Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

My Christ, My Theology, the Third Millennium?

Written by: on October 22, 2014

I like your Christ, I just don’t think you understand your theology? While being a loose spin-off of a famous quote of Mahatma Gandhi, after reading David F. Ford’s book, Theology: A Very Short Introduction, I am concerned about the church I know and it’s capacity to theologically engage the emerging culture and increasingly complex society in which we live.itisexam

My, quite possibly sudden and heightened, concern could come from the anticipatory chapter that Ford concludes his book with, projecting the challenges of theology in the third millennium. Specifically Ford poses the question, How can theology be thoughtfully responsible in many spheres?1 In posing this question, Ford makes a case for the complexity of our society and then states there will be a shortage of theologians of sound theological conversation in our cultural landscape. Ford writes, . . . it is clear that the demand for theological thoughtfulness in engaging with the issues of society is always likely to outstrip the supply.2

Unfortunately my concern agrees and I find myself believing the Church, at least the one I know (sadly probably summarized as contemporary, missional, evangelical, multiplying, church growth churches with white male leaders who have nice looking wives and good families (yikes, is that what I sit in the middle of???)) is radically void of a Christ-centered, theological thoughtfulness that can engage the high demand of an intelligent, educated theological interested society.

I have three main reasons for my concern based on my perceptions of what I will call most Christians and the church I know. Again, I do have to qualify, most Christians probably means those attending the contemporary, missional, evangelical, multiplying, church growth churches I know, but I am concerned that most Christians who have a personal faith in Christ do not have a basic theological framework beyond their story of personal transformation. Most Christians I know are grateful to Jesus as their personal savior and can hopefully articulate a personal story of their salvation, but their salvation appears to be a get out of jail card and once they are out of jail they go on with their lives owned by materialism and consumerism.

Secondly, I am concerned that most Christians who can articulate a basic theological framework have been taught one and have not developed their own theological conclusions from good thought, conversation and personal exploration. Knowing what you believe and knowing why you believe it are two very different realities. I feel like for those who have a theological framework they have been taught are trained to defend it defensively, versus being able to engage in a conversation the shares how they have derived the position they hold and clearly understand the questions that their position considers. I have witnessed too much teaching of what to think about God, Jesus in the Bible, when compared to how much dialogue has taken place on How to think about God, Jesus and the Bible.  I would call this kind of theological development brittle and is exactly what is setting us up for great trouble engaging the questions raised by and about the religions3 in our world.

And lastly, my third concern is that the predominant church model in North America that I witness, the one I have been referring to, and the predominant expectation for most Christians has positioned us in our current deficit and is setting us up for the even greater shortcoming we are going to experience in the third millennium. I am deeply afraid that we will find ourselves in the middle of a world that is interested in our Christ, but knows we don’t understand our theology. I feel we will be living in a world that will write the Church off as it stays in search of the questions of meaning, truth, beauty, and practice raised in relation to religion to religions…4

Obviously this leads me to deeply consider, What is a basic theological framework that a Christ-follower of today, going into tomorrow, would need to be able to engage society and the emerging culture that is moving a warp speed? Are there a set of questions that if we were equipped to consider, would allow us to dialogue with anyone in thoughtful conversation about religion and God? What does discipleship look like that develops thoughtful Christ-followers?” Do we need to go back to catechism? Do we need to go back to the rabbinical model?

In concluding, I feel while this post does reflect much of what I know and what I have witnessed about the church I know and most Christians I know -– I do believe the most operative word I have used is I. More than a concern about the projection of and on the Church and most Christians, this writing is a reflection on me and my greatest concerns of faith as I think about my Christ and my understanding of my theology in the third millennium.

1. David Ford, Theology: a Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions), 2 ed. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2014), 171.

2. Ibid., p. 173

3. Ibid,. p. 3

4. Ibid,. p. 12

About the Author

Phillip Struckmeyer

9 responses to “My Christ, My Theology, the Third Millennium?”

  1. Dawnel Volzke says:

    Wow, there is such truth and wisdom in your words! It seems the church, that many of us know and are familiar with, is rapidly disconnecting with the world around us and theology is often misunderstood. I believe many of us are seeing the same thing, but the struggle is in “what do we do about it?” From where I sit, I’ve seen a huge resistance to new ideas, or to even discussion surrounding what is working or broken within many churches. We keep doing the same old thing that doesn’t work…

    For example, there is hot debate recently in many local churches as to whether drinking alcohol is “right or wrong”. I sat in a sermon where thirty minutes were spent preaching on “how bad drinking was and the impact of sin.” There was no theological basis provided and it was evident that half of the congregation had checked out… This is why we are loosing next generations. The issue that many have with church is that we can’t articulate the reason for the rules we make. People want real answers – they want to know “why”. It is no wonder many of these churches are struggling to keep their doors open!

  2. Jon Spellman says:

    “I am deeply afraid that we will find ourselves in the middle of a world that is interested in our Christ, but knows we don’t understand our theology.”
    -Phil Struckmeyer

    Hmm. I’m pondering that one. It seems to connect back to the cautionary note issued by Grenz and Olson some 20 years ago in their book “Who Needs Theology?” Their fear of a hasty devolution of SOUND theology seems to be taking place right before our eyes.

    And isn’t this where we have driven ourselves with our irrational fear of theology?


  3. Dave Young says:


    So in many ways I could say the same thing about the church I know best as well. I really appreciate your closing remarks where you own this as a personal reflection. I’m wondering what can we do to improve the sad state, it seems to me pastors need to own how we teach, how we lead. It directly impacts how theologically aware and thoughtful our congregation will be. On the other hand, we’re fighting a consumer mentality that wants everything served up on a plate. Ugh. Thanks for making me think.

  4. Nick Martineau says:

    Great thoughts Phil…Do you think the current state of the church is any different then say the past 200 years?

    I’ve been wrestling with the same thoughts as you and I’ve been trying to figure out if we are at a unique time or has thinking always been shallow among “ordinary” believers.

    Surely there are more deep thinkers today then ever before? Education is at an all-time high…it just hasn’t transferred to the “ordinary” church goer.

  5. Phillip Struckmeyer says:

    Good question Nick, I kind of lean towards a belief that mixing the American Dream in with our Faith the way our country has experienced it, is unique and allows for more people to claim to follow Christ (go to church) with nominal thought and practice more than in other nations, cultures and eras. That is just my leaning. It would be interesting to see what Barna thinks or knows:)???

  6. Mary says:

    I’m intrigued by your paragraph that includes this question: “Are there a set of questions that if we were equipped to consider, would allow us to dialogue with anyone in thoughtful conversation about religion and God?” How incredible it would be to sit down with a group of peers exploring what those questions might be. I found over this last week in particular that I was noticing when people were truly being thoughtful about their theology, sometimes without knowing it. I found great joy in pointing out how they were exploring theology. I think demystifying it, and beginning with the questions and noticing is a place to start.
    Sure appreciate your honest self-reflection in all you write, Phil.

  7. Travis Biglow says:

    Learning what to think about theology and how to think about theology is exactly where a lot of things meet the cross in the road. Too many denominations are more interested in you learning what to think about God as it is related to that specific denomination. I am grateful that we have the opportunity to appropriately gain our own theology by our own reason, study and experience. Its time out for churches making people feel bad about how they think about theology. Some don’t even want you to ask questions without them yelling “blaspheme” I grew up in this type of theological prison that made me think i had it all no one else did. It was my continued questioning that has led me this far in college because of this intense thirst to know God. All of our circumstances our different in knowing God, but that very experience we encounter with him is important for us to knowing him. We don’t know him in a vacuum we know him in his revelation to us by his word, our experience, practice, our cultural and our willingness to go beyond a vacuum!

  8. Phillip Struckmeyer says:

    Thanks Mary,

    In reading your response I was reminded that I was taught good discipleship questions that were: “Who are you? Who do you want to be? and Who don’t you want to be?” They were very helpful in my discipleship journey as I learned how to read the bible and personally apply it. But it seems there could have been another set of questions that I could had been taught early on in my discipleship such as: “Who is God? How does he relate with us? and How do we relate with him?” that might of fostered more theological reflection. Just a thought, again thanks for your comment.

  9. Brian Yost says:

    “I am concerned that most Christians who can articulate a basic theological framework have been taught one and have not developed their own theological conclusions from good thought, conversation and personal exploration”
    Phil, I would argue that this even extends past the average Christian all the way to the “trained” pastor. Many pastors only know theology as that which has been embraced and taught by their particular branch of Christianity. As protestants, we are a curious people. We celebrate the freedom to personally study scripture and develop a biblical theology, we then allow ourselves to be spoon-fed the fruits of other people’s thinking and never feel the need to think for ourselves.

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