For most church-goers, the extent of their biblical studies probably go as far as their daily devotionals, weekly church Bible studies, and Sunday sermons from their local church pastors. The more voracious Bible readers might go further by reading commentaries, articles, and analyses by theologians. Some may be hungry for more, but might see a seminary education as intimidating or inaccessible for various reasons.
Living Way Community Church, located near downtown Los Angeles, has been offering "Life Academy" for those very people within the church. For a $25 class fee, Life Academy offers a glimpse of what is offered in seminary education -- going deeper in such studies as systematic theology and hermeneutics -- and allowing lay members to go deeper into the implications and meaning of the Word.
Living Way recently concluded "Theology 1," the first part of Life Academy, on Sunday, which had been taught over the course of seven weeks with Dr. Mark Saucy, a professor of Theology from Biola University's Talbot School of Theology. Theology 1 covered the first part of systematic theology.
"We went into, first, what is theology, and then the attributes of God, which, in our course, we covered God as love, God as a triune God, and God as holy," explained Michelle Lee, the chief of minisry and operations at Living Way.
"The vision for our church is to encounter Christ, experience His reign, and expand His kingdom," Lee said. "And we felt that Life Academy allows us to explore the aspect of experiencing His reign more deeply through Christian education -- experiencing more of who God is."
Each class included in-depth studies, as well as times to ask questions and discuss ways to apply the theological truths into an individual's life.
For example, the study of God as Triune explored the unique functions, deity, manifestations, and unity of God in the Trinity. Thereafter, Saucy went on to discuss what this means for an individual's personal walk with God as well.
"Unfortunately, to many Christians the doctrine of the Trinity is irrelevant to life," Saucy said. "Even in prayer and worship most miss the supreme practical value of the Trinity that God has made his divine life available to all of his creatures."
"Prayer and worship of the Christian God is enabled by God's own indwelling and mediating presence," Saucy said.
Similarly, when discussing God as holy during the final class of Theology 1, Saucy discussed the multiple ways through which Scripture describes God's holiness -- God as light, as spirit, as one, and God's infinity with respect to time, space, power, and knowledge, but he also took time with the class to apply each of these aspects of God's holiness into personal faith.
The fact that God "transcends the boundaries of time" and that "all exists for him at once," allows the Christian to trust in Him since "how He acts and what He promises today is what we can bank on Him operating as in the future," Saucy said.
And God's omnipresence allows the Christian to know that "we are never out of His reach," and "there's never a place we can go where God is not already there," he said.
Though Theology 1 has now concluded, the staff of Living Way envision a four-year plan for Life Academy, in which the next course will be on hermeneutics from July to August; and then a survey on the Old Testament. Theology 2 will be offered next spring.
"The members who have been taking the course appreciate it a lot," Michelle Lee said. "They love that they're able to go deeper into the Word and know God more deeply through this."