Sunday, October 24, 2010

Making Theology Practical?

by Jenny

Maybe I’m alone in this, but sometimes it feels like the longer I’m at seminary, the farther removed I become from how the “average” church member approaches their life of faith. Theology is necessary, but the question we all eventually face is how to apply it to life and integrate it into our ministries.

I suppose this is why Luther has us serve in “Teaching Congregations” while going through the Master of Divinity program. I just started at a new church a couple of weeks ago—a wonderful place in St. Paul called Woodland Hills (actually, this was my home church before I left to work with a Spanish-speaking church). My first assignment is to address the question of making theology practical. The church hosts a weekly “Discover Jesus” class for people new to the church or to Christianity to find out more about our faith. My task is to listen to the classes and read the materials to discern if they are accessible to people of different cultural and social backgrounds, levels of education, etc.

This week’s topic was, “Why did Jesus have to die?” Participants were asked to discuss what they thought a random person on the street would answer. The responses were varied, and we realized that it is not easy to sum up and communicate to others such a basic tenant of our faith. Personally, I struggled to silence the different atonement theories battling in my mind so that I could think of what I might say to a friend who has no Christian background.

I left church that night wondering how the Gospel seemed to get so complicated all of a sudden. Then I remembered what we talked about the day before in my 1 Corinthians class—that without the Holy Spirit awakening faith in us, a crucified God is foolishness. We can have great theology and explain it in various ways, but we rely on God’s power to create faith through the preaching of Jesus Christ. Yes, we should work to be effective preachers and teachers. Yet through all this, I am glad that it is ultimately not up to me to “discover Jesus,” but rather Jesus discovers me, as well as those we minister to.


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