For years I have tried to blow the whistle on the subject of shallow theology. This is a current trend among evangelical churches to keep things shallow. It is especially highlighted among the current 20-30-something crowd.
Quite a few of my pastoral peers fit into this mold. Most have not heeded the warning. They look at those of us who would say something as Chicken Little talking about the sky falling.
They continue to chase whatever nonsense Andy Stanley or other “church growth gurus” are saying. One such pastor I spoke to on this issue admitted that he had not read a book on theology or doctrine in nearly six years. Theology didn’t matter anymore.
Before I address the actual situation, let me talk about how we got here. Like most problems with theology and churches, there was a pendulum swing. A new, bright young crowd saw the issue that a lot of churches were facing as too much head knowledge without putting things into practice. At times this was a fair assessment, and other times this was a misunderstanding of how and where practical theology can be applied. That can be addressed another time.
In unison, they would cite I Corinthians 8:1, saying to me, “You know the Bible says that knowledge puffs up. Without love, knowledge means nothing. We are trying to build a church where people actually put their faith into action.”
The problem is that these are pendulum swingers. They take the pendulum from one extreme and swing across to the other. They wouldn’t say it out loud, but in their actions, they act like deep theology is bad. We all need to practice living like Jesus.
However, if you don’t understand the depth of who Jesus is, you cannot act like Him. Ironically, since they are a one verse wonder with I Corinthians 8:1, they don’t have the depth of knowledge to realize there are other passages that address the need for deep theology.
The fact is Jesus Himself warns of this. He talks about the gospel going out, and a lot of people hear it, and even seem to receive it, and then reject it. Why? Because they had no depth. There was no root.
He says in the parable of the sower and the seed in Matthew 13:5-6: “Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth of soil, but when the sun rose they were scorched. And since they had no root, they withered away.”
Many today are like this. They like the idea of Jesus and forgiveness. They don’t like the idea of God’s wrath against them and repentance. They are not really rooted in Jesus, realizing that they are sinful and need Him to change their lives. So when tough times and false teachers come, they are scorched.
We continue to have churches and pastors who have shallow expectations for their congregations. It’s all about headcount and how many bodies you can get into the pool. There’s no real depth there.
This is why many of them struggle to produce Christians who faithfully attend church and understand solid biblical theology. This is why churches lack Christians who can actually live the Christian life.
I hear a lot of these pastors say, “Well, we have X amount of people in our church,” but only about half of them come faithfully. Why? No depth.
Many of these churches went through Covid and much of the congregation scattered. Why? They couldn’t take the heat because they had no depth. Some of these pastors even went on record to say they’re essentially treating people as stupid and unable to learn. Like believers could not grow in their knowledge of Christ.
The keynote speaker of a large conference I attended said, “The average person has about an eighth grade education, so that’s the level I try to teach at.“ How insulting. How unChrist-like to leave people where they’re at and not try to disciple them into a greater knowledge of Christ.
Am I advocating a head-knowledge-only ministry? Of course not. That would be preposterous. We need head and heart knowledge and action. I have written on this previously and you can read it here: Should Sermons Teach the Gospel, Doctrine, or Practical Application?
By deep theology, I do not mean theology that’s not able to be understood. I mean theology that goes beyond surface issues and searches the depths of God. We need to read about these deep truths in Scripture, and then explain them. It is training people how to swim in the deep side of the pool.
So what am I advocating? I’m advocating that we teach in-depth and practical theology. I’m advocating for pastors to stop treating parishioners like children. Rather, help them to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen (II Peter 3:18).
That way – when they are attacked by the enemy and/or things are failing in their lives, when false teachers, or persecution comes – they still follow Christ.
Thanks for taking time to read this Maddening Theology post. If you enjoyed this content you can find Pastor Tim’s sermons at www.cornerstoneforestcity.org. You can also join us at 520 Marion St. Browndale, PA 18421 on Sundays at 10 AM. To make following the blog easier you can also register. You can also join us on Facebook at Cornerstone Forest City. Also, don’t forget to download our APP on iTunes or Googleplay.