Greg Strand is EFCA executive director of theology and credentialing, and he serves on the Board of Ministerial Standing as well as the Spiritual Heritage Committee. He and his family are members of Northfield (Minnesota) EFC.
The Theology Conference is now behind us and the resources have been posted on our EFCA website. How can these resources be used most fruitfully?
I encourage you to listen to the lectures twice. First, listen to the messages individually, using the notes and also remembering to look through the bibliographies, and allow the teaching to instruct, exhort and challenge you. Jot down things you learn and questions that are raised. Following this, listen to the messages as an elder board and discuss them. The listening could be done either together as a whole group during an elder meeting, or the messages could be listened to individually and then discussed corporately.
That is what the pastor and elders are doing at the local EFC church where I am a member. The pastor will write up some questions for discussion that get to the heart of the implications and applications of the messages to this local church. Here is what I wrote to my pastor: “I would suggest that you draft some specific questions regarding implications of the teaching in each lecture along with the possible application in the local church. As you do this, it is important to bear in mind that each lecture is part of a whole.”
As you prepare to listen to these messages, please remember that you will learn some new things, and you may also be challenged with hearing some things with which you may disagree, either in principle, in emphasis or in practice. That does not mean you will not or cannot learn. As you listen, if there is something with which you are not sure because it differs from what you presently affirm or practice, I encourage you not to dismiss it immediately. Rather, ponder and think through what you have heard. Go back to Scripture, since that is the foundation for truth, and consider and reconsider the belief and practice. And even if you end up believing and practicing in the same manner, you have thought it through and you now reaffirm it with a freshness, with a greater awareness of the issues around the belief and practice, and with increased conviction and humility.
Here is what I wrote to one of the Spiritual Heritage Committee members about the Conference.
I am grateful to hear it was thought-provoking. I think it was for many. As I noted often throughout the conference, the key is not that one agree with the applications or implications, or even biblical exegesis. Rather, the key is how this will be understood, taught and lived. No one gets a pass on these issues because these are biblical issues, and they must be thought through biblically, theologically and pastorally for the local church. If one does not like a presentation or an application, that is acceptable, and to some degree expected. However, it is still required that one work through the biblical and theological issues and come up with some understanding and application. It is not sufficient merely to disagree with the message and then dismiss it.
We do not plan our Theology Conferences to inform pastors and leaders of all they already know and all they already affirm. Much of it is reminders of what they know, some of it is dusting off biblical and theological cobwebs, some of it is new categories of settled convictions, some of it is new. What I find when some settled convictions are challenged people often immediately dismiss the messenger and message. They may do this, but they ought not to do it so quickly and prematurely without using the thought-provoking lectures as a guide to think issues through again. One may end up with the same exegesis, implication and application. But now with a much broader base of understanding and a freshness to one’s view and practice.
May you take up my encouragement to use of these resources. Let me know how the Lord uses this among your leaders in your local church setting.