Upcoming generations must be taught theology and apologetics as a priority so they do not end up having a mistaken view of the Bible, the church and Jesus, says Dan Kimball, who leads the teaching and mission ministries at California's Vintage Faith Church.
"I am convinced that besides prayer, the most important thing we need to focus on with new generations is teaching theology and apologetics," writes Kimball, author of Adventures in Churchland: Finding Jesus in the Mess of Organized Religion, on his Facebook page.
"Without understanding doctrine and beliefs, everything else can wander into mistaken understandings of the Bible, church, Christianity and even create versions of Jesus that may not align with what we read of Jesus in the Bible," warns the staff of the Santa Cruz church.
Kimball, who was a leading voice in the beginning years of the Emerging Church movement in the United States, stresses that one's interactions in relationships, decision-making and many other important things in life are shaped by what she or he believes. "But this all happens in the context of a local church and in community as spiritual formation is not done in isolation."
The teaching of doctrine and theology cannot be effective unless the leaders live out what they believe and teach it with humility, he adds. "As we teach doctrine and theology it must be done with humility, openness and absolute respect to other ways of looking at more minor doctrines or opinions that fall within historical orthodoxy but may be different than our own."
It is this humility of approach that would ensure "we aren't simply teaching information but what leads to heart-changing transformation," concludes Kimball, whose books and articles generally seek to encourage churches and Christians to creatively make any changes needed in order to break the negative stereotypes of church and Christianity that may exist.
Kimball's post has drawn many responses.
Stephen Hammond Dan, Lead Pastor of the Mosaic of Arlington church in Arlington, Texas, asks which theologians and teachers could teach with wisdom, knowledge, grace and humility.
Kimball recommends Tim Keller, the founding pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York; Scot McKnight, professor of New Testament at Northern Baptist Theological Seminary in Illinois; N.T. Wright, a leading New Testament scholar; John Walton, professor of Old Testament at Wheaton College in Illinois; and Gerry Breshears, chair of the Division of Biblical and Theological Studies at Western Seminary in Oregon.
"But there are so many others! It depends on the area of theological focus too as there are some specializing in areas that I would turn to," Kimball adds.
One of Kimball's followers responds by saying that theology is important but only after teaching people to experience how much God loves them. "I was part of a church where only doctrine and theology were focused on and it led to dryness and lack of experiencing God's acceptance and radical love," she writes.
"Absolutely!" replies Kimball. "I went and commented about that right after I posted to make sure I emphasized that!"
A woman from California writes, "The old adage of actions speak louder than words still holds true," saying churches have a "horrible reputation."
"I don't disagree as I know there are churches like that who have failed," Kimball responds. "But many, many, many aren't like that. Many, many have learned from failures and making change."