Yesterday, I argued that If we wanted churches that are theologically rich and culturally engaged (and I believe we need that), then rich preaching has a big part to play. However, even if we do the things that I argued for then I still think there’s a lot we need to do. We can’t expect preaching itself to carry the weight of all of this.
So, how do we go about it? Well, I think that there needs to be other things happening in the life of the church. First, we will create space for Christians to engage further. This will include opportunities for discussion, reflection and maybe even debate. This might include using small groups to encourage deeper engagement or having a different type of meeting. For example at our last church, we had a Sunday Night Church which was café style with lots of interaction over food, we also ran a theology breakfast about once per quarter and of course we started Faithroots in order to provide written material and later videos and podcasts. I’m aware of other churches attempting similar things.
Secondly, we will want to encourage people to read and engage more widely and deeply according to their interests, gifting and appetite for study. I don’t think that it is necessary for every Christian to be a reader, I don’t think that those who do enjoy reading are part of some elite. However, this is something we should be encouraging.
I would lean further and encourage people to get as much theological training as they have capacity for. And yes, this means that Theological Colleges still have their place as well as things like Crosslands and Union Learning Communities. Though we will want to ensure that we make theology as accessible as possible and that’s part of what Faithroots is about. Incidentally, as per Steve Kneale’s article here, it means that we will be encouraging men and women to do this.
Thirdly, I think, as Tim Suffield has been talking about that there is a place for what he calls “Doctors of the Church.” I don’t think this is necessarily about people with PHds but it is about setting people apart and supporting them to take a kind of step back to do the deeper and wider thinking, writing and teaching. However, whilst for some, this will take them into academia, perhaps as Seminary tutors. Though I think there’s a place for pastor-theologians within the local church too.
Finally, I would argue that encouraging the gifts of the Spirit, especially prophecy has its part to play in this. Why? Well, if prophecy is not fresh special revelation adding to or rivalling Scripture but rather sitting under the authority of Scripture, then those who prophesy in church should be those who have taken time to reflect deeply on what God’s Word says and to understand the culture into which they are called to speak. Prophecy arising from that will bring something of a nowness of how God’s word applies to and challenges our world today.
I realise that each point above could easily be fleshed out into a full article in its own right but my aim here was to encourage further discussion.