Is that what 4 words came to your mind? Ok, admittedly, I set myself up for that one! Yes, those 4 words will also change your life. But that’s not what I want to talk about today.
I want to talk about Theology, Christology, Ecclesiology, and Missiology. These 4 words affect what we believe and how we live our lives.
First Things First: Definitions
*All definitions are taken from www.merriam-webster.com
- the study of religious faith, practice, and experience
- the study of God and God’s relation to the world
- a system of religious beliefs or ideas
- theological interpretation of the person and work of Christ
- the study of church architecture and adornment
- theological doctrine relating to the church
What I Believe About God Affects How I Live My Life
Do you truly believe that? If so, your theology is the solid foundation from which your actions will flow. What you believe about God and what He has done will ultimately affect who you see yourself to be and how you should act.
Let’s walk through this logically.
Being Vs. Doing: A Fundamental Misconception
How do you define yourself? If asked to introduce yourself, how would you begin?
I think most of us would state our name and occupation. It’s straightforward, easy, not too much information, and certainly not risking anything too personal. But is this who we really are? I understand that our name is part of our identity, but is our occupation really who we are? Or are we simply determining who we are by what we do?
This, I think, is a fundamental misconception that so many of us struggle with. We get our identity from what we do instead of doing/acting based on our own identity.
Let me give you a quick example: let’s say that I am a doctor because I work in a hospital [doing => being] or I was made (born) with a fascination for medicine, anatomy, and fixing broken people leading me to seek a profession as a doctor [being => doing].
Why Does This Matter?
In true Pauline fashion, I have anticipated your next question (read Romans and see how Paul raises questions in response to his readers probable objections if you don’t understand what I just did there!).
In short, this matters immensely because we act based on our motivations which leads to who we perceive ourselves to be.
If I’m simply a doctor because I work in a hospital, then my motivation is likely to become financial, leading me to get through patients as quick as possible to earn more money and enjoy my time off. But, if I’m a doctor because of my identity (I am fascinated with medicine, anatomy, and fixing broken people), my motivation will shift dramatically, leading me to focus on patients, study/learn, and do all that I can to fix broken people.
Gospel Identity and Those 4 Big Words
What if we took this idea a step further? Let’s go beyond our personal identity and focus on our collective identity and God’s identity. So many people focus on what they do to determine who they are without ever looking at who we all are. Before humans existed there was God.
First, God was. And then God created, expressing who He was/is. Here we see the first example of being => doing.
Essentially, this is Theology and Christology. God is creator/good/just/righteous/holy [Theology] which leads to what He does: creating/redeeming mankind through Jesus [Christology]. This, then, leads to who we are, the church/God’s image bearers [Ecclesiology] and what we do, present Christ to the world [Missiology].
This flow from Theology to Missiology is crucial. We can’t overlook it and we can’t lose focus on it. If we do, we will turn back to doing => being.
An Example From Paul
Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, 2 which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures, 3 concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh 4 and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord, 5 through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations, 6 including you who are called to belong to Jesus Christ, 7 To all those in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Romans 1:1-7 (ESV)
I, Paul, am a devoted slave of Jesus Christ on assignment, authorized as an apostle to proclaim God’s words and acts. I write this letter to all the believers in Rome, God’s friends.
2-7 The sacred writings contain preliminary reports by the prophets on God’s Son. His descent from David roots him in history; his unique identity as Son of God was shown by the Spirit when Jesus was raised from the dead, setting him apart as the Messiah, our Master. Through him we received both the generous gift of his life and the urgent task of passing it on to others who receive it by entering into obedient trust in Jesus. You are who you are through this gift and call of Jesus Christ! And I greet you now with all the generosity of God our Father and our Master Jesus, the Messiah.
Romans 1:1-7 (Message)
Do you see what Paul did? He starts off his letter to the Romans by stating who he is (servant/slave of Christ and apostle) and what he does (proclaim God’s words and acts). Clearly his Ecclesiology and Missiology is well defined in his own thinking. And, in the same breath, he declares his Theology and Christology by stating who God is and what He has done through Christ!
Making It Real
Does your Theology lead to your Missiology? Do your actions flow from who you are as the natural extension of who God is and what He has done for you?
These 4 words and the concept behind my thinking today should radically alter how we live. But we have to make it real to us! So, I suggest you start by writing your own statement as if you were Paul writing to the Romans. Follow his example and write out your introduction.
This thought is largely influenced by Jeff Vanderstelt from SOMA. Their SOMA school sessions can be watched on their site for free and the church/missional community planting teaching begins with this foundational teaching on Gospel identity. I literally listened to his introductory teaching at least 5 times trying to understand this life changing flow of thinking.
I would love to hear your thoughts on this topic. Maybe I’m still missing something or you could say it in a simpler way! Please use the comment section below to share your thoughts. And, if you found this post useful/encouraging, please use the share buttons to get the word out to your friends on your favorite social network!
Also published on Medium.