people. But there have been questions regarding this passage and whether or not it would apply to all Christians or only to the Apostles themselves.

Since the beginning of the church, this passage has been understood to apply to all believers as a call for evangelism. But how can we know that is the case? The passage itself gives us that answer.

Teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you – Matthew 28:20a (ESV)

The word for observe is the word tēreō and carries the sense of fulfillment. In other words, the disciples were to evangelize and charge others with fulfilling the commands of Christ, including the Great Commission.