Free files for youth pastors:
When I was visiting some people in the hospital last week, I noticed a college aged girl who was walking in a group of people…but she was limping pretty badly. I guess it didn’t throw me off to badly since I had already seen one patient walking around in a construction hard-hat and another walking around in furry-bunny slippers. A minute or two after the group had passed, the girls came walking back towards us again, this time all by her lonesome. She stopped and asked me if I knew where the emergency room was. Apparently, this girl had been walking around the hospital with a torn ACL…looking for the emergency room! She definitely needed immediate attention since her knee was swollen to the size of a honeydew melon. But what if someone walked in with a gun-shot wound, or a woman in labor, or someone vomiting, or someone with diarrhea (yeah, I’m going to stop there)? Which one should get attention first, second, third? Hospitals have developed a system for these kinds of dilemmas called “triage.” Triage comes from a French word meaning “to sort.” And this system will help us theologically.
“Theology” is a set of truths that we accept from God’s Word: the Bible. Even though all truths of Scripture are true, important, and worth defending…not all theological truths are equally important. Years ago, I had a very close friend sit across the table from me and tell me that studying theology wasn’t necessary for today. He felt that theology only ends up dividing the people of Christ. That can happen, but I totally disagree if he thinks theology isn’t important. Not only is theology important, but it is inevitable. Here are the 3 levels in the theological triage:
LEVEL 1: TRUTHS FOR SALVATION – These first level truths are ones essential for true salvation in Christ. A person must affirm these to be true to be a Christian and to recognize others as a Christian. Matters about Jesus’ humanity, deity, virgin birth, literal death, physical-bodily resurrection, etc are necessary for salvation. They don’t have to be understood perfectly, but they must be affirmed as true. Other truths such as a belief in the Triune God as Father Son and Spirit making up 1 God, a belief in the coming eternity, a belief in the reality of sin, salvation through faith alone…these must also be affirmed to be recognized as a Christian. Sometimes I hear the term “heresy” get thrown around too much. The term heresy should only be used when something is believed that would block someone from being truly saved. How can you tell if someone is truly a Christian? Well, they must be believing these first level truths. This must also be said: a person must be able to explain the gospel if they are believing in it!
LEVEL 2: TRUTHS FOR CHURCHES – These second level truths are ones important for churches to agree upon in order to come together and fellowship in unity. Church members should agree upon truths such as the mode and timing of baptism, female roles especially in terms of pastors, the inspiration of Scripture, eternal security, homosexuality and abortion (although very close to first level truths in my thinking), speaking in tongues in the church service, worship styles, and important issues surrounding the Lord’s Supper. People who have major disagreements with a church over these shouldn’t join and cause problems there!
LEVEL 3: TRUTHS FOR CHRISTIAN FELLOWSHIP – These third level truths are important because they are from Scripture, but I believe Christians can be in disagreement over these type truths and still be able to fellowship together as fellow Christians. These are matters such as millennial views, views on the rapture, convictions on music and movies, issues on election and predestination, parenting styles, views on creation, etc. For teenagers, these are for groups like their first priority, FCA’s, Bible studies, and others that happen in their community.
Lastly, there are two extremes that we all tend toward, one or the other, but we all must avoid. Legalism is when people view every truth as first level importance. Legalists defend too much. Liberalism is when people view every truth as third level importance. They defend too little. Christians must exercise all levels of the Theological Triage: salvation, church, fellowship.