Guest Post: 6 Ways To Survive Shifting Theology
This week is going to be a little different at Church Thought. I am currently finishing up an eBook based on the church planting series, and preparing to head to Exponential (let’s connect!) next week. In order to maintain a degree of sanity, I have asked a few friends to share their wisdom with us this week.
Today, Matt Wade is sharing the story of how his theology has evolved as he has developed a better understanding of his Creator. Matt’s blog is called Human Like You, check it out and get a copy of his free eBook.
In 2005, while pastoring my first church, I collided with a wall theologically and/or doctrinally. I mean, I hit it hard. I began questioning aspects of what I held as my sacred foundation of Christ. These fundamentals were so connected to my salvation that the mere idea that I would dare to question such foundational pieces was to admit that I might be “backsliding”. What’s more, I could possibly be walking toward the eternal fiery abyss.
What’s worse than going to hell over questioning your theology? I wouldn’t think much – unless you live in the Bible belt of course. Dogmatic preachers can be a sort of hell-on-earth, especially if you ask them your newfound questions.
However, fear of eternal hell or judgment from my colleagues could not control my desire to know truth.
I asked questions to myself. I asked questions to God. I asked questions to certain pastoral/ministry friends. I asked questions to my wife. However, until I realized that this transition was a way that God was helping me grow as a teacher and leader, I didn’t have an ounce of peace.
Maybe you are experiencing the same transition in life. If not, your time will come. I have discovered that inward transition happens to those who care about truth.
6 ways to successfully transition through shifting theology:
Be aware that theology evolves
Realize one’s theology evolves over time. Think back to what you believed 5 or 10 years ago and compare and contrast to what you believe now. There are probably a few things that you thought would never change, but now you are experiencing a new dimension of God that was birthed out of that transition of theology.
Ephesians 1:7-9 is a great text to read concerning how God reveals to us the mystery of His will. It’s not all at once, transition takes time.
Talk it out with someone who has experienced the chaos. The stress or mental duress that one often experiences from a theological conundrum can cause one to feel exhausted internally. It can also cause one to doubt his or her salvation or calling to the work of Christ.
It is key to find one who has been through this and has come out on the other end with peace and freedom. As I mentioned above, I hit the theological/doctrinal wall in 2005. It took me 5 years to get things sorted out. Why so long? I didn’t speak with people who had been there and made it out successfully.
Ask: Does this produce freedom in Christ?
Embrace that which makes you freer in Christ. I don’t know how to say that any other way.
Accountability will clarify
Give room for correction in case of obvious error. This correlates with #2 Experience Matters. Often we can find healthy accountability with the ones who have been through this same things. To make sure that we are not walking in error or in contradiction to the life of Jesus, we must remain accountable to people that we trust and to those we know that have our best interest in mind.
As Proverbs 11:14 teaches us, “Where there is no guidance, a people fall, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety.”
The worst part of my transition period is that I carried my congregation through the brunt of it. I didn’t know how to process or handle the pressures that this caused, nor did I have healthy relationships in my life to help me through the chaos. Many people suffered inwardly due to the war that I was fighting mentally.
Be careful that you don’t carry others through your transition. Wait till you are through it to share it. Transition is not to teach or preach, but to experience as an individual. Once you have walked through the transition successfully, then you can share it with clarity and confidence to helps others.
Realize that shifting theology is not tied to your salvation
I thought for sure that I was doomed to hell for the questions that I was asking inwardly. I had to come to a place that I realized that God could handle my questions and doubts.
Realize that shifting theology is time sensitive, not salvation sensitive.
I hope that these six things are a benefit to those of you who are fighting inwardly with your theology or church doctrine. Its ok to wrestle over those things. I would be more worried about the preacher who does not question those things than the one who seems to know it all.
What are some of the areas in which you have had to face transition theologically, how have you handled the transition?