Strong and Courageous
October 12, 2018
I currently am re-reading a book titled Center Church by Dr. Tim Keller. It is a deep and fascinating adventure into how the DNA of the gospel is to be expressed into the local church. To be honest, I have been wrestling with this topic for some time, and the challenge to think deeply on the subject is woven throughout this book.
The idea of “center church” is that to be balanced, there is a distinct hierarchy that is to be established in sequential order. For those involved in church leadership, there are 3 aspects of ministry to be considered in the pursuit of being center or being balanced. They are:
1) Doctrinal Foundations, what to believe.
2) Theological vision, how to see.
3) Ministry expression, what to do.
Often, there is the temptation to skip 1 and 2 and jump in directly to the 3rd step. So much of church life is found concentrating on the “what to do” aspects of ministry. Keller describes that this tendency to skip over doctrine and theological vision can create the potential for the church to become out of balance. Doctrinal foundations and theological vision are the hard parts to prioritize but are extremely necessary to the health of the local church. Even these words, “doctrine” and “theology” are not fuzzy feeling or sexy. But that does not negate their importance.
The challenge of doctrinal foundations is that we must preserve the truth of the gospel completely without compromise. Core beliefs such as the trinity, fall of man, life death and resurrection of Jesus, salvation by faith alone and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit are essential to hold tightly. Other doctrinal positions can be held more loosely; however they still are important to the foundations of health for the local church.
The challenge of theological vision involves philosophy of ministry. Keller states that this is the most important aspect of preparing church planters and he spends more time parked here than anywhere else. He says, “How should we see? A faithful restatement of the gospel with rich implications for life, ministry and mission in a type of culture at a moment in history which includes vision and values, ministry DNA, emphasis, stances, and philosophy of ministry.” Further he states. “Pastors struggle to connect doctrinal foundations to ministry expression in a meaningful way.” If doctrinal foundations are the hardware and ministry expression is the software, then theological vision is described as middleware layer where important things happen. Our philosophy of ministry concerning being charismatic, missional and reformed need to be fully developed in the local church. These foundations go on in the background of all the things that we do in ministry expression. If they are not profoundly in place, a church can drift towards compromising the gospel in order to be relevant to the community, or they can become withdrawn and isolated to the point of being ineffective in impacting society.