Most of the books, conferences, and blogs available these days seem to fit into one of two categories:
- Practical - I love reading about best practices. I want to learn from anyone I can, including business stuff. But the practical stuff doesn’t seem to go deep enough. I’ve attended entire Christian conferences, for instance, in which I can’t remember opening a Bible. It’s as if we believe we need to leave the Bible behind in order to be practical.
- Theological - I love theology, and I love Scripture. But I’ve often been exposed to lots of material that is heady, but not translated into the life and ministry of the local church. It’s as if we think that we just need to get the doctrine right, and everything else will take care of itself.
This is a problem. It often feels like I’m bouncing between the pragmatic and theological, instead of applying theology to life and ministry.
We need two things:
Middleware - Tim Keller talks about this in his book Center Church. He calls this space between theological foundations and ministry models middleware. It's a theological vision that bridges the gap between our doctrinal foundation and the particular forms of ministry. He writes:
This is something more practical than just doctrinal beliefs but much more theological than “how-to steps” for carrying out a particular ministry. Once this vision is in place, with its emphases and values, it leads church leaders to make good decisions on how to worship, disciple, evangelize, serve, and engage culture in their field of ministry — whether in a city, suburb, or small town.
I’m convinced we need more books, conferences and blogs that dwell in this middle space, bridging the gap between theology and praxis.
Models - For a long time it seemed like all the people with good theology had unhealthy churches, and all the healthy churches had slightly wobbly theology. I had a hard time finding churches that were theologically thoughtful and effective in ministry. I’m sure it wasn’t really that way, but it sure seemed so. I’m grateful now for dozens of churches locally that model both. We need more models of good theology married to effective ministry.
We need more middleware and models. I’m praying to this end, and I hope you will too.