A troubling myth that I often encountered during my time working in the local church was the idea that the work of theology was something reserved for academics, church leaders, and other ivory tower Christians: the so called professional theologians. Many ordinary church goers did not see themselves as equipped or capable in engaging in the theological process themselves.
When theology is left to the “experts,” it loses its necessary contextual nature. This stunts both the role of the church and the role of theology - hurting both.
It is my belief that theology is meant to emerge from the community, on behalf the community, in order to shape the community. So, rather than making the work of theology more abstract and removed from the life of faith, we need to find ways of thinking about it that bridges the gap.
First, I believe that this requires us to remember that theology is a second word activity; not something created out of nothing by smart people. By that, I mean it exists as a response and interpretation to the divine presence in our midst. All we can do is try to name that presence. This is something that cannot be done in isolation from the community of faith.
The church is made up of ordinary people who struggle, suffer, doubt, pray, lament, celebrate, mourn, and experience great joy together. Any work of theology must begin in the lived experiences of those people. This is what is meant by all theology being contextual theology.
In doing the work of theology, the church stands fixed in both tradition and its present context and presents itself as an eschatological community that witnesses to the in-breaking reign of God to its surrounding culture. In this way, theology becomes a form of storytelling. Emerging from a particular community, it is a meaning-making response to the event of God in our midst. We are telling the story of God for our time and place.