can be a loaded word for mainline Protestant congregations. It often suggests the dogmatic or implies fault lines for conflict. But when unleashed from its narrow academic sense, “theology” offers a powerful way to get at many of the issues that impact the health and vitality of congregations.
Anthony Robinson carefully defines theology as the “core convictions” that help members of a congregation understand their common perspective and shared identity. Theology is the foundational Christian experience, the wisdom that both forms and transforms lives. Rather than avoiding theology, congregations should openly express their beliefs and values to clarify their purpose, argues Robinson. Instead of trying to define the boundaries of belief, a “center-set” congregation will zero in on a reasonably clear core faith.
He examines the problems that occur when congregations are reluctant to focus on theology and are unsure of their beliefs. They risk having a weak identity with nothing at stake. They risk being little more than an exclusive social club. Absent core convictions, structure replaces Spirit, indirection replaces healthy dialogue, and agendas replace leadership.
Central to the book is the notion that Christianity is a revealed religion apart from our own personal preferences. The Bible as Scripture offers a doorway to God and a critical unifying narrative. The Trinity, as a powerful metaphor, provides a balanced approach to fulfilling a congregation’s purpose. Core convictions about God as creator, the person and work of Jesus, and the Holy Spirit are crucial to a congregational vitality.
Too many mainline Protestant churches are theologically “underfunded.” Congregations are strengthened when what they believe
backs what they do
. Indeed, theology, it turns out, has everything to do with it.
From the Circuit Rider
review: "Many of us intuit that there is a critical deficit of theology in contemporary congregations. Like Anthony Robinson, we have seen the 'Pecos River syndrome,' a congregation that is a mile wide and a foot deep. Like Robinson, we have groped for a middle way between congregations that are indifferent to core beliefs and congregations that are uncharitable in handling their core beliefs. And like Robinson, we have longed for viable models of congregations grounded in solid theology, here defined as 'core convictions and wisdom proper to the life of all believers.' What makes this book unique is what Robinson does next." (Click here to read the entire review.)