Wanted: Integrated Practical Theologians.
During my thirty-four years as leader of the Youth for Christ work in Sri Lanka we have endeavored to develop a movement that is under-girded and driven by the Scriptures. Over the years God has blessed us with hundreds of volunteers and staff who are people of the Word. We have always considered training relating to specific problems and issues facing youth workers as very important. While I would like all of that training to be done consciously using biblical principles we have occasionally had to depend on outside teachers who do not have the discipline of filtering everything they do through the lens of Scripture.
My experience has been that often, especially in recent years, there has been an almost natural tendency to focus so much on specific practical training at the cost of Bible teaching. This has given me the exciting challenge of developing biblical studies that youth and youth workers will see as being vitally important to them. I thank God for this challenge which has helped fine tune my skills as a Bible teacher.
But we must be aware of the natural tendency to focus on specialized training so much that we neglect the personal lives of the people being trained. All our efforts would be in vain if these highly skilled people wilt under the force of temptation. So we have a dual challenge. First, we must always keep the Bible uppermost in our training. Second we must root all our training in the Scriptures. So specialists in Christian youth work should be practical theologians who have developed strategies and methods of ministry by looking at both the Scriptures and the culture and distinctives of youth.
The contents of Deuteronomy show that Moses was a master practical theologian. All his teaching is God centered. But it is also very specifically relevant and practical to the situations the people will face in family life, community life, national life, religious life and in war. Moses claims that what he is teaching comes directly as a result of divine inspiration shows that God’s mind works like that of an integrated practical theologian. He did not give esoteric theology that had no practical relevance. Neither did he give practical advice without a theological base. So we have a challenge as leaders. We need to be Word driven but also relevant, specific and practical to the life of our people. Christian leaders must be integrated practical theologians.