Urban Leadership Collective: Theology and the Minority
Miguel Davilla is the lead pastor of Hampton Roads Fellowship in Hampton Roads, VA.
“For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” -Hebrews 4:12
There is no question today that the face of America is changing. The population is undergoing radical demographic changes unlike in any other time in our Nations history. The rise in immigration along with the high birth rates among minorities, have been the largest contributors to this demographic change. More specifically, hispanics are projected to represent over 30% of the American population within the next 25 years. That is staggering when you think about. How will the church today relate to this coming change?
As a Christian, that is also hispanic, this reality causes me great concern. Not because of the change in demographics for America over the next fifty years but rather in the churches lack of ability to speak to this changing population that she will find herself in over this time period.
The truth is that the current minority population will become the majority population in the next 50 years. Will the church have the right answers to their most pressing questions? Will the church have answers to the questions that the minority is asking? How does the minority relate to the immigration issue? What about poverty? Does God want us to be poor? How does racism fit into the history of the Christian church? Whats the proper response from the minority to that past? What about Manhood? How does the church relate to a group of people that have seen their male leadership go astray? These area all questions that are crucial in the lives of the minority context, that I don’t believe the church today has good answers to.
Will we allow our failure to answer the questions of the minority to cause them to go a faith group that does answer these questions adequately? The church today must become concerned with these issues. She must take a look at the relationship between her theology and the minority. This changing reality should cause us to ask the question “What is the relation between our theology and the minority going to be?”
Definition of Theology
First, we must understand what theology is. Too often we have made theology into the study of God, and not the study of God’s point of view. Both are true. It is not enough to say that theology is the study of God, and then fail to express what God’s point of view is on any given subject. This failure has led to a cold objective intellectual excercise of learning theology, instead of a passionate subjective exercise of doing theology.We need to define theology as follows: “Theology is the application of the Word of God by persons to all areas of life.” The main purpose of doing theology is to understand not only who God is, but also God’s perspective on the world around us from His point of view. It is the combining of a life situation to certain biblical truth. We see this throughout the bible. The meaning of the bible is found in its application to a specific life situations.
What greater need is there in our community today than to understand life from the perspective of the Word of God? Therefore theology is not only useful but essential, and therefore must be applied.
Theology is Application
It is important to understand that theology is not simply facts or truth statements about God. This seems to be a big misconception in the church today. Many see theology as simply a state of facts that has little to nothing to do with everyday life. Most of this is due to the fact of how we communicate this theology. Today, theology is more often taught in a classroom setting rather than in real life settings. It has the appearance of being an exercise in academics rather than being practical knowledge for everyday life. We must remember that God gave us biblcal truth in the context of real life situations. He didn’t just give us principles. God gives us these truth through His Word. But the bible isn’t just a book of biblical truth, it is also a book based on the application of that truth. Therefore it is also a very theological book.
In the scriptures we don’t just see God giving theology but we also see God doing theology. God takes His truth and applies it to His people throughout the course of history. Wisdom in the bible is always attributed to the proper application of God’s word and not just merely the attainment of that knowledge. The context that God gives us to learn theology isn’t disconnected from the real life situations of people applying that truth in their life.
The truth of the bible is meant to be applied to us. Its not meant to be knowledge that is disconnect from application. Therefore, theology is the applying of that truth from God to specific areas of our life. We don’t have theology until we have the correct application of that truth. But in order to apply truth to our lives, we need to ask ourselves the right questions that life is asking us.
Theology Answers Questions
Theology does not come out of nowhere. It comes from certain questions being asked and then applying the truth of the Bible to those specific questions. Because God wants us to do theology so that we can live according to his Word and point of view, we need to make sure that we are asking the right questions. People sometimes get frustrated with theological talk because they have been presented with a theology that doesnt answer their specific questions. For example, what good is it to know all of the views of the millennium if I am struggling to pay my rent? Many people want to know how God relates to them in their present day, not just in the classroom. Unfortunately the response to theology then becomes to reject theology all together when really the need is to have a theology that answers these questions. This will be a huge challenge for the church as we seek to answer the questions that the minority is asking. If we are honest with ourselves, our current theology has more to do with the questions from yesterday than it does with the questions that the minority culture will bring us tomorrow.
That is not to say that yesterdays questions are not important. They are. There are certain questions that are the same whether they were asked 500 years ago or today. Our theology always needs to have answer to the timeless questions the church has been called to answer such as Who is Jesus? Is there only one way to God? What is sin? These and many other questions are relevant regardless of the context in which they are being asked.
But there are also questions that are not timeless and really only apply to specific situations and cultures at a given time. The minority population today is in need of answers to specific questions that the church does not currently have.
We must ask ourselves “What are the questions that are needed to be answered today?” What are the questions of the minority? It will be hard for minorities to accept a theology (and ultimately a faith) that is based largely upon the questions that they are not asking. Because the minority is faced with unique challenges than that of the majority, this should cause us to revalute our current theology. Does it answer these challenges? If not, what do we do about it?
There is no way we are going to have the right answers to the minority population if we are not asking the right questions. We have to be sure that we are presenting a theology that answers these issues.
Church history is something given to us by God not to be ignored but embraced. While we need to be thankful for the theology of the past, we cannot think that there is no need to evaluate our current theology for usefulness. This is exactly the issue that brought about the Reformation in the 16th century. A failure to have a theology that answers specific questions that the people are asking will cause people to search for answers elsewhere.
We cannot continue to depend on a theology that fails to answer the question that the minority brings to it. Although our past theology can make valuable contributions, it cannot answer ALL of the questions that we are minories are faced with today. We need new theology.
The Need for New Theology
The minority culture today is in desperate need of answers to specific questions – there needs to a development of a new theology. This idea of a new theology causes concern for many people. It gives the impression that there is a need for answers from a source other than the God and His Word. This is not the case. In fact, that is the very reason why we need a new theology.
We cannot answer questions that the minority brings based on a theology that was created to answer different questions. We must answer these questions from the Word of God, and the result will be a new theology. A theology that is true to scripture and true to their real world.
This new theology must be biblically sound theology – a theology that connects wth our current life context. A theology that is true to scripture and also true to their real world. To do this, we must look at the context of the minority and see what questions life as minority need to be asked. We must look at how these questions are answered in the bible. We must develop a theology that answers questions based on today, not yesterday.
The Need for a New Movement
Who will do this theology? As minorites, we need to be the largest contributer to answering questions our culture is asking. Therefore there is not only a need for a new theology but for a new movement. A movement of indiviuals from the context in which they found themselves as minorities living in, applying the bible to real life sitatioons. Minorities in this country have been associated with many movements in the past. Take the Civil Rights movement for example. There was a need to answer the question of race relations in this country. Leaders from within the minority context rose up and answered these questions. This not only provided answers, it provided a movement.
This is also true within the context of Hip-Hop. The urban communities of this country were looking for a way to express and provide answers to the issues that were prevalent in the inner cities. Hip-hop didn’t just provide a voice, it provided a movement. Hip-Hop has gone way beyond being just a genre of music but to an actual way of life, a culture, or in other words, a movement. What if that need for specific answers was sparked from men and women who not only knew their bibles, but knew how to apply them to their specific context? What kind of change would we see in the minority community?
While the church may not have answers to these issue, the responsibility falls on us. There is a great need for a movement within the minority community today. The lack of a biblical worldview is an epidemic in every urban area throughout this country. There is a huge opportunity for the minority to apply theology to the world around them. What a challenge we have before us to impact the next 100 years of socitety in our communities!
Will we as the Church answer the call to provide the minority with a theology that expresses the truth of God to all areas of our life? I pray that we do.
You can follow Miguel on Twitter @madavilla