The Intersection Of Theology And Strategy

Where, exactly, do theology and strategy meet?

Simply put, how does what you believe (theology) influence what you do and how you do it (strategy)?

I ask that question because when a disconnect occurs between theology and strategy the results are negative for both Christians and the churches they represent.

But when solid theology and innovative strategy intersect, the kingdom advances.

Three examples:

Example One
Many of you know the oft-quoted line attributed to St. Francis of Assisi:  Preach the Gospel at all times.  When necessary, use words.

There’s theology: the Gospel — the good news of Christ — needs urgent proclamation.

And there’s strategy: Proclaim it wordlessly.

Well, there’s a de facto disconnect in the St. Francis quote because the Gospel is words.  It’s history with an exclamation point: the weekend involving the death, burial, resurrection, and appearances of Jesus is the fundamental event of all human history.  Eternity rests on how people respond to that story and those events.  If we don’t tell that story with words, people won’t know it.

So we’ll adopt strategies that combine word and deed and hold hold worship gatherings that tell the old, old story in new, new ways.

Example Two
Or another issue, some would say the issue of our day: homosexuality.

There’s theology, as I posted recentlyexegetical study of biblical texts leads to the conclusion that homosexual practice is outside of God’s will for the human race.

But then there is a strategy that we at Good Shepherd reject unconditionally:  the hate-filled speech of Fred Phelps and the Westboro Baptist Church (no link provided because it’s so despicable).

Sadly, if you adopt the theology of the former, people assume you adopt the strategy of the latter.  Nothing could be further from the truth. 

We hope and pray and endeavor to make sure that our conversation on that sensitive subject is seasoned at all points with love.  It’s a balancing act, but one we are committed to — which is why we have a number of people who identify themselves as homosexual who attend our church. 

They do so knowing they won’t hear pastoral approval to surrender to their impulses but instead pastoral encouragement to surrender their impulses to a holy God.

Come to think of it, that’s what our heterosexual attenders will hear as well.

So we pray we have adopted strategies that communicate difficult and personal truth in loving and compassionate ways.

Example Three
Since we are a church that is inviting all people in to a living relationship with Jesus Christ, we have a theology that says a living relationship with a living Savior is the human race’s foundational need.

Out of that we have a strategy of welcoming people to area neighborhoods through a ministry called Bless This House. 

Yet when we knock on the door of a new mover to our area — here’s a strategy within a strategy — we don’t ask the unsuspecting door answerer:  “if you died tonight, do you know where you’d go?”  That’s not our style.

Instead, we have a high touch, low threat approach which gives a “World Famous Refrigerator Magnet” to our new neighbors, along with an invitation to church, colorful postcard, and an offer to pray a blessing over the house.  It’s a strategy that flows out of our personality as a church.

And it’s been effective through the years, as over 250 people who now call this church home first met us when their houses got “blessed.”

So although we’re still in the middle of figuring a lot of this out, those are our best practices in uniting theology with strategy.