Why We Need Theology More Than Netflix

By Mike McGarry May 11, 2020

“Why do you think God made us so we need sleep?”

Preceded by a two-hour conversation about movies and video games, my student’s question caught me by surprise. He wasn’t necessarily looking for a serious response, but I seized an opportunity to explore with him the theology of Creation. My answer went something like this, “Simply put, God made us with a built in system to remind us that he is in control and we are not.”

It turned into a great conversation, but it was one that required a reasonable degree of competence in Christian theology.  (I’m not wise enough to come up with this kind of thing on my own!) An intentional study of theology has prepared me for conversations like this one, but it has done so much more for me and for my ministry.

Let me encourage you with five reasons why you and your youth group need theology:

Theology is the study of God

Our love for God should inspire us to want to know him deeper. Theology doesn’t need to be stale and crusty; instead, it should be an outlet for us to love the Lord with all our minds and then help our students do the same.

Don’t let theology intimidate you. Find some good preachers and teachers to learn from, dig into some good books with a close friend, or download an interesting podcast. Many seminaries even offer free lectures for download through iTunesU.

 Good theology inspires awe

Good theology never leads to boredom because theology exchanges our limited and misguided ideas about God for his true and limitless beauty and glory, producing awe and worship as our only appropriate response. When we are living in awe of God, our students will take notice and our ministry will only grow healthier.

Pastoral care is a theological task

Pastoral care done outside the realm of good theology tends to be poor pastoral care. When students come to us for help or with a difficult question, theological maturity allows us to draw from the rich well of insight found in God’s Word.

Every youth worker I’ve met has a passion to see students know Christ and walk with him daily. Knowing more about who God is, what he’s done, and what he expects of us will strengthen our care and counsel to students.

God is more worthy of our time than pop culture

Pop culture is valuable and important, but we need to be cautious. If you love Netflix more than God’s Word, that should be a problem to you. When there’s no time for reading (or doing something else to grow your theology), but your gamer score is steadily climbing, then honestly reevaluate your stated-desire to grow in Christ.

When we as youth workers take little interest in theology and more interest in pop culture, we communicate to students that God is small, uninteresting, and unworthy of their time.

Taking God seriously sets a godly example for students

Your example will carry long after your students have graduated. Ten years from now are you likely to be remembered as someone who took God seriously? If you are theologically uninformed, your students are likely to think that it’s not very important, but if you devote time and attention to the study of theology, your students will follow suit.

I’m not saying that every youth worker needs a master’s degree in systematic theology or that we should rely on our own knowledge rather than the power of the Holy Spirit. I am saying that when we strive to make theology a larger part of our lives and our ministries, our depth of insight will open up new conversations about life and faith, and we will be better equipped to understand how to apply the gospel to the everyday challenges our students are facing.

To be a disciple is to be a student of Christ; embrace the study of theology, and watch the changes it brings about in you and in your ministry.

Discipleship is a lifelong journey. When we hear Jesus’ Great Commission to “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matt. 28:19), we can be tempted to think Jesus is only talking about evangelism. But Jesus doesn’t stop there; he continues, “and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” (v. 20).

Not only are we called to introduce students to Jesus—we’re also told to grow them toward a mature faith. For ourselves and for those under our spiritual care, we cannot settle for undeveloped faith. We need to encourage students when we see signs of maturity, and we should develop those areas where their faith remains immature. In many ways, that looks like teaching theology.

In every Deep Discipleship Curriculum, we’re focused on helping students understand and live out the core of the gospel. We don’t stray away from theology; instead, we help students grow in their knowledge of God and show them practical ways to live differently in response.

About the Author

Mike McGarry

Mike McGarry is the Youth Pastor at South Shore Baptist Church in Hingham, MA. He is passionate about the role of the gospel and theology in our ministry to students and their parents. Mike is the author of A Biblical Theology of Youth Ministry: Teenagers in the Life of the Church (Randall House Academic, 2019), is…  Read More