During nearly 25 years as a layperson in the church, I always had faith—but it was often a blind faith. I didn’t understand that, even if I couldn’t know it all, there was much about God I could know. But as a member of The Village Church, I’ve been privileged to participate in their learning environments. This has brought me great joy.
I learned that God is more than I could ever imagine and that there are ways I can know him more deeply.
At their core, these classes taught me the importance of biblical literacy, doctrine, and formational practices. Knowing our Bibles (biblical literacy) and knowing what we believe to be true about God (Christian doctrine) are essential to our Christian life. The last category, practices that are spiritually formational, are activities that nourish our communion with God.
These three things have reshaped the way I view my relationship with God and the world around me, to the glory of God and to my joy.
The Joy of Theology for Laity
The Bible is for all of us; we should know it. We get questions about the Bible from our neighbors, co-workers, children, and others. How many more could be reached with the good news of Jesus if all Christians knew their Bibles well? How much peace could a Christian hold if they intimately knew the promises God has made? For me, knowing my Bible more intimately has helped me know who I am in Christ, bringing me great joy in hard circumstances.
Doctrine—knowing God—is the foundation of our faith. How can we explain what we believe if we don’t know what we believe? Teaching your congregation right doctrine will help them have confidence in the Lord that they cannot have otherwise. Knowing these truths, I am now able to share with joyful confidence not only what I believe but why I believe.
How Do We Prioritize Theological Teaching?
I don’t doubt we all agree these things are important. But we may not be sure how to make them a priority in our church’s weekly rhythms. Here are three things that could help draw our churches into a deeper understanding of God:
1. Commit to and work for theological training. It will require time and effort. We may need to ask for help and build teams for the task. Most importantly, we need to ask for prayer on this journey.
2. Create classes and point people to resources. In my experience, lay people are hungry to know more about God but often aren’t sure where to start. First, make sure your congregation is knowledgeable about your core beliefs as a church. These can be a foundation for their learning. Next, create a place where your congregation can receive recommendations for trustworthy resources. This could be a resource page on your website or suggestions for your small group leaders to study and share. Lastly, create classes that teach these subjects. This one may be difficult because of staffing, but it leads to my final point.
3. Train lay leaders. I’ve seen people in the local congregation step into all types of roles. There are many who want to know more, who desire to lead, and are willing and able to do so. Church leaders must not keep their heads down, trying to get everything done on their own, and miss the church body that wants to help. Not only is this stifling others’ gifts, but it also robs the church of those gifts. Get to know these members of your congregation. Learn what they’re passionate about, how they want to serve. God has equipped local churches with the right body of saints for its flourishing.
The Joy of Knowing God
The Great Commission calls us to teach those whom we disciple. We are to teach them about God, his ways, his people, and what a life lived for Christ looks like. And God hasn’t called only the elite or highly educated to learn about him and teach others. He has commissioned the whole church for this work. Elders, deacons, Bible study leaders, Sunday school teachers, women’s group leaders, mature saints—we are to teach God’s people how to grow in their knowledge of and love for God. Taking little steps in this direction can make a big difference. As our knowledge of God grows, so will our joy in him.
The Westminster Catechism’s first question is, “What is the chief end of man?” The answer is, “To glorify God and enjoy him forever.” In order to glorify and enjoy God, we must know God. He’s given us his creation, his Word, his Spirit, and his church. Let’s make it our priority to seek to know him more fully through these things and encourage our churches to do the same because he alone is our joy.
Written by: Michelle Holmgren