Not long ago we attended a social function with a group of friends. They were mostly our age but from different spiritual clans. Eventually the talk turned to faith. Knock me down with what passed as a doctrinal teaching and study. Lord help us!
Though from different denominations this group was mostly evangelical protestant and active participants in their local churches. At one point they asked what I was teaching at church and when I told them the Doctrine of the Church they veered off to discuss the various theological studies they were involved in as well. In the conversation the spiritual drift in America became a little more understandable. Here's a sample---
The Doctrine of Revelation | One lady said her pastor was leading them in a
study of Eschatology. She said the study was focused on the great prophet
The Doctrine of Numerology | In an interesting twist, one of our dinner friends
indicated that their church was examining all the symbolic numbers in the Bible.
He spoke with genuine gratitude for a pastor who cared enough about the
congregation to explore such significant doctrinal questions.
The Doctrine of Last Things | The pastor of one of our friends was conducting
Sunday evening sessions on last wills and testaments and how to protect your
assets in anticipation of age and death.
The Doctrine of the Bible | Their pastor was teaching them why the Bible is a
good reference guide to many troubling life issues.
World events in recent months have affirmed our need for strong, consistent biblical doctrine. Our doctrinal positions are the baseline of what we believe and form the foundation of our mission. The strong Christian response to the horrendous practices of Planned Parenthood weren't just social or economic positions but rather deeply held beliefs regarding the Doctrines of Scripture, God, and Creation. The continued assault on the United States of America by Muslim terrorists offends the Christian community at the point of doctrine as well. What is more, our flimsy defenses of the growing Christo-phobia at home and around the world are a result of poor teaching regarding the Doctrine of Christ and the church. Add the SCOTUS decision about marriage and you get another list of basic theological offenses.
Just a few months back one of the more visible mega-church pastors made a huge interpretation error in the pulpit one Sunday with the potential of misleading thousands of church attendees and ministry partners. Underneath was a poorly conceived and communicated Doctrine of God that ventured far from mainline evangelical stances. When he was challenegd about it, he did apologize, kind of, and moved on. But, it illustrated once again, inside the church, the dangers of ignoring doctrine in our teaching and preaching plan.
Several theological writings usually form my personal approach to doctrinal teaching and preaching. They include---
A Theology for the Church (Revised, 2014) by Daniel L. Akin, Editor
B & H Academic, 2014
Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine by Wayne Grudem
Christian Theology by Millard Erickson
Baker Academic, 2009
The Baptist Faith and Message by Kelley, Land, and Mohler
Lifeway Press, 2007
Dr. Chuck Lawless of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary wrote an excellent blog a couple of years ago about doctrinal teaching in the church. It was posted on the Thom Rainer blog site and can be read here. it is a very concise seven point article about the importance of sound doctrine and why doctrinal teaching should be a significant element of church training and teaching. Please take five minutes for a good tutorial on doctrinal preparation.
Paul wrote a definitive word about doctrinal teaching to Titus, "...my true child in a common faith" (Titus 1:4, ESV). "But as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine" (Titus 2:1, ESV). The preceding paragraph, Titus 1: 10-16 had been about those who taught poor or distorted doctrine and the wreckage such teaching created for those who received it. It's a prime proof-text for strong doctrinal preaching and teaching.
There are many models of preaching and teaching. I usually followed a what? so what? now what? pattern in sermon and lesson development and presentation. The what? segment usually outlined the text and context of the passage and established the doctrinal occasion that underlined the verses under consideration. The so what? element was simply to establish an ethical or moral response to the what? Certainly our doctrine intersects life. Then, finally, the now what? portion established my personal response to the what? and so what? The long and short of it is that my belief system, that is, my doctrine, should touch life at every point. I should be able to put my beliefs into action.
And, that is a problem today. So, many of us defend our positions on issues because we are doctrinally illiterate. Why am I pro-life? Because of my Doctrines of God, Creation, Man, and Scripture. Why do I support Biblical marriage? Because my Doctrines of God, Creation, Man, and Scripture demand it. And, right on through everything in my lifestyle.
Today, doctrine is seen as unnecessary and perhaps boring. What Tim Keller said about doctrine adds some perspective, at least for me---
Ironically, the insistence that doctrines do not matter is really a doctrine
itself.― The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism.
So. Study it. Preach it. Teach it. Live it.