Some key quotes and ideas from Creature of the Word by Matt Chandler, Josh Patterson and Eric Geiger.
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In Creature of the Word the authors stress that practice arises out a ministry philosophy which arises out of theology.
“Theology is your church’s ‘thinking about God’. It is the beliefs to which you church holds doctrinally, what your church believes. Ministry philosophy is your church’s ‘thinking about ministry,’ the commitments that undergird all your church does. Practice, of course, is what your church actually does.” (106-107)
Your theology should not be unique. This is what you share with other churches. Your philosophy should flow from your theology, but be specific to your context.
“Bottom line: while practice is important, it is not the starting point. Yet sadly, when ministry leaders connect with each others, practice is typically where the discussion begins. Leaders from Church A, for example, hear about the work of the Lord in Church B. So they start observing Church B from a distance, eventually arranging to meet with some of their staff. Immediately they jump to ‘practice’ questions … but rarely at any point during such a meeting does anyone ask the deeper questions: What do you believe about ‘mission’ that causes you to set these priorities? Why is ______ so important here? Why have you designed your groups this way? The deeper church cultural question is the synergy between theology, philosophy, and practice. When these three come together, formed in the gospel, the impact is tremendous.” (112)
The encapsulates our repeated experience in The Crowded House. We want to talk about theology, but people always ask about practice. I always think (and sometime say), ‘Why are you asking me about practice? Our practice is nothing special. I’m sure you could work out better ways of doing this. And, besides, how we do it is not how you should do it as your context is different from ours. Let’s talk about theology and ministry philosophy.’ But people seem obsessed with the details of practice as if we have some kind of blueprint. We don’t!
The following questions from Creature of the Word may help think through your current practice.
“Christ’s great love frees us from needing validation or approval through programming. When we live in freedom, we can honestly look at every programme and ask the hard questions, like:
• What are we implicitly teaching through the giving of resources to this program?
• Is this programme furthering the gospel in the hearts and minds of our people and the community?
• Could the time we are asking of people be better utilized for the sake of the gospel in a different way than this?
• Would the removal of this programme serve to diminish or rather increase the capacity of our people to love and treasure Jesus and make him known?
• If we were starting from scratch with only the foundation of the gospel, would we do this programme in this manner?
• Why do we do this?” (188-189)