What's Tony Thinking

Late Spring, Upcoming Webinar and Changing Hearts


It’s been a late, cold spring here in the Northwest. Some years spring gets going in February, daffodils and plum trees in bloom. By March the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival is underway. Not this year! Temperatures have stayed cool and everything blooming has moved back a month or so.

The cherry blossoms (right) did make it out in late March. Thanks to the cool weather they are, like the daffodils, lasting longer than usual. The tulips are just now beginning. And it’s wet! Well, it’s supposed to be. It’s Seattle. (TV shows get this wrong. If they want to say “we’re in Seattle,” they show a constant deluge. Not like that. More light rain, drizzle, mist.)

Our time in the sun will come. Meanwhile, the airport is busy shuttling those who’ve had enough of the wet and cold off to Hawaii, Arizona and Mexico.

The webinar based on my book, What’s Theology Got To Do with It? Convictions, Vitality and the Church, begins in just under two weeks on April 24. More information at the right side of this page, including the click-on to register.

Registration is free. Having registered you will receive follow-up video’s of each session from the good people at “Crackers and Grape Juice.” Which means you can listen to a session later at your leisure, if you wish, as well as live on Mondays at 4:00 PDT, 7:00 EDT, etc.

When I was first testing out the material in the book in some talks/ lectures, one clergy person said, “I really like what you saying, but if I were you I’d lose the word, ‘theology.’ It’s a turn off.”

I kind of understand that, but it was a curious comment as the whole point of the book is to say that churches that are healthy and vital tend to have reasonable clarity about the core (theological) convictions at the heart of the Christian faith, and the some skill at seeing how those guide and form a congregation.

I try, in this book, not to promote one of the many adjectival theologies, e.g. “liberation,” “neo-orthodox,” “liberal,” “process,” or “evangelical,” but instead to get at the common basics and how they shape the way we, people of this faith, see and act in the world, as well as how we do church. I argue that theology “belongs” to the life of every believer and first of all to the church, as opposed to belonging to the academic theologians or the academic world (where theology tried to make a home to gain respectability, but has increasingly being given the boot — in favor of “religious studies”). As with many other things in modern life, we’ve been too happy to outsource to experts, in this case, “theologians,” what belongs to us all.

Over the years, I’ve heard a lot of people say something on the order of, “I don’t care about all that ‘theology’ stuff, I’ll leave that to you,” or “I don’t know much about the Bible, I’ll leave that to the fundamentalists.” While that may sound like humility, I’d call it stupidity. Leaving theology and scripture to either “experts” or to “fundamentalists” has been disastrous for mainline or liberal Christianity, i.m.h.o.

That said, I do understand that theology can become a severe head trip that misses where the action takes place, the human heart. I’ve mentioned that I write occasionally these days for the Mockingbird Ministries site. There’s a fantastic article, “The Cure of Souls” (long but worth it) at MB now by the theologian Simeon Zahl on ministry and our theory of change.

How do people change? What theory of change are you operating with in your ministry? Stick with the article until in the second half Zahl gets to what he terms “the Augustinian theory of change.” The heart of it is, well, the heart. You got to speak to the heart, the desires, the delight if you would effect change — or allow the Holy Spirit to effect change — in people’s lives. This is why music is so important, it speaks to the heart.

A variation on that is to ask which teachers have the biggest impact on us? Answer: those we love. That doesn’t mean a teacher sets out to be “fun,” “popular” or “just one of the kids.” Teachers one loves can be tough, but they are tough because they love their subject, they love learning and they love their students.

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