EP 210 Congregational Theological Education
Well Bootcampers, the Battle of the Boot is over, Jimbo and his LSU Tigers win again. Bob will wear the pajama top in Oklahoma. In this week’s EP the guys get down to the important business of discussion facilitating theological education for the church. Here are the highlights
- Spiritual maturity does not always correlate to age – the young can be spiritually mature, the seasoned immature.
- We are often theologically educated beyond our level of obedience.
STUDYING God’s Word makes a major impact – more so than just reading it – but we need to teach our people how to STUDY God’s Word
Strategies for providing theological education (it is not a one size fits all scenario and there are multiple ways to layer this into the culture of your congregation):
- Sermon series
- Sunday School or small group series
- Sunday night seminars
- Guest speakers and workshops
- Online resources like right now media, replant hub etc.
- Utilize denominational confessions and creeds
What stood out to you? We’d love to hear from you. Drop us a line and let us know what you think
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JimBo Stewart: Here we are, back at it again, back at the boot camp. Bob, I hope you’re ready for the next episode. you know, we’re on top of it, time management gurus that we are, and recording a week ahead of time. so, you know, we’re not getting to respond yet to the Battle of the Boot, even though this will come out after that.
You know, I guess we could record, like, two different versions of an intro. uh, one where, where you came out victorious, and one where I did, and then I just edit, didn’t speak.
Bob Bickford: Yeah, we could, since you’re wearing your, uh, I just step away from the mic since you’re wearing your Louisiana hat. I’m gonna, I’m gonna go ahead and put this on here Jimbo, just for grins. I got the hog hat on
JimBo Stewart: There we
Bob Bickford: I think this This is going to bring me some good, uh, juju. And I think we’re, uh, I’m going to shine this up, knock the dust off of it.
And I can’t wait to take your picture.
JimBo Stewart: Oh, man. Well, I can’t wait to get to do 1 more trip with you in Oklahoma, as the official [00:01:00] replant associate director. We’re as we co associate direct, for for this final month together,
Bob Bickford: Yeah, I think you’re, um, you might be co directing a little more than me right now, cause I think you’re getting, uh, you’re getting all the emails and the questions that I used to get and that you used to tell me this, I’m so glad those go to you. I think they’re coming your way.
JimBo Stewart: Yeah, yeah. Some have come my way. some have come my way, but that’s all right. We, we’ve got such a great team. I’m so excited, man, just to get to continue to be a part of what God’s doing for the replant team.
Bob Bickford: Yeah, man, I’m excited. I’m excited to watch it. I feel like I’ve, uh, just had one of the best seats in the house to see where we’ve, where we came from, you know, 5678 years ago and where you guys are now. And I’m just excited to see the future. So pretty pumped for y’all.
JimBo Stewart: mean, let’s jump in today’s episode. I was thinking through Bob, some conversations I’ve had with. So pastors recently and talking about time management and having all the things going on, you know, for a lot of guys [00:02:00] that are in replants or revitalizations, more traditional older churches, they are expected to preach and provide leadership like three times a week, right?
Sunday morning, Sunday night, Wednesday night, maybe even a Tuesday night visitation. And they’re probably by vocational. And so, and it’s just overwhelming, and then there’s another concern of like, they have members and members in leadership that are just spiritually immature, and just don’t know a lot of things that you would think that they would know.
You know, I was thinking, Bob, one of the first lessons I always remember thinking about that I learned in a replant is, just because someone is, older and been a part of church their entire life, I realized as a replanter, that does not mean that they are mature in their thinking. and so I’ve been thinking about this and some of the things that we did to adjust, because when I got there, I had Sunday morning, Sunday nights, Wednesday nights, and we did some adjustments with that.
One of the things that I did Is [00:03:00] instead of preparing a sermon for every Sunday night or Wednesday night, I started to shift towards some theological education. And that still takes some prep, but it doesn’t take as much prep because of your, you know, if you, if you, you’re just kind of facilitating conversations.
You need to be learned on what you’re talking about, so you do need to study and read, but you’re not having to study and read and then craft that into a message and, you know, plus, I think there’s a lot of reasons, and we’ll get into them, but I thought, Bob, today we could talk about congregational theological education and some of the benefits of, as a replanter or revitalizer, making sure we are providing theological education in our church, churches that we’re getting to lead.
Thank you, Bob. Yeah.
Bob Bickford: Jimbo. I love that idea. And I think you’ve highlighted a couple important things. First of all, is longevity does not equal maturity. Right.
And you think about Timothy, he was, he was spiritually mature enough to be an elder leader, pastor of the church. and, Paul says, don’t let anyone despise you because of your youth.[00:04:00]
And then we also see throughout the pages of scripture that people who we would have expected to have spiritual maturity and were aged or seasoned in life lacked it. So I think that’s a good point. And the biggest question is, how do you get there? And then. How am I going to use the limited time that I have and opportunities I have to help people take that next step spiritually?
I love where you’re going with this, and I think, I used to always hear people say this. We are theologically educated beyond our level of obedience, and we probably would do well Not to preach three or four different sermons, but perhaps think about how do we align everything so that it builds and shakes hand, with what we’re doing on Sunday, with what we’re doing on Wednesday, on in discipleship groups and all those sorts of things so that everybody is rowing in the same motion.
Instead, I think what you A lot of times in church is a lot of our, experience when we, as a family of five, the [00:05:00] Bix five, when we would try to figure out where we wanted to go out to eat after church, everybody would just shout out a different answer and everybody was angry. So I think just choosing a place and going with it, like, and, choosing a growth track and making it happen.
JimBo Stewart: Yeah, you know, as church leaders, you know, obviously we are called to shepherd the congregations, nurture their faith, guide them in their spiritual journeys. But a big aspect of that is their growth and understanding of theology and knowing that studying theology is not just for seminary students. so as we learn, not only does it deepen our faith, but it can equip us to navigate complexities of life and engage in meaningful dialogue with others.
have a more robust foundation. When you have a deeper, more robust theology and the storms of life hit, you’re, you’re standing on a firmer foundation. and, and so I mean, I can give you a hundred reasons why I think this is a good idea. when our [00:06:00] congregation engages in theological education, they gain a deeper understanding of God’s word.
Enabling them to live out their faith and wisdom and conviction. They become equipped to answer any tough questions in their own life and in their families. They can share their faith and competence and build resilient faith. I was thinking about Proverbs chapter two, I’ve been studying Proverbs for a long time.
And my wife and I, you know, we’re doing our Facebook live thing we do on Monday mornings. We’re going through Proverbs on Facebook live. And we just recently did Proverbs chapter two and. I was thinking of the first six verses. It says, my son, if you receive my words and treasure up my commandments, which is making your attentive to wisdom and then climbing your heart to understanding.
Yes, if you call out for insight and raise your voice for understanding, if you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures, then you’ll understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God. For the Lord gives wisdom from his mouth comes knowledge and understanding. I think.
Not just theology, but I think we have to start with in order [00:07:00] to rightly study theology, we have to start with teaching them how to rightly study God’s words. and so one of my favorite books about discipleship culture, Daniel M. Knows Silver Bullets. he, he talks about how research, he researched a bunch of different, spiritual disciplines through Lifeway and all this stuff and how they impact other spiritual disciplines and, one of the things he indicates in this book is that studying, not just reading, but studying God’s word was like the single most impactful spiritual discipline out of them all.
And it actually ends up affecting and increasing all the other spiritual disciplines, like you’ll increase in all the other spiritual disciplines when you learn how to study God’s word.
Bob Bickford: Yeah. I mean, the, the. The authoritative word of God is the message that God wants us to understand about who he is, who we are, how he wants us to live and what he’s called us to do, right? So all of that comes from scripture. Now you’re going to have to develop the ability to study [00:08:00] scripture, right? So maybe one of the first things you do as a replant pastor is teach people how to read scripture.
teach people do a survey of of the Old and New Testament do a thematic explanation of the Movement of God through the scriptures and what the key messages are for each of the books and why they’re important Right. So if you just went through a simple basic Bible commentary and read the first pages, right?
Like it’s an overview. I think about you could probably do that Jimbo like in a little over a year, you know, you take, take a little over a year to do that and just go, Hey, we’re going to talk about the Bible, how we got it, why it’s trustworthy, what the translations are, why they’re different translations.
And then we’re going to look at each of the books for its key messages and why, why it’s included in the scriptures. Like if you just started there, Jimbo, that’s like a year. Plus of basic training to help people understand the thematic, [00:09:00] elements in God’s word and the movement of God through his word and why, why it’s important to us.
I don’t, I think most people have never had that or done that. You know, you and I’ve been to seminary Bible college, so we have the benefit of that. but I think that would be super helpful.
JimBo Stewart: Yeah. You know, I think we sometimes get frustrated when church members don’t rightly apply God’s word to their life, no matter how well our application is worded in our sermon. I think a lot of it is, you would be surprised at how many of our members just don’t actually know how to study God’s Word, or how to approach theology, how to study, you know, and you can, you can find that out, you know, I don’t know if you’ve experienced this Bob, but anytime I’m around my family, I’m up at Arkansas this week, or around church members, oftentimes, like, I’m not far into the conversation before they start asking random theological questions, right?
Like, and all of a sudden, they just start asking you about, You know, why, why are there gates in heaven? or, you know, if there’s a half Manasseh tribe, is there a one third Manasseh tribe? [00:10:00]And, and they just start getting into these questions, and you’re like, oh, gosh, okay. And, and so part of it is, you know, certainly we could answer some questions, but… I think we’ve got to teach people, one, to know how to study God’s word, and then two, how to like, love God’s word. One of my favorite verses is on the list is Colossians 3, 16, let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs with thankfulness in your hearts to God.
I love that phrase, let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, not just dwell in you, not just sit and listen to a sermon, but dwell in you. and rather than being frustrated with the immaturity of our congregation, let’s take ownership and let’s start equipping and, developing theological education opportunities because, listen, when you integrate theological education into your church community, I mean, it yields so many benefits.
obviously spiritual growth, theological education, fosters spiritual growth. Encouraging deeper reflection on scripture. [00:11:00] I think it can increase unity. Because true biblical unity is theological in nature. You look at Ephesians 4. You look at the way Jesus talked about it in John 15. A congregation that studies theology together.
Often experiences greater unity is when we share a common understanding of their faith. And then apologetics. Congregants become better prepared to engage with skeptics and defend their faith, shouting their beliefs and well reasoned arguments and even the arguments that they may have had in their own minds but were scared to say out loud.
it brings maturity, mature equips believers to become mature disciples who can mentor and disciple others effectively. So now you’re living out the Ephesians 4 11 through 16 of equipping the saints for the work of ministry, building each other up into maturity. And then it’s also, I mean, it’s an engaged community.
True theology done right always leads to praxeology, right? I mean, so a church that emphasizes theological education can attract individuals seeking to learn and grow in their faith, [00:12:00]enriching the church community, and it mobilizes. I think it mobilizes. If you do theology right, it mobilizes and empowers your members.
to be more on mission.
Bob Bickford: Yes, 100%. I think that, if it’s done with the focus of, this is not just for information, it’s for transformation, right? Then, then you’re, you’re heading in the right direction. I think we did, we did a really good job for a long, long time in our Baptist world of teaching for information. But not for transformation and one of the things that we often would say, and I would often say and in presenting to, you know, replant audiences was that we have churches that have deficient discipleship.
They know a lot about the Bible and they know the Bible stories, but they’re not transformed by God’s word. and so I think the key here is not the dissemination of information, but it’s. teaching God’s Word in a way that leads to transformation. Now, transformation is the work of the Holy Spirit [00:13:00]through the empowered Word of God.
And so, we could be faithful in teaching it. The Holy Spirit has to come and work in the lives and the hearts of those who are, are receiving it. But I do think there are some ways that we can teach for transformation. Right? And we’ve both been in sermons or in classes and those sorts of things that it seems like the goal is to get through as much and, deliver the most amount of information and maybe unique information, but not talking about transformation.
So transformation really comes Jimbo from applying God’s word to your life. Like, okay, here’s what God said. Here’s what it means. Now, what does he call me to do? Right? What, what is the personal aspect of how he’s calling me to change? So I think at the heart of this desire to, educate the congregation theologically, what you’re, what you’re talking about is transformation that traces itself back to really good theological education.
So they’re transformed by the, hear the Word of God, understand the Word of God. Changed by the word of God.
JimBo Stewart: Yeah, it’s, [00:14:00] as we dive deep into the word, it’s part of, I think it’s like, it’s the learning how to find the answers, like learning how to learn, learning how to study theology, is, it’s just as important as the actual theology in some ways. You know, my wife leads out in our home and homeschooling our three kids and two of our three kids have inherited all of my learning disabilities and are dyslexic in audio visual processing and ADHD and can’t solve a math problem to save their life, right?
And, and so she’s struggling with like their ability to read quickly or. Do these math things, and one of the things I’m always encouraging her with is, listen, you know, what’s the question we always ask, like, when we’re in a class like algebra, like, when will I ever really need this in real life, right?
And my answer to my kids has been, I don’t know that you ever will need this in real life, but the skill you will need is learning how to learn things that are hard to learn. Like, that’s a skill you have to have [00:15:00] in life, really, to succeed. And this is where we get to see that happen as we equip our congregations in theological education.
It’s not just giving them facts. I think part of the way we get to that transformation is we’re teaching them. how to engage, not just read, not just study, not just sit under preaching, but how to truly engage and interact with God’s word in a theological way and study theology to deepen our understanding of who God is.
And part of that, I think, you know, in Ephesians 4, 11 through 16, central passage, I always go to, one of the things that talks about in verse 14, Is, you know, the result of the leaders equipping the saints to do the work of ministry, building each other up into maturity, into the fullness of Christ is, verse 14, so that we may no longer be children tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness and deceitful schemes.
And it was rooted in good theology, biblical theology. [00:16:00] standing on the rock of Christ, then we’re not as easily deceived by the world, by bad theology. You know, JT English wrote a book called Deep Discipleship where he talks about this idea of moving beyond just information into deeper discipleship with our members.
And one of the things he says, he says, the scheme of the devil is renounce their faith, their faith in Christ. But another scheme of the devil It’s for people to simply just get bored with Christ. And I’m convinced the only way you’ll get bored with Christ is if you only experience a very shallow version of it, and you never dive deep into the theological richness of who he really is and let it dwell in you richly.
and so this is one of those ways where we help them see that Jesus is more than just the guy we sing about and talk about on Sunday morning. I mean, he’s everything. He’s the reason for and behind everything in the world and the greatest thing that’ll ever happen to you.
Bob Bickford: How do we take all of this now and make it practical in some ways [00:17:00] that replanters, renewal pastors can start stepping towards terms of application and. Implementation within their congregation. Like what are a few, what are the few ways? I mean, I’ve got some ideas and I know we’ve got some listed here, but let’s talk about that to sort of help our, our, our listeners.
I think they’re a hundred percent in agreement and we’ve explained fully why, why it’s important. Now we need to maybe land the plane and talk about, okay, how do you, how do you work this out in your congregation?
JimBo Stewart: Yeah, I think some of it, I mean, obviously there are things you can do like sermon series or small group series in Sunday school. I don’t think that’s fine. I think as you look at this, one of the things you’ve got to consider is it’s not a one size fits all scenario and you need to, you need to come at this from multiple angles and multiple layers, in order to really get this brought into deeply into the culture.
and so, I mean, some easy ways, For you, if you’re trying to avoid a lot of prep time in your life is get with your local associations, take convention, get other churches, get some guest [00:18:00] speakers, do some workshops, take, you know, if you’re, if you’re especially here’s the deal again, back to what I said originally, especially if you’re expected to be in charge of Sunday morning, Sunday night, Wednesday night, those are built in opportunities for you to kind of up your game and what you’re doing.
And, you know, it can start out with just some guest speakers. There are online resources like RightNow Media, Replant Hub. They can help supplement some things like that. one of the things that we did is Sunday night seminars. And so on Sunday nights, I would pick a theological topic and I would, I would teach on it and we would have a discussion on Wednesday nights.
We would often, we would go through various series of this. we did one where we studied, different religions of the world and I would give overviews what they believe and, what they think about different things, but then I would always transition from just the generic information. Cause everybody, a lot of people are intrigued by those things.
two, how do we share our faith with someone like that? Right. But from that background of faith, but one of the things we did that [00:19:00] accomplished a lot of this, there’s utilizing the Baptist papal message. 2000, confessional statement, going through that article by article, teaching our people how to study God’s word, to see if they actually affirm those things as true or not, and engaging in that way.
I like what you said earlier, Bob, about like, you can even pick something that takes over a year, like, don’t get a rush, like, take your time. There’s no, there’s no rush here. This is not something, that you’re ever going to get a finish line on. we’re always working through how we do this, but however you can tie it in to even what you’re preaching.
On Sunday mornings in your small group material and have hooks kind of connecting it all together makes it even better.
Bob Bickford: Yeah. Lifeway produces, and it’s probably an older resource, but it came out. With the gospel project Sunday school curriculum and it’s called the 99 essential doctrines and it’s a listing of one to 99 of these little paragraphs that if [00:20:00] you’re looking for some simple way to start and you don’t have time to digest a ginormous, you know, theological book or read a whole book or something like that, you could just begin to take the list of 99 things.
We’ll link it in the show notes cause it’s a great resource. and so you can take something as simple as that. And here’s what I would say to Jimbo. You know, we, we’ve been kind of, calendar heavy here on some of our descriptions and explanations of things we’ve talked about Wednesday night, Sunday night, a lot of folks just have Sunday morning, maybe.
and they don’t have another time. But one of the things I, I heard about is my, my, uh, boss, Brennan Mobley, then the president founder, CEO of 313 just joined a church where he said they have started taking discipleship seriously. And one of the things they do is every morning when they wake up, they sign up for an email.
And then what happens is they get an email that’s got a link and it’s about a five minute video. with scripture. It’s a staff member going, Hey, let me read this scripture. Right? And so they read the scripture and they make a few [00:21:00] points. And then they say, if you want to go deeper, here’s a link and we’d love for you to go on this journey with us.
So what they’ve got is a bunch of people within the church that are doing that. at the beginning of their day for about 5 to 10 minutes, 15 minutes to start the day. And it’s a way that the staff are building into the body. And so something as simple as that, there are so many opportunities to, you know, just get a tripod, shoot a video.
You know, it doesn’t have to be well produced. It doesn’t have to be, you know, have different camera angles and fades and all those sorts of things. And then get a simple way to communicate that whether it’s on Facebook or you’ve got a text push or something like that, and just begin to, to experiment like that.
If you can’t give a Wednesday night or a Sunday night, um, the other thing too, is may just take a. like you talk about seminars, just just take a weekend or two, maybe, and get away and have some extended focus, you know, maybe an overnight retreat or maybe an in town retreat, you know, friday night for a couple hours and then saturday [00:22:00] morning for a couple hours.
You can just get miles down the road by doing some simple things like that a couple times a year, in addition to some regular, simple, ongoing things.
JimBo Stewart: Yeah, I think that’s a good point. It doesn’t have to be an every week thing. and, you know, I don’t want this to feel like too heavy of a. Burden or something else you’re trying to add, but I don’t think you have to overthink it. And like you said, there’s so many resources out there now that you can tap into and utilize and Let it let it spark conversation and ultimately you got to remember the goal isn’t to make them, you know systematic theology professors it’s just to help them engage and understand God’s word and In a real way and in a way that’s rich and deep and builds a foundation for them on how to find rich, deep truth about God and stand on it.
And so even if you just add something, you know, like that email or text push or. You know, once a quarter, do a Sunday night seminar or [00:23:00] just, I would, I would encourage you if you’re only, if they’re only engaging on Sunday morning through the sermon, you’re, you’re limited in how deep you can go theologically in a sermon, because you’re limited on time, you’re limited on it’s, it’s monologue, not dialogue, and you’re limited in that it needs to, you know, a sermon has a certain kind of format and goals.
Whereas you can go, you know, less sermonized and more, hey, let’s dig, let’s, let’s dive in and let’s have a dialogue about this when you can do some theological education. And I think you’ll be surprised at how hungry and open some people are for this.
Bob Bickford: Yeah, I think it’s a great adventure. Amen. Try it. Just try it for a few months, right? before you commit to the whole year, try it for, you know, we used to do these things called the January Bible study. I don’t know if you remember that, but like real deep fried Southern Baptist church with gravy on top used to do these things called January Bible study you know, bring in a speaker and they would do, uh, several sessions over, know, you know, a weekend [00:24:00] or, take some time, extended time to do that.
So name, give it a shot. Let us know how it goes. Let us know what you’re thinking about doing.
JimBo Stewart: All right, thanks for joining the boot camp again. If we could ever serve you in any way, let us know.