A lazy theologian never makes for a good gospel preacher, at least not for long!
I’ve heard it said before that we shouldn’t waste so much time on studying theology, that theology distracts us from our main job of preaching the gospel, that we need to put down the books and instead just focus on preaching the gospel.
I am in full agreement when it comes to the vital importance of proclaiming the gospel clearly and powerfully to the unbelieving world. However, the notion that a deep commitment to studying theology distracts us or somehow makes us less effective in preaching the gospel is both wrong and dangerous!
Without Theology the Gospel Ceases to Be Gospel
It is dangerous to ignore the importance of theological study because, whether we like it or not, the further we remove ourselves from serious theological engagement the more likely it becomes that error will creep into our preaching. It’s a common theme in history that has repeated its self far more times than we should care to mention.
To simplify things the progression often looks something like this:
- Preacher starts out solidly on the foundation of the gospel.
- Preacher continues with some success.
- Preacher slowly gets out of the habit of rigorous study.
- Preacher, without even knowing it, starts preaching his own opinion instead of God’s Word.
- Preacher moves away from preaching about gospel topics like sin, repentance, hell and salvation.
- Preacher begins to focus exclusively on practical matters like marriage, money and success.
- Preacher compromises the gospel message in an effort to “win” more people’s approval.
And that’s how we lose the gospel! Yes, there may be other reasons and other ways but that’s a common one that I’ve seen.
Passion for the Gospel Comes from Our Theology
A passion to preach the gospel begins in the mind and heart of the preacher by a careful examination of Scripture and the working of the Holy Spirit to bring personal conviction and belief.
You can preach the gospel with emotion and give it some sense of passion without a deeper understanding of theology but you can only do that for a limited amount of time. If you don’t give yourself to deep, regular, and prolonged study of theology, eventually you’ll find yourself mimicking those passions and emotions like any actor on any stage.
A lazy theologian may be a good actor but he is never a good gospel preacher.
Effective Gospel Preaching Comes from Careful Study
The problem with the lazy theologian is that he loses his ability to think accurately and carefully about current fads of thinking and problems in society.
Let’s not forget that Jesus was a theologian long before he was a preacher of the gospel. We know that even at a young age he astounded his elders by his knowledge and understanding of Scripture. But he wasn’t just answering their questions, he was also listening and learning!
And it happened after three days they found Him in the temple sitting in the midst of the teachers, even hearing them and questioning them. And all those hearing Him were amazed at His intelligence and His answers.
Jesus spent his entire life studying Scripture and theology so that he could spend three years of it in ministry!
Let’s also not forget that besides Jesus the greatest theologian in the New Testament was also the greatest gospel preacher. The apostle Paul wasn’t just a missionary and a tent maker he was also a scholar. He grew up as a Pharisee and thus he was well learned in the Scripture Acts 22:3.
Read his writings to the churches in the New Testament and you will find theology. Paul always lays out the foundation of theology taken from Scripture before he begins to talk about its application and it’s action in our life.
Not only did Paul have a tremendous understanding of Gods Word but he also was well read in the philosophies of other cultures. When he preached the gospel to the Greeks in Athens he even quoted one of their poets (Acts 17:28).
Don’t Be a Lazy Theologian
My advice, if you want to effectively preach the gospel don’t be a lazy theologian!
What does that mean?
First, it means you need to make a commitment to do more than read God’s Word, you need to study it. By study I mean you need to dig in, find the meaning and make the applications. Trust me, it’s work but it’s worth it in the long run.
Second, you need to read. Reading the writings of others helps us to stretch our thinking and expand our understanding. Make a reading plan for yourself and stick to it. Read the classic theologians before you read the contemporary ones.
Third, I highly recommend that you begin writing. Writing has a way of catching certain thoughts and ideas that float around in our heads and do no one any good until they’ve been put into black and white on a piece of paper. Writing will help you make sense of your own theologian. Writing will also help others.
This Is Why I Teach Theology
This is why I am committed to the importance of teaching theology in Ukraine. I know that churches built on solid theology will always produce the best gospel preachers.
I know that the best way to ensure that the gospel is being preached is to teach the depths of God’s Word to Ukrainian believers who can then in turn preach the gospel in their context.
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