A couple of years ago, I had the privilege of leading a study on systematic theology for leaders of our church. I’m so grateful for these people and am honored to serve alongside them here in our community. That experience proved to be catalytic for a new season of growth among the entire church. As a senior pastor, I was reminded of many things, but three stood out:
1. We are all theologians.
Theology literally means the study of God or thinking about God—so, every single person is a theologian. Even the atheist is a theologian because the atheist has concluded in his or her mind that there is no God. Because we are all theologians, we should desire to be good theologians. We should want to think true and right thoughts about the character of God, how He interacts with the world, and how He has revealed Himself to us. A. W. Tozer famously wrote, “what comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.” It is the most important thing because what we think about God will impact how we relate to Him and how we live. What I think about God will impact how I relate to my kids, how I treat my wife, and how I approach my day. Which brings us to point two…
2. Theology is very practical.
Reading and discussing theology is more practical than people often realize. This is true of everyone, but in the context of leadership, specifically, we tangibly serve people at critical life moments and our theology impacts how we serve them. For example, our elders pray with families and lead parents in a time of committing to guide their children in the ways of the Lord. If we believe that all of humanity has inherited sin and guilt, then it causes us to pray that each child will receive God’s grace. Our pastors also pray for and care for people in the midst of trauma and trials. What people believe about God impacts how they pray and what they say to people in those painful moments. Which brings us to point three…
3. Theology must be lovingly applied.
There is a lot we do not know, a lot we do not understand. Studying theology should actually cause us to feel as if we know less. In the midst of painful moments, it is best to not be armchair theologians as Job’s three friends were. It is not only OK to say, “I am sorry. I do not know. But I do believe God is good.” It is often the wisest answer. Job’s friends were at their best when they stayed quiet and just sat with Job. Studying theology should never cause us to walk around with all the answers (1 Cor. 8:1). Studying theology should result in greater humility and greater worship. We should join the apostle Paul in declaring:
Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and of the knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments and untraceable his ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor? And who has ever given to God, that he should be repaid? For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever. Amen. (Romans 11:33-36)
Your church can study theology.
That experience of teaching systematic theology to leaders has turned into ongoing opportunities to teach it to people in the church. The response and growth have been overwhelming. All of this led to conversations with Ed Stetzer and Rooted Network about how we can help churches and small groups study theology in a more accessible way.
Deep Dive studies are designed to take the average person deeper into their understanding and application of biblical truth. Theology and the Mission of God is an 8-week small-group discipleship resource guiding people through core doctrines of the Christian faith—an introduction to systematic theology.
This post is updated from Eric’s leadership blog, originally published as: 3 Reminders from Teaching Theology to Shepherding Elders on February 6, 2020.
Eric Geiger is the Senior Pastor of Mariners Church in Irvine, California. Before moving to Southern California, Eric served as senior vice-president for Lifeway Christian Resources. Eric received his doctorate in leadership and church ministry from Southern Seminary. Eric has authored or co-authored several books including the best-selling church leadership book, Simple Church. Eric is married to Kaye, and they have two daughters: Eden and Evie. During his free time, Eric enjoys dating his wife, taking his daughters to the beach, and playing basketball.