Where does Theology Begin for You?
Theology studies the nature of the divine based on the Holy Scripture to understand God, His Ideas, and the way suggested by Him for Christians. For the 21st century church, it is especially important to identify itself in the context of exile that is a resource of renovation, as stated by Beach (2015). Practical and biblical theology uses both Old and New Testaments as a foundation for leading exilic people by informing them how to behave and what to expect in the future. The role of ministers, in this connection, is to translate the biblical advice into contemporary cultural and social reality (Clapper, 2014). Exile should be regarded as a legitimate paradigm so that the Western church may understand its objectives and disseminate this knowledge to people as appropriate.
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Is the Practical Theology of Heart Renewal and its Characteristics a Viable Place to Begin the Theological Discussion?
In the very heart of Wesleyan theology, one should note love as a means of salvation. Maddox considers that Wesley’s practical theology is oriented towards such concern as responsible grace (Clapper, 2014). In other words, it refers to shaping the worldview of people to facilitate spiritual development and discipleship. The central idea of heart renewal is to provide believers with feasible guidance on overcoming difficulties in changing situations.
There are four key characteristics of practical theology: transformative, holistic, occasional, and contextual. The first two issues are more descriptive of theology, while the latter specifies how the discussion should be conducted. In many respects, the practical theology of heart renewal is a beneficial starting point to follow responsible grace principles to respond to God’s initiative. The essential benefit of practical theology is to be truly transformative to not only enable understanding of the church but also promote change and correction of Christian values and lives.
The majority of people in the ministerial context identify themselves as Pentecostals. It is a semi-Christian movement that emerged from the Baptist communities in the United States. The basis of their teachings is considered the Bible: the Pentecostals consider themselves as evangelical Christians and recognize all aspects of Christ’s teaching, often strictly referring to the commandments. The main values are faithfulness, reliance on traditional foundations in marriage and family, a call for tolerance, and avoiding harm.
The Pentecostals state in the condescension of the Holy Spirit to believers, during which miracles of healing and knowledge of other languages may occur due to revelations given by God. Pentecostal churches exist in almost all countries of the world, but this trend has the greatest number of active followers in the United States and Latin America.
Initially, the biblical word “Ecclesia” referred to the church and meant the place for worship (Ferguson, 1996). In the new version of the Bible, Christ says: “I will build my Church”, while the older versions present the following statement: “I will build my Ecclesia” (Matthew 16:18-19, NIV). It should be stressed that Ecclesia was the organization responsible and responsive to concerns of the congregation, and the shift towards the new word seems to leave people without their roots (Wright, 2018).
Comparing the above discussion with the views of Tidsworth (2015), it becomes evident that the very definition of the church lacks power, and there is a need for stronger identification to ensure the robust spiritual journey of believers. The Postmodern environment presents challenges, which can be better comprehended and handled by ministries through establishing spiritual identity.
It is common practice when people call themselves and others as the church members. It seems ordinary, but the meaning lies in the organizational focus that prevails. In his study, Tidsworth (2015) distinguishes between membership and discipleship, claiming that the latter reflects a person’s spiritual identity. The word “member” cannot provide the full significance of being a Christ-follower, which makes it impoverished and weak. A more invigorated language is required to begin the transition from membership to discipleship to improve such issues as a secular nature of Christianity adopted by many believers in the United States, transience, institutional advancement, et cetera.
The review of leadership applied by a minister is quite representative of how much attention is paid to either discipleship or membership. For instance, pastors oriented to the church members are more likely to attract more believers and focus on their quantity (Tidsworth, 2015). Once a person is signed for the membership, his or her future fate may or may not be of interest to this pastor. On the contrary, ministers that target discipleship invest in individuals and stimulate believers’ Christian maturity. Such pastors emphasize the role of the Christian journey of disciples as a lifelong process. As a result, the issue of membership becomes secondary, yet discipleship remains the key goal.
Heart Holiness Affections
The fundamental challenge to a ministry is shaping the hearts of believers. When ministers call to the change of the church, they should target change in believers’ souls. The primary goal of the sanctification of heart holiness is to imagine the renewed attitudes with the focus on the future. In this context, humility means realizing that believers are not God, but He is in each of them. The freedom given by Him should be utilized to collaborate with the Holy Spirit.
Once a person is aware of the role of child humility, then God can use him or her as a spiritual director, while humility should become an integral part of one’s life. Besides, humility is expected to identify all the affections of the heart and serve as a mediator of humble love. The latter refers to relying on God who is the only one who can accept their sins and imperfect services.
The basic duty of all ministers is to offer people Christ’s teaching and allow them to experience spiritual growth and heart holiness. It is important to explain to the congregation that they should direct their hearts to God, who will respond to them with grace. Through joyful obedience, Christians may renew their hearts and pleasure such results as sincerity and happiness from the cooperation with God (Clapper, 2014).
The concept of eudaemonism views moral value put in producing happiness from good actions is useful to understand how humble love may be promoted. In particular, when a believer has a strong and persuasive evangelistic appeal and is happy, his or her neighbors would also see it and want to have for themselves. Thus, one may conclude that enfleshed happiness from holiness is likely to facilitate conversion and renewal of hearts through imitation and power of the gospel.
Attractional and Missional
The impact of the gospel on the congregation is undeniable, yet its methods are different. According to the attractional outreach, pastors assign the attraction of new believers to their church’s paramount importance. Only after that, they consider the gospel itself and offer it to people. This strategy objectifies potential believers and concentrates all the efforts on this process (Reid, 2013). The attractional worship aims to provide quantity supported by the provision of benefits.
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For example, when 3,000 persons were added to the church by Peter, it is noted that “continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house” (Acts 2:46, NIV). This excerpt mentions no ways on how these people were adapted to the church or how their cultural specifics were taken onto account. It seems that in that period, secular influences did not dominate the church, and the nature of preaching was God-directed, life-changing, yet not inclusive.
The situation changed with the need to renovate the church, which can be observed in the example of Jews who were forced to leave Israel under the pressure of Akkadian rulers. Led by Esther, they were returned to their motherland, and their social concerns were also addressed by the mentioned leader. For example, she ordered to “destroy, kill, and annihilate all the forces of any people or province hostile to them, including women and children, and to plunder their possessions” (Esther 8:11, NIV). This is a missional engagement strategy since Esther understood the conditions, potential consequences, and then took actions in the interests of the congregation. It does not objectify people, but define the context as a source of earning about how the church and ministers should approach outreach.
The modern church in exile encounters declines in attendance and discipleship, which can be improved employing the missional outreach. According to the framework elaborated by Leslie Newbigin, the church should first specify its context to comprehend its current condition (Tidsworth, 2015). The second step is to listen and learn information from the community, focusing on the needs of people. Only after that, the church can implement what was learned into the gospel and appeal to believers.
In terms of the missional strategy, the 21st-century church may engage with organizations, structures, and people to inform its worship and build productive relationships, as assumed by Reid (2013). The following way of outreach is missional: community, gospel, and church supplemented by holy experimenting. The research shows that for today’s church, it is possible to understand skeptics and seekers who cannot identify themselves as well as apprentice people into missional faith (Reid, 2013). The modern church may use the missional outreach to establish a community of embodied faith and initiate the process of transformation of believers.
Church Visitor Concept of Authority
The authority of the church as a religious organization is the capability of influencing the content of consciousness and direction of the actions of people. It is formed as a result of the recognition of its moral primacy based on its positive experience in solving various problems. Successful experience of participation in public life, historical examples, and personhood are the key elements that define the church authority. This paper aims to discuss the concept of authority from the perspective of the church visitor in detail.
Personal Evaluation of Authority “for” the Church
The main arguments on which the authority of the church is built are drawn by people from dogma and the social practice, reflecting the social role of a given religious organization in society. For the church, not only the presence of a lot of followers and historical traditions but also discipleship is important (Tickle, 2012). Its social and moral authority lies in the fact that many unbelievers or people who are indifferent to religion are in search of reliable social guidelines.
Though missional outreach, the church’s authority helps it to turn them in Christianity and preach the holistic principles. Another meaning of authority for the church is increasing its role in meeting several eternal spiritual needs. Therefore, a serious analysis of religion as well as its structure involves the study of the degree and nature of their secularity, the impact of religion on people’s way of life, cultural traditions, and the public behavior of believers.
The church may utilize its authority to propose guidelines for those who need them in their lives. In case the assistance is required for a person regarding his or her concerns, it is the authority of a ministry that can be beneficial. Both experience and the current mission impact the church’s authority and its further course of action (Tickle, 2012). Nowadays, the concept of power for the church is closely associated with the emergence of Christianity, which emphasizes transformation and the Holy Scripture as the innate characteristics of the church renewal in the 21st century.
Personal Evaluation of Authority “of” the Church
When one discusses the authority of the church that, by the conviction of some publicists, falls, and according to other sociologists, it remains consistently high, it may be difficult to understand what is essentially being said. The evidence shows that the number of people who trust the church is high, and, simultaneously, the number of persons attending services remains much lower. It cannot be rejected that the authority of the church is that of God, and it has no other authority. According to the Bible, the church is provided by its Founder and no one else: “I will create my Church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it” (Matthew 16:18 NIV).
God created the church through His chosen Apostles; He commanded to perform the Sacraments and stated that He will be with the Apostles and their followers all the days. One should point out the fact that this authority does not rest on the personal authority of certain priests and cannot be destroyed by them (Tickle, 2012). This religious organization does not set the commandments of God yet only announces them. In their turn, ministers act as representatives of His will to direct people and help them open their hearts. In other words, the impact of the authority of the church is the embodiment of the Holy Scripture that strives to guide people on their spiritual journey.
Personal Evaluation of Authority “in” the Church
In modern conditions of social disintegration, the concept of authority “in” the church advocates a dialogue of all people regardless of their political or any other positions. Inside the church, the work is prepared from the standpoint of protecting morality and cultural foundations and opposes thoughtlessness (Tidsworth, 2015). For example, Sunday teachers may use their authority for involving all members of society in the common creative work, the support of the family, and responsiveness towards their beloved ones.
The church participates in public life by fulfilling the role of a spiritual guide. This position meets the needs of reality, especially regarding the relationship between the clerical and the secular in power. Much hope is placed on the church in moral education against the background of moral disorientation, which enables it to strive for spiritual leadership, developing in terms of personhood as a sign of a great leader able to find solutions to the most challenging problems.
According to the Scripture, only the church can overcome moral depravity and the whole complex of social ills with the help of Christian commandments and social prescriptions (Tickle, 2012). Without spiritual renewal, God, and obeying His commandments, no knowledge and skills, no money and goods, no strength, and power will bring a person true happiness and harmony of being. Therefore, “in” the church authority integrates the primacy of the Scripture and the community, declaring them the main factors in the authority formation and impact.
The authority of the church may be considered from a variety of perspectives, each of which is essential for realizing its power. One should conclude that authority “for” the church means the opportunity to impact the congregation and attract potential believers through the missional outreach. The authority “of” the church is created by God and His teaching, while none of the pastors can violate it. As for the authority “in” the church, pastors and Sunday teachers may apply it while communicating with people and building relationships. It is considered that they can create their authority by proving themselves and focusing on personhood development.
Beach, L. (2015). The church in exile: Living in hope after Christendom. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
The Bible, New International version (NIV). (n.d.). Web.
Clapper, G. S. (2014). As if the heart mattered: A Wesleyan spirituality. Eugene, OR: WIPF and Stock Publishers.
Ferguson, E. (1996). The church of Christ: A biblical ecclesiology for today. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing Company.
Reid, A. (2013). As you go: Creating a missional culture of gospel-centered students. Colorado Springs, CO: Tyndale House.
Tickle, P. (2012). Emergence Christianity. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Publishing Group.
Tidsworth, M. (2015). Shift: Three big moves for the 21st century church. Chapin, SC: Pinnacle Leadership Press.
Wright, L. (2018). Ekklesia rising (2nd ed.). New Yok, NY: HarperCollins Christians Publishing.