As many regular readers will know, last year we launched our Theology Breakfasts. The setup is simple enough. On Sunday morning, before the church service, we get together to spend an hour thinking through some theology. We usually have a little bite to eat and then an hour thinking through some core theological matters.
The reason for doing this was straightforward enough. Most of our churches have a theological deficit and no obvious place in which it can be made up. Sunday sermons, whilst vital to the life and health of the church and no doubt containing plenty of theology, are not designed primarily for theological input. Rather, they are designed to look at a particular passage of the Bible, hear what God would have us hear from it and then aims at change in those hearing it. Whilst theology no doubt underpins our sermons, they are not – and ought not to be – strictly speaking, theological input.
Let me put it this way, though we may discuss doctrinal and theological matters in our sermons, we are not (or, at least, should not) primarily be tooling our sermons to impart doctrinal information. Nor do we really have the time to do adequate justice to a specific doctrine as a doctrinal concept in a sermon, even if it may be pertinent. Sermons exist for a different purpose. Yes, to help us understand the Word – and are therefore somewhat exegetical and doctrinal in nature – but they are aiming at heart change. We are coming together to worship God, to hear from God and to respond to God rightly as his people seeking to glorify him. We are looking into the Word to hear and know how we are to glorify God and enjoy him forever, particularly as it pertains to this passage, this particular people and this particular context. We are not aiming to spend 40-minutes or so chewing over doctrinal and theological concepts.
But that often causes the theological deficit because, without putting too fine a point on it, those theological and doctrinal concepts still matter. They may not be what we are aiming to consider in the sermon primarily, but that doesn’t make them unimportant. Our sermon will often land on them and make reference to them, if only in passing, and so it pays for our people to know what they are and why they matter. The question is, where will we fill up that theological lack? Our answer to that is our theology breakfast; an hour’s theological study before our main meeting.
We are now running a two-year rolling programme that people can jump onto at any time. There may be points at which some things make less sense than others in the middle of a particular track, because what we have done earlier may be referenced. But generally speaking, you can jump on any time, and if you keeping coming over 2-years, you will have covered all five tracks. In theory, because much of what we are looking at is foundational doctrine and theological concepts, you could keep coming and re-engaging with the material and benefit.
Our tracks run this way:
- Bible Themes (Systematic Theology)
- Doctrine of Scripture (x2)
- Doctrine of God (x2)
- Doctrine of Mankind
- Doctrine of Sin
- Doctrine of Christ (x2)
- Doctrine of the Holy Spirit (x2)
- Doctrine of the Church (x2)
- Doctrine of Eschatology (x2)
- Bible Overview (Biblical Theology)
- Introduction – How to read the Bible
- Genesis – Creation (Gen 1-2)
- Genesis – Fall (Gen 3)
- Genesis – Primeval History (Gen 4-11)
- Genesis – Abraham, Patriarchs & Covenants (Gen 12-50)
- Exodus – Deuteronomy
- Joshua – 2 Kings
- Exile & After (Chronicles, Nehemiah, Daniel)
- Epistles of Paul
- Epistles of Peter
- Epistles of John
- General Epistles
- Bible Framework (Historical Theology)
- Introduction to the Five Solas
- Sola Scriptura
- Solus Christus
- Sola Fide
- Sola Gratia
- Soli Deo Gloria
- Introduction to the Doctrines of Grace
- Total Depravity
- Unconditional Election
- Limited Atonement
- Irresistible Grace
- Perseverance of the Saints
- Biblical Church (Ecclesiology)
- The Visible Church
- Lord’s Supper
- Church Discipline
- Church in Action (Oldham Bethel Church membership booklet)
- What is church?
- Who belongs to the church?
- What is church membership?
- Is church membership biblical?
- Why should I become a church member?
- What are the responsibilities of church members?
- What are the privileges of church membership?
- What is expected of me as a member?
- What is the difference between members and non-members?
- What is church discipline?
- What we believe
The theory with our rolling programme is not only that it will help to fill up some of the theological deficit that exists for our members (as is inevitable in most churches) but it also helps them to engage better with the preaching of the Word.
The programme is designed to teach the core doctrines on which we stand, to highlight how we read the bible as a unified whole, to understand the historic Protestant and Reformed doctrines to which we trace our heritage, to realise the the particular ecclesiological tradition we stand in and to dig into our specific doctrinal beliefs as a church. We are not easily able to do all this in Sunday sermons alone, even though many of these things will be present nevertheless. The theology breakfasts are designed to help tackle some of that.
We are partway through Year B and, thus far, the breakfasts seem to be doing for the people coming just what we had hoped. Some are people well versed in these things, happy to reacquaint themselves with these core doctrines. Some are coming from very different church backgrounds and engaging with these things with a sense of skepticism but a willingness to engage with what the Word has to say about them. Others are entirely unchurched and totally new to these things and keen to learn. We are so glad all are able to come, engage and (hopefully) benefit from these things. We trust, in time, those who have benefitted will encourage others who are yet to come to try it out so that they can engage more deeply with the Word too.