Why Small Groups Need Theology
Experience has taught me that every conversation has a purpose. It might be clearly understood, or it might be veiled to one or both of the participants. The purpose of the conversation helps me know what to do in the conversation. Am I just listening, or do you want my viewpoint? Are you asking a question, or is there some specific action you want me to take?
The same is true for small groups. What is the purpose of our conversation? Are we simply trying to get know each other? Are we trying to organize a mission project? I believe that the central purpose of small groups is theology.
In his epistle to the Ephesians, Paul writes, “until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of God’s son, growing into a mature man with a stature measured by Christ’s fullness. Then we will no longer be little children, tossed by the waves and blown around by every wind of teaching, by human cunning with cleverness in the techniques of deceit.”
Theology is important first of all because without it, we are not stable people. As I write these words, the week is coming to a close where the Supreme Court heard oral arguments concerning gay marriage. The controversy has stolen the focus from Easter, and inflamed a firestorm of debate on social media complete with marriage equality profile symbols. The whole situation is a reality check for evangelical Christians on what is to come in the future. The topic itself involves many different aspects of theology including the nature of God, the nature of sin, marriage, and government.
Where does one even begin to navigate these turbulent waters? Even for those with advanced degrees it is a very difficult task. For the average Christian in the pew, it is overwhelming. It was hard to watch those who dared to take a stand chewed to pieces by their opposing friends.
The bad news is that it will not get any easier to be a Christian in America. Christians who are weak in theology will be unable to live biblical lives that invite their lost culture to take a closer look at Jesus. In fact, I fear many will walk away simply unable to apply God’s Word to their daily lives in the face of the cultural onslaught.
Theology is literally “reasoning about God.” As we live, we pick up ideas about the nature of God and this world from many different sources. We put this together into a worldview, the structure from which we make decisions about life. Some of the structure is right, but all worldviews have misconceptions about God.
Because worldviews explain the why and the how of the way this world operates, wrong theology leads to wrong behavior. Correct theology seeks to understand God in light of the truth of scripture. So theology is also important because it helps us to correctly interpret what is going on around us.
Only so much effective theology can be done in the worship service. As a pastor, it is easy for me to recognize the limitations of the long-term impact of a sermon. For Christians to be prepared for life and ministry in this culture, they must be theologically trained in a small group. They need to sit down with others, look at the word, discuss it, and wrestle with how to live it out. People want more than a one way conversation; they want to ask the hard questions of life. Small groups provide a safe and effective place for people to do theology. Only in this way will they build enough conviction to live it boldly in our changing world.
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