The Disciplines of Knowing: Theology (6)
Practice, you know, makes permanent.
But when they did not find them, they dragged Jason and some brethren to the rulers of the city, crying out, “These who have turned the world upside down have come here too. Jason has harbored them, and these are all acting contrary to the decrees of Caesar, saying there is another king—Jesus.” Acts 17.6, 7
The more you practice
The late Dr. Earl Radmacher used to delight in pointing out that the old saying, “practice makes perfect” isn’t quite right. “Practice”, he would insist with a twinkle in his eye, “does not make perfect. Practice makes permanent.”
The Christians in Thessalonica were accurately described by their unbelieving neighbors, who said of them, πράσσουσι βασιλέα ἕτερον λέγοντες εἶναι Ἰησοῦν – “they practice another King, saying Him to be Jesus.” As we can see from even a casual reading of 1 and 2 Thessalonians, the believers there were serious about their faith. They excelled in love. They stood firm in the midst of persecution. They ordered their churches according to the Biblical pattern, and they worked hard at becoming true disciples. We would say, “they practiced what they preached”, and we would be correct.
The first Christians practiced Jesus as King – not Caesar, not their own puny dreams or desires, not the almighty denarius: They worshiped and served Jesus. In their daily lives, as individuals and as a community of believers, they worked out their salvation in all their relationships, roles, and responsibilities; and they were so constant, consistent, and confident in this, that even their unbelieving neighbors took note. From them we learn that the more we practice the life of Jesus, the more permanent the reality of Jesus becomes in and through us. This is what the people in Thessalonica were seeing, and it’s what we want people today to see in us.
The Christian life can be concisely explained in just this way – practicing the Kingship of Jesus. In our daily lives, we practice Jesus. In our community lives, we practice Jesus. We are the Jesus-practitioners, as He increases in us individually (Jn. 3.30; 2 Cor. 3.12-18) and in our communities (Eph. 4.11-16).The theological discipline that provides a window on revelation to fit us for becoming believers like those in Thessalonica is referred to as practical theology. Practical theology teaches us how to bring every aspect of our lives – individually and as congregations of the Lord’s people – into joyous and fruitful submission to King Jesus.
Personal and corporate practice
Practical theology teaches us how to order our personal lives so that we may glorify God in whatever we’re doing. It teaches us to understand the time of our lives as a gift of God, and guides us in making the best use of the time God gives us.
It helps us to identify our personal calling in life, and shows us how to be witnesses for Christ in that calling, and how to make disciples of the people God brings into our sphere of influence.
Practical theology helps us to understand how relationships work in the Kingdom of God, so that the love of Jesus flows through us to touch others with His grace.
It teaches us about the work we’ve been given to do, and equips us to do that work heartily, as unto the Lord and not merely to men. And it shows us how to use the various artifacts, institutions, and conventions of culture in ways that allow the goodness, beauty, and truth of God to come to light in the land of the living.
Practical theology also helps build the Lord’s church in ways that follow His plan and seek His ends. Through this discipline we learn how to worship the Lord as a community; what the most reliable means are for making disciples; and how to conduct our mission in the world as both a sign and outpost of the Kingdom of God.
Practical theology gives direction to the work of church leaders – shepherding, preaching and teaching, building fellowship into the community – as well as to the members of the church – identifying and using gifts, giving and serving, watching out and caring for one another.Clearly, practical theology is a most important area of study for us who are seeking to grow increasingly in the knowledge and image of Jesus Christ. How do we learn to look through this fifth window onto the revelation of God?
The resources for practical theology
First, realize that by far most of the theology you will be exposed to in your local church will be practical in nature – designed to help you grow as a follower of Christ, and to help the church increase in unity and maturity before the Lord. Pay careful attention to how the worship, preaching, and teaching of the church aim at your daily practice as a follower of Jesus. Test everything you hear by the Word of God, and then begin practicing whatever can help you to be more consistent in living for Christ each day.
Do some additional reading and study in areas that are germane to your personal calling – your Personal Mission Field. Study up on how to love your spouse and raise your children to the Lord. Search the Scriptures concerning your work and how to do it as unto the Lord. Good books exist on every topic that falls under the heading of practical theology, and these can be very helpful to shore-up areas of your life where you need to grow more in practicing the Kingship of Jesus.
Make sure you understand and are active in those aspects of practical theology that can help your church increase in Jesus as well. Do you understand how to worship the Lord? What your role should be in supporting the officers and other leaders of your church? How to identify and use your spiritual gifts? How the work of disciple-making proceeds? What are you giving – time, talent, or treasure – to the ongoing mission of your church, and how can you contribute more as God leads?
Again, Scripture is the starting-point for all such questions – and thus you can see how practical theology overlaps with both Biblical and systematic theology. By doing some additional reading, taking a course, and being more diligent to work your own Personal Mission Field, you can acquire the power and enter the joy of practicing the Kingship of Jesus in ways that will permanently change your life.And don’t think others won’t notice. They will.
1. Why do we refer to this discipline as practical theology?
2. What do we mean by saying that Christianity is practicing the Kingship of Jesus?
3. What are some areas of practical theology in which you would like to grow? How will doing so help you to increase in knowledge of, love for, and service in Jesus and His Kingdom?
T. M. Moore
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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
- T.M. Moore
- January 10, 2020
The sixth window on divine revelation shows us how it's done.
The Disciplines of Knowing: Theology (6)
T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in Essex Junction, VT.