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Basic Christianity Series
GOAL: There are two reasons I have wanted to create this project. First, I felt when I was a new believer, I was woefully under prepared. Our church has a basic new believer’s class, but it only last a couple hours and most of it is focused on our church policies and not basic Christian doctrine. I had to search on my own to discover what Christians believed. I saw this as a potential weakness in my fellowship and wanted to remedy it. Once I was on staff, I realized identifying and positioning new leaders in a ministry was difficult because many people coming to our church were not properly equipped. They had various religious backgrounds and even worldviews ranging the whole spectrum new age, non- believing to Catholic or Pentecostal. My church needed a program to get potential leaders the basics. We can begin with a unified starting point. The second reason I wanted to write the series was not for polity but for practicality. If I wrote the study, our church could control the reproduction rights. The reproduction rights may not seem too critical, but in a world increasingly aware of copyright infringement, I felt it important to avoid anything that may appear unethical reproduction. It is not as though there is a shortage of available material for new believers. If we control the copyright not only can were reproduce the material as often as we like, we also can use it in other media forms. As the pastor of a small but growing church, I recognize that a series on doctrine would be useful throughout our small group system. Furthermore, as we explore web based ministry, the ability to upload video content and shoot it across the globe has an exciting potential. It is all these reason that I began research on what I needed to say in my project. I purposely limed the scope of my project. SCOPE: There is a great temptation to spend all my time teaching all the minutia of southern Baptist doctrine. I was not looking to get that detailed. My goal was to hit the broad points of orthodox doctrine and allow leaders to debate and discover the finer points on their own. I tried to focus on what seemed the "Nonnegotiable" foundations of Christianity. I like to see it as the big-tent form of Christianity. Certainly within the broad tent there are smaller groupings of diverse opinions. I tried therefore to avoid treating my personal smaller grouping as a broad tent issue. This goal lead me to first look at the early Church Creeds. The the Apostle’s Creed and the Nicene Creed were how I first established the boundaries of the "big tent". To be sure later works like the Heidelberg Catechism, or the London Confession even the modern Baptist Faith and Message. When looking at the latter creeds and confessions i recognized that often the were held more exclusively by certain denominations. Where something appeared to be a denominational distinctive and not a Christian distinctive, I generally either sought to list the different thoughts or neglected that topic in the basic study. I will look to follow up this with Baptist specific study.
MY BIAS: I hold a high view of Biblical inspiration. The Bible is my bedrock. Where my worldview or experience seems to conflict with the Bible I choose to believe it is either an error in my world view or in my interpretations. Beginning with the reliability of the Bible will help in later lesson. I do think that there may soon come a point were we may need to add a lesson prior to one on the Bible. There may soon come a time where we need to first discuss the Doctrine of Truth first. As our world slips further into the quagmire of relativism. We may need to add a lesson like "Can I know anything?" This discussion is still a bit premature but it was something I thought of as I was compiling these lessons. Assuming that the audience at least basically a truth exists and can be known allows the the bringing of the Bible into the discussion as a voice for God’s truth. Here is where I may have taken a bit more evangelical focus than just the “big tent” scope I was leaning toward but I thought it was worth violation. I recognize that there are well meaning believers of Christ who come from more liberal theological tradition than I who would disagree with some of my points. I took the hard line here because if we begin parsing out the Bible into pieces of greater and lesser inspiration than we risk creating our own canon within a canon. I figured it would be far more dangerous to allow me to pick and choose verses to disregard than to potentially cross some theologians.
A NOTE ABOUT CREATION: Creation is a hot topic today. The debate against evolution may color the early part of my presentation but I refrain from getting sucked in too far. I do not know if a doctrine of creation should be a doctrine of “first things” or closer to a study of general revelation. I find the more I look into this the more pragmatic I become. I am less concerned about the “how” because it is the study of a unique happening. God created the Universe in the beginning so He will not be creating it again in my lifetime. I fear coming down too hard on this point because it seems so many people on all sides of the debate use this to battle and argue with others.
ITS ALL ABOUT PUNCHING HOLES IN THE DARKNESS The basics taught here are really all about this Good News: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. It seeks to educate a group of future members and leaders in the church. To this end I try to teach theology not as an end goal, but as a bridge back to the Good News of the Gospel. I believe doctrine is not the dry stuff we have to learn. It is amazing realizations about the true nature of things. It should excite and edify us. Leaving a lesson about God should make Him more known to us. We should be transformed by our encounter. My prayer is that this study may be of some use for His Goal of saving a lost and dying world.
May God bless you as He has blessed me in my journey creating this study,
Pastor Rick Bristol
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"Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you..." MATT 28:19-20a NLT