One of the practical ways I have been thinking about in regards to implementing a Blue Collar Theology is to develop a theological reference center in your local church. Now, a few things have to be assumed: one, your church has a permanent building; two, your church facilities are available during the week; and three, you there is available room in your church to facilitate a church reference center. So here’s what I am thinking:
Many churches have some form a church library; however, from my experience many of the libraries look much like your local bookstore which has rows of books on fiction, self-help, pop-theology, best-sellers, etc. with a very small section in the back for “theology” (usually a couple of shelves with the rest for church leadership and administration). Now while it is a shame that most Christian bookstores show such conspicuous contempt for theological works, this does not have to be the case in the local church. And one of the ways to put an emphasis on theological education is to develop a theological reference center that would be available for any church member or teacher who would like to study in greater depth, whether it be for a Sunday School lesson, Bible study, or just personal devotion and development.
Let’s face it. 99.9% of all churches do not have Boyce Centennial Library in their back yards, and it would be very unlikely to see church members invest in theological reference works for their own libraries (assuming they have one). However, a church could dedicate a small room that can be accessed during normal church hours during the week as well as before and after services (Sundays and Wednesdays for example). If your church has interns, they could help oversee the reference center while offering suggestions to those using the materials for the first time.
For starters, I would put into the budget for the following year a certain amount to jump start the theological reference center and make it possible for individuals or families to contribute to the theological education fund of the church. Some of the various reference works one could consider include: OT/NT surveys, dictionaries, encyclopedias, concordances, word studies, commentaries, atlases, Bible handbooks, church history surveys, systematic theologies, books on “biblical theology,” complete works (of various individuals), theological journals, magazine periodicals, Baptist history, and apologetics.
In evangelism, we hear it said that it is better to train someone to fish than for them to merely catch a fish. In the same way, it is better to train church members to think theologically and study intensely than to have them simply regurgitate prefabricated material. If theological education is to be a challenge and commitment for all Christians, then churches ought to consider practical ways of making that possible, and developing, facilitating, and investing in a theological reference center is a great place to start. Perhaps it is here that many church members will be exposed to some of the greatest works on theology that have been relegated to obscurity in our day, at least among Blue Collar Christians.
So in summary, a BCT exhortation to a theological reference center in the local church entails that theological education and the resources needed for further theological inquiry and biblical study be available to church members who have a passion to learn and grow in their faith. Such a center could be a seedbed for future potential leaders, Sunday School teachers, and elders as well as function as an equipping center for mentoring, teaching, and training manned by good Bereans who study to show themselves approved.
Could there be a day in our churches where a young teenage man comes to church after school to spend a couple hours to do an exegetical study on the kingdom of God?
Could there be a day when Sunday School teachers would stay after church on Wednesday nights to study the historical, cultural, and canonical background to next Sunday’s text?
Could there be a day where God’s people feast at the banqueting table of God’s Word throughout the week?