*Editor’s Note: The following is an excerpt from Tony Twist and Mihai Malancea’s Grand Metanarrative: God’s Story as an Invitation to Theology.
Although my (Tony) academic career included a Master of Divinity and two doctorates, I went to school as a part-time student. Even though this approach meant stretching the degrees out over multiple years, it was important for me to go to school part-time so I could serve in the local church. This on-the-job training enabled me to apply what I was learning to my disciple making. And taught me a lesson that is with me still.
As I studied theology, I would ask myself: Okay, how can I teach this in children’s church?
I loved those little disciples and wanted to use my theological studies somehow to serve them. It usually meant finding and telling the most appropriate biblical stories. The children taught me through this process that Real Life Theology is much more than a matter of the head; it’s full body engagement involving our head, heart, hands, and feet. Where we constantly ask,
- How can what I’m learning help us love God and others better?
- How can this help fuel effective disciple making?
- Have I really learned this well enough to feed his lambs and take care of his little ones?
Recently, I (Mihai) had students who were unable to return to their home countries because of COVID-19. They remained on campus and needed something to do during the summer. So we made regular trips into the villages in Moldova to implement what they had learned in the theology classes they took with me.
As one example of putting our theology into practice, the students began doing what they could to serve a man who had fallen out of a building from multiple stories, had broken many bones, and was bedridden. God used their service to this man in a powerful way, and now the man is doing much better. In fact, he will walk soon, his mother came to know Jesus and was baptized, and while his father has not yet come to faith, he is visiting the church.
The truth is, we were never called in the Bible merely to teach or to learn theology.
Technically, our most fundamental job is not even to teach Scripture. I (Tony) often give my graduate students around the world an interesting test. I quote to them the Great Commission and afterward, I will ask if I’ve left anything out:
Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
“Have I left anything out?”
Pause. No hands go up. No answers are given.
“Are you sure I didn’t leave anything out?”
“No, I don’t think so.”
Then I will explain that I did, in fact, leave out two words—two very important words. Here’s the first half of verse twenty with the words I had left out:
And teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.
We often don’t realize how much we consume biblical knowledge but neglect obedience.
We study Scripture. We do theology. But our fundamental job is not to teach Scripture or theology. Rather, our fundamental job is to teach obedience. It’s about trusting and following Jesus, whatever the cost. That’s a mission that no amount of reasoning about abstract concepts convinces us to take.
But when we know and love our heavenly Father with our identity firmly in him and his family album, we feel his pleasure. Especially when we bring his lost children back home. He smiles with great joy every time we bring one of them to their waiting chair at his table.
Our fundamental job is not to teach Scripture or theology. Rather, our fundamental job is to teach obedience.
Excerpted fromTony Twist and Mihai Malancea’s Grand Metanarrative: God’s Story as an Invitation to Theology (Renew.org, 2021).