Required Listening: The Protestant Reformation – Tommy Nelson

“Church” has become a broadly used term that is extremely hard to define. We have more “brands” of churches than there are flavors of ice cream—and like ice cream flavors many of those names sound like the same thing (I mean, what really is the difference between pralines and cream and butter pecan?). Today we are going to look through a brief history of where many churches came from and what they are defined by—or what makes them illegitimate. We can’t cover all the differences (there are 38,000 denominations), but we will cover the broad movements.

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Theology is tool we use as Christians to debate key issues and come to convictions for our lives, the church, and current issues. It is the process of researching and then thinking through all that the Bible has to say about a subject. It’s something we should do regularly–both by searching the Scripture ourselves and by listening to and learning from the studies others have done.

Doctrine is the term we give the conclusions or convictions we arrive at when we have done Theology. They are very important to our faith…but they are often the product of time, thought, and God’s work in our lives. The average person appreciates help and discussion on issues of doctrine, but cannot be brought into agreement by argument alone. We need to allow people time to arrive at the same conclusions we have through their own faith journey.

Doctrinal Issues have different implications, and thus different importance:

Core Issues are issues that if misunderstood, may keep someone from having a relationship with God through faith in Christ.

  • For example: the belief that Jesus was not God’s Son, he was merely a wise teacher.

Important Issues are things that might severely hurt or hinder a Christian’s growth and faith, severely effect the church, culture, or world if they are not understood properly, for example:

  • How we define human life determines whether abortion or euthanasia is acceptable or not. This completely changes the serious nature of a person’s actions.
  • How we view the Bible determines a lot of what we believe, because the Bible is either an authoritative guide to faith convictions, or it is one of many guides and can be ignored when someone disagrees and can find a good excuse to ignore it.

Trivial Issues are mostly matters of tradition or strategy. They involve the way we act our beliefs more than the beliefs themselves. For example:

  • Baptism is an important issue, but how we baptize people is trivial. Almost every church does a form of child dedication and a form of adult confirmati0n. Church’s choose to baptize at one or the other events for different, Biblical reasons. Both still honor both key moments of decision, they simply choose to put the water in a different place. Ultimately the difference in tradition does not usually impact someone’s faith journey significantly.
  • Calvinism v. Arminianism – 2,000 years of debate has gone into the discussion regarding how much credit belongs to God for our salvation and how much free choice human being experience. Rarely do the issues and facts in this debate radically transform a person’s faith walk. More often people grow confused, distracted, and angry.


What do we do with Theology and Doctrine?

  • We study to ground our faith and grow spiritually.
  • We explain to help believers and to help the world understand our position,  but always with the hope and strategy we can bring them to faith.
  • We dialog with other believers about different beliefs to foster cooperation, always with the more important things in focus
  • We contest with those who would corrupt the core and important faith.

51Z44tNaYHL._AA160_I am totally convinced that the one thing every person can do to grow the fastest is to spend time with God every single day. There’s great research out there to prove it—and it has proven to be true in my personal experience and the experience of others who take the challenge too.

As a pastor my greatest goal is to see people grow in big ways spiritually—so naturally, I get really excited when a new, simple to use tool arrives that helps that happen. The latest tool has become the foundation of my new personal Bible reading plan for the year: The Every Day with Jesus Bible.

Although I am a HUGE fan of the Bible app and have used their Bible reading plans with great success, I often find it distracting to read on my phone…and it can seduce me into thinking through the rest of the day before I’ve gotten into a good conversation with God. Print materials are often a better tool for me, provided I remember to keep them with me until I get my quiet time in.

I love the format of this Bible too. Instead of a straight read through the Bible, which can be a bit monotonous when you get into less applicable portions of the Bible, this Bible mixes together relevant passages from the Old Testament, New Testament and Psalms. It even includes a devotional thought to challenge me to apply what I have read each day in a very specific way.

Aside from a good study Bible, which I’ll be sure to keep close by while I do my reading, this Bible’s format really appears to be a great setup for my time with God this year. I even secured a few copies for $5 each during Lifeway’s holiday sale.

If you don’t already have a plan for your time with God this year, then I urge you to make one. Your time with God is far too important to miss, and far too important not to approach with some intentionality. Make sure you set a regular time, place, and format. No one…no one is too busy to neglect this crucial appointment in their day.

If you need a one year Bible, then let me know. I’ll get you one.
If you are new to this and need something simplier, then make sure you start each day with the Daily Bread devotional, online at or free in print.

But as we end 2015 and look forward to an exciting 2016, my biggest wish for you, is that your time with God each day leads to some amazing outcomes!

516-aHtQqpL._AA160_Oh, and remember: if you are a parent, make sure you do this with your kids too! Try out the Bible App for Kids or this printed version.