This is a short four-part series examining some of the things the Presbyterian Church in America, could, and I would say should, learn from Soma Communities, a group of churches in the Northwest.
Part Two: Do We Really Have Good Theology?
I was expecting to go to Soma and find patterns and systems, lacking theology. I figured that I, the PCA guy, would have to fill in the theological and scriptural support for their non-theological pragmatism. Instead, the Lord humbled me. Only one of the seven days was spent talking about systems, and that was at the end of a week of theology! Even then, these systems were shaped by a deeply thoughtful theological framework. There folks are not theological lightweights. Soma is teaching Biblical theology to their toddlers!. The difference is that Soma’s theology is infused into the life of their church, in a much different way than much of the PCA is used to.
The most humbling example came as we began talking about the work of the Spirit in the church. Jeff Vanderstelt, warned everyone that emphasizing John 20:21 without also focusing on 20:22 would be missing a major theological component of ministry life. I realized he was right. I had been leading out of my own strength and that I was trying to power our ministry. It felt as if I were dying. At the same time, I was constantly frustrated that our church wasn’t being energized for mission by my strength. It was wonderful to see that just as the father has sent the Son, the Son has sent us; and that both the Son’s ministry and our ministry is accomplished through the power of the Holy Spirit.
I have to confess I don’t rely on the Spirit, and I think I’m right in saying that many leaders in the PCA are like me in that regard. Often we tend to ignore the Holy Spirit. After all, when you ignore someone, you speak and act as if they are not present. While I might know the Spirit is with us, I have often acted and spoken as if he were not in my church. At the very least, he is unnecessary for most of what we do.
A charge leveled against the Reformed Church, by more liberal groups, is that our ortho-praxy (good living) is missing. Often the Reformed response is to say, that our orthodoxy (good belief) is the necessary source of our right living. If that is our logic, what happens if we aren’t living well? Does that mean that we actually don’t have good theology? ( Please note, Im not trying to argue that those with good living by default have good doctrine.) It seems that it is one of two answers and neither are encouraging. Either we don’t know, or we don’t care…