You probably will think I’m crazy, but the greatest preaching and teaching I’ve ever heard… I’m talking about the most passionate, most engaging, most clear and understandable, most personal, most theological, most applicable, and even most humorous… I didn’t hear these greatest sermons and lessons at the coolest, hippest conference around, nor did I hear them from the new, innovative church. However, the best preaching and teaching I’ve ever heard in my life were from the 4 years that I spend in seminary. See, I told you that you’d think I’m crazy!
Seminary was amazing. Honestly, I miss it like crazy. Being around a bunch of people who desired to go as deep as you do, soaking in the biblical knowledge from professors who were also pastors over the weekend, getting to study the best of books, being forced to study all of the notes, and constantly being pointed to Christ… Agh, I miss those grueling days. But to be even more honest, I would never trade it for the church. There is nothing more rewarding than using what I’ve learned in seminary here in the church. I’m so thankful for my seminary because my professors weren’t weird, crusty, old, decrepid, boring, antiseptic, snoozers. Rather, they were pretty cool guys who could put the deepest of theology in the clearest and understandable way.
In seminary, I learned how to teach theology to real people. You can get away with teaching systematic theology in a boring, crusty, bulleted way to graduate school students who are studying the stuff daily. But there’s no way that’d ever pass to people in the real world, with real jobs, and real lives. They need theology to be taught to them to make sense of the story, the story of the gospel of Christ that they’re placing their faith in, and the story of their own lives as they live it daily.
Its easy for us to teach systematic theology like a systematic theology book or our old systematic theology notes. If you want a taste of it, just think roman numerals, triple letter “i’s”, parenthesis, footnotes, indentations, and…wake up! Yeah, boring to me, too. Until I came across some professors with theology pizazz. The ones who could teach theology and start it off in the narrative of the Old Testament, and then take it to the narrative of the gospel of Christ, then move it along to the narrative of the church, and then escalate it to the narrative of the eschaton (end times). Now that stuff made sense, and it stuck with me! Here’s a quick example.
Youth pastors, if you want to teach theology to your students, let me encourage you to teach it in a way that engages them. Start out with a personal story or a current cultural event that the story may apply to. Often, I like to either start off with a thought (or argument) provoking quiz or case study. Then when I start teaching the theology, I like to offer other views of other people just to make sure we see the importance of knowing the truth since others are believing something totally different and whacked out than us.
Then I like to move to the storyline section of systematic theology. Let’s say I wanted to teach on the church as the temple of God. I’d want to start off with God commanding Moses to erect the tabernacle in the Exodus, and how God was very specific to the details on how He wanted His dwelling place made. What was the tabernacle? It was the specific dwelling place of God. Then when in the Promise Land, how the OT Temple was to be the focal point of the whole land to remind the people that worshipping God was central in their life. Then Jesus said in John 2 that if they tore down the temple, He would rebuild it in 3 days. But He was speaking of His body. Jesus was also known as the One in Whom the fullness of God was pleased to dwell. Then Paul called the church (His body) the temple of God in 1 Corinthians 3. The church is also called the fullness of Christ in Ephesians 1. The Christian is called the temple in 1 Corinthians 6.
So you see, we need to help them to understand a biblical theology when we teach a systematic doctrine. We only get a full picture when we teach it from Genesis – Revelation. Where is the temple in Genesis? The temple is the garden of Eden since God’s presence was there. Where is the temple in eternity? In Revelation, God says there is no need for a temple since His fullness fills the earth through the glory of Christ.
I always end my theological lessons with personal application because I always want the storyline of the doctrine to connect with the storyline of their personal lives. I want them to see that systematic theology isn’t something to be debated, not something to be argued, not something to be left for the seminary professors and students… But theology answers questions about how to be a good church member, how to conduct VBS, how to be a good student, how to prepare to be a great husband or wife, father or mother, etc.
I really pray that you might consider teaching theology to your students. You may feel more than welcome to use my lessons if you want. If not, feel free to pick up great theology books like Dr. Wayne Grudem’s “Systematic Theology.” Our students need to learn systematic theology because they need to think through the issues, they need to be introduced to all of the doctrines, so that they can defend the truths of Christ that were passed down from generation to generation (Jude 3).