Theological Formation In Our Local Church -- By: Hardy Clemons

Journal: Faith and Mission
Volume: FM 06:1 (Fall 1988)
Article: Theological Formation In Our Local Church
Author: Hardy Clemons

Theological Formation In Our Local Church

Hardy Clemons

Senior Pastor of Second Baptist Church
Lubbock, Texas

One of the more encouraging things to happen to me as pastor of a local church in the recent decade of theological discouragement was to discover the covenant of the Southern Baptist Alliance. The framers of this document expressed a wisdom not frequently encountered in theological or denominational circles. In articulating what they stand for as Baptist Christians in this day, they affirm that the local church is fundamental to the ministry of educating people theologically.

The Covenant says in its fifth affirmation:

As an alliance, we commit ourselves to... theological education in congregations, colleges, and seminaries, characterized by reverence for biblical authority and respect for open inquiry and responsible scholarship;...1

I find it most heartening that these Baptists—laypeople, pastors, biblical scholars, theologians, and historians—not only mention the local church, they mention it first Upon inquiry, I was assured by one of the framers that this was intentional. The local church is without doubt one of the crucial arenas—for good or ill—in which theology is formed. Yet it is frequently overlooked when theological formation is discussed.

The congregation which I serve first stated such a concern to me in the summer of 1967. When I asked why they were interested in me as a prospective pastor, the committee chair answered: “Because we know we share a similar concept of the life and ministry of the local church, and because you have invested the effort to get a theological education.” He then proceeded to ask me to summarize my “basic theology” to the committee.

Subsequently, I was asked repeated questions about theology—and about my theology—by the deacons, the executive council, and the congregation in a general meeting before their vote. I welcomed relating to a church whose concerns include an awareness that alternative churches must be more than just alternative—they must be CHURCHES! We must maintain an intentional quest for a well-formulated theology which helps us know and do the truth of God.

God calls us to love God with our minds as well as our hearts, souls, and strengths. To be the church is to be willing to participate in the challenge of theological formation, To be the church is to be deeply planted in the work as well as the questions and answers of theology:

Who is God—Father, Son, and Spirit?
How do we know God? How do we worship God in Spirit ...

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