07/30/2015 § Leave a comment
When I made the decision to return to school two years ago to work on obtaining my Master’s degree, I knew that it was the right thing to do. It was just as important as when I enrolled at the University of Akron part time back in 1997 to work towards my Bachelor’s degree. For anyone who considers furthering his or her education, it is admirable and beneficial to stay the course and complete the task. (It is costly, for sure, but the benefits do transcend the financial burden over a lifetime.)
I will always be an advocate of higher education and pursuing knowledge by going to school or taking online classes. Doctors, lawyers, tradesmen and various professionals are where they are today because of their pursuit of knowledge in the classroom.
Knowledge is also important from a societal picture. There are studies that indicate that graduation from high school, especially for African-American males, can make a difference in lowering crime and incarceration levels. 
To obtain knowledge is beneficial. Knowledge is power.
From a believer’s perspective, when we learn more about the Lord Jesus Christ as we live for Him, we obtain valuable knowledge that bolsters our faith in Him.
The more that you learn about God, the more you will recognize God’s power in your life.
Knowledge of God is powerful.
As a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, who wouldn’t want that?
In order to learn more about God, you have to be a student of God. A good student of God will search and seek after Him.
“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” (Matthew 7:7)
Scripture encourages you to be a student of God. A student of God practices theology.
What is theology?
According to Roger Olson, “theology is any reflection on the ultimate questions of life that point toward God.” 
With this definition, I can make a broad, and perhaps even bold, declaration that a student of God practices theology; therefore, you, as believers, are all theologians!
Theology is very important for the believer, and it should be important because of what it means. It is the study of who God is, His attributes and His relationship with man and the universe.  The English word “theology” comes from two Greek terms: theos, meaning “God” and logos, which refers to “word,” “teaching,” or “study.” 
It stands to reason that studying who God is in your life provides you with knowledge and understanding that supports your faith and trust in God. It’s good for growth in your relationship with Him, and you learn about how to apply His Word, grow and endure as you move forward.
There must be a distinction, however, between Christian Theology, and theology from a worldly view. They both exist. Theology from the world’s perspective may indeed involve having questions about life and what that means in relationship to God, but that does not mean that the matter is given serious or prolonged thought–it may only be for a short period of time, or little more than cursory consideration. Some questions about life may be more substantive, such as “Why am I here?” or “What am I supposed to be doing?” or “Is there anything after death?” All of these are legitimate questions, but all of them will eventually lead to no real solution unless God is brought into the picture as the object that provides answers.
Christian theology goes much deeper. Anselm of Canterbury was archbishop of Canterbury and a great 12th Century theologian. He defined theology as “seeking to understand with the intellect what the heart–a person’s central core of character–already believes and to which it is committed.”  That’s a good way to describe the heart of a person who seeks understanding to support his faith.
Now that we have established a distinction between worldview theology and Christian theology, we need to consider the different levels of theology that exist within Christian theology, because all are not created equal.
There are real doctors and lawyers with degrees to support it, while there are actors that portray doctors and lawyers on television and in the movies. That doesn’t make them real doctors or lawyers. You wouldn’t let a doctor from Grey’s Anatomy perform surgery on you, would you? You also would not want an orthodontist to perform an appendectomy. You want the best available attorney representation instead of someone like the role actor Joe Pesci plays in the movie, My Cousin Vinny.
In the same sense, everyone is a theologian, but not everyone has the same theology. You may discover this as you speak to other people who attend church as you listen closely to what they really believe.
Many people, you may find, will not see the need for theology because it would hinder the understanding of the simple faith that a person has! It’s like saying the more you know about God from an intellectual perspective, the more that it would hurt your ability to have faith. This may sound strange to some of you, but this is a more popular belief than you may realize. The question “Who needs theology?” reflects a person’s view that one does not need a Master’s degree or a doctorate to help one understand God any more than we already do.
Some of you may remember when I spoke about Socrates, a philosopher, who declared, “the unexamined life is not worth living.”  He was absolutely correct. If we are serious about our relationship with Jesus Christ, there should always be an active, ongoing evaluation–a reflective look at one’s life in service to Him. If you are not actively seeking Him through His Word, meditating on it and prayerfully submitting to His will, how can one honestly know if God is speaking? A life in Jesus Christ is an active, reflective life.
With that in mind, we need to see how different theologies can be an indication of how reflective (or not) a person may be. A less reflective theology is referred to as “folk theology,” while the greatest level would be indicative of “academic theology.” In between the two are various levels of theology, defined by more or less reflective thought levels.  The levels are defined as folk, lay theology, ministerial theology, professional theology and then academic theology.
What is folk theology? It is a faith in God that is largely blind and based upon a traditional approach to Christianity. It is when a person states belief but cannot articulate it very well. In addition, there is a rejection of critical thinking about the belief and an acceptance of it based upon tradition, clichés and legends. 
Folk theology is everywhere. It can be found in virtually any setting. They are not adherents to any specific church affiliation, and they would not even consider themselves theological–yet, they are. Unfortunately, the traditionalism of this practice is contrary to any deep, careful reflection that allows a person to defend one’s faith, which is what the apostles had to do early on just years removed from Christ’s existence. A believer must be able to defend his faith in order to articulate his faith to a person who seeks the truth about Jesus Christ.
Lay theology is a step above folk theology but is, in reality, much more progressive in thought. It describes a Christian who works to understand the faith he or she holds in Jesus Christ. It is the act of putting one’s mind into the faith relationship. The root of this is in one’s seeking the wisdom of the Holy Spirit to gain this understanding.
Ministerial theology is a step above lay theology in that it now involves the teachable faith as practiced by trained ministers and leaders within Christian churches. This is the effort to put into practice formal training such as bible classes or even seminary classes to train people to learn how to read and interpret Scripture and apply it within the body of Christ and the real world.
Professional theology is best described as those persons who are qualified to train lay people and pastors to increase their knowledge. They are the ones who create an active and healthy learning environment that encourages critical thinking and reflection. They teach in seminaries and colleges with church affiliations to provide methods to be more effective in service to all people.
Academic theology is an advanced study that lends more to philosophical thinking shared with other theologians. As a practical matter, there is nothing wrong with academic theology, but its greatest criticism is that it lacks in application to real world Christian living. The challenge for the academic theologian is to reach beyond thought processes and provide ways to apply this thinking that are beneficial to lay, ministerial and professional theologians.
We’ve seen that anyone who seeks to answer the questions of life that point to God is a theologian. Knowing that there are different theologies, which one of these best describes you?
If you are honestly seeking His wisdom, you will grow well beyond those who are stuck in folk theology.
As you can see, the level of theology that is practiced has everything to do with the amount of time and effort that one puts into it. As you put your time into it, you will able to clarify and articulate Christian doctrine in a more effective manner  for the purpose of carrying out His Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20).
All of the effort that you put forth in pursuing greater understanding of God and His Son, Jesus Christ, is very pleasing to Him! Why? It’s simple. Your pursuit of Him means that you are seeking fellowship with Him through five key elements to enhance your IMAGE  in Jesus Christ:
1. Investigating His Word. To really learn about Jesus Christ, you have to do more than just read His Word. You need to dig deep into it and use the available study tools, concordances and commentaries to promote greater understanding of His Word. You can hear God speak to you even more clearly once you pray to Him for guidance as you gain this understanding.
2. Meditate on His Word. Prayer is certainly important in your communication with Him, but meditating on His Word requires an extra special time of quietness and reflection. It means “slowing down” to a place where you recognize God’s comforting presence and fellowship, and allowing His Words to permeate you to see His perspective.
3. Act on His Word. Your theology will not mean very much if you are not living in obedience to God’s Word or conforming to His will. He speaks to you and gives you advice for your benefit and for the benefit of those who you come into contact with.
4. Grow in His Word. Your theological study should bring about true growth in your Christian life. There should be a realization of more successes and fewer failures as you progress in your faith and grow in godly wisdom and understanding.
5. Endure in your faith. A believer in Jesus Christ must be prepared to not only persevere but to remain steadfast in faith. It makes the boldest statements of Jesus Christ’s presence in your life.
Remember, knowledge of God requires seeking after Him. A good student of God will search and seek after Him. It takes godly wisdom and reverence of our Lord, Jesus Christ, to see the importance of continuing to grow in knowledge.
The mind of the discerning acquires knowledge, and the ear of the wise seeks it. Proverbs 18:15 (HCSB)
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight. Proverbs 9:10 (ESV)
Theology is needed by each and every one of us in order that we, as believers in Jesus Christ, can grow to our greatest potential in service to Him.
I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, would give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him. I pray that the perception of your mind may be enlightened so you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the glorious riches of His inheritance among the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of His power to us who believe, according to the working of His vast strength. Ephesians 1:17-19 (HCSB)
Who needs theology? You do.
1 Article – Crime Rates Linked To Educational Attainment, New Alliance Report Finds (2013). © 2015 Alliance for Excellent Education, Washington DC. Retrieved June 12, 2015 from http://all4ed.org/press/crime-rates-linked-to-educational-attainment-new-alliance-report-finds/
2 Grenz, Stanley J. and Roger E. Olson. Who Needs Theology? An Invitation to the Study of God. © 1996 S. J. Grenz and R. E. Olson. Intervarsity Press, Downers Grove IL. pg. 13
3 Grenz, pg. 37
4 Grenz, pg. 14
5 Grenz, pg. 16
6 Grenz, pg. 26
7 Grenz, pg. 26
8 Grenz, pg. 27
9 Grenz, pg. 46
10 Blogpost – Gaines, Melvin (2015). Characteristics of Your IMAGE. Melvin Gaines’ Blogspot. Retrieved June 12, 2015 from http://melvingaines.blogspot.com/2015/04/characteristics-of-your-image.html
© Melvin Gaines
02/24/2015 § Leave a comment
The act of forgiveness is very difficult. An unforgiving person may experience extreme anger, anxiety or hopelessness…or all of these emotions. Unforgiveness can cause others a lot of pain, as well—people may tend to avoid you. What about you? These unresolved issues are spiritually debilitating and can even make you physically ill.
There’s no need to avoid dealing with forgiveness any longer! If you are harboring animosity, resentment or dread over past hurts or injustices, then this two-day seminar is for you! We will discuss and share how forgiveness, with the healing power and grace of God, is the best way to conquer the past, free your mind and soul and experience true rest in Jesus Christ! Join us for lively conversation, prayer time and fellowship! The seminar is free (hotel stay extra)!
Friday, April 17 · Saturday, April 18
Hampton Inn Stow
4331 Lakepointe Corporate Drive • Stow OH 44224 • 330.945.4160
Special room rate for overnight stay (April 17) only $85.00 plus 15.25% tax.
When booking ask for the Akron Alliance Fellowship Church rate.
Book your reservation by Friday, March 20 (up to 4 guests per room).
A free hot breakfast is available for hotel guests
Free internet • pool • fitness center
comfortable and relaxing amenities • shopping and restaurants nearby
Availability will go quickly! Be sure to register today!
Questions? Call Melvin Gaines at 234.206.0345 or visit akronalliance.org
04/18/2013 § Leave a comment
We’re just a day away from Spring Break 2013! Join me this Friday afternoon at 5pm at the Hampton Inn in Stow OH for what promises to be one of my best relationship conferences ever presented! If you want to see your relationship with Jesus Christ really take off and become a strong testimony before others, then this is where you want to be this weekend! We will meet tomorrow evening and Saturday morning with tips and strategies to help you on your way. Best of all, the event is free and open for singles and couples.
01/26/2013 § Leave a comment
I am pleased and honored to serve as Akron Alliance Fellowship‘s Church Administrator. God has been very gracious to me, for I have been involved with various parts of the ministry of Akron Alliance since 1995. I have always been very sensitive in my various roles over the years to support Pastor Gus Brown and his efforts, and the church family has been very gracious to me. They have also welcomed my wife, Lynn with open arms. With this new appointment, I welcome the challenges and responsibilities that come with the position, and I look forward to serving you.
A Church Administrator wears many hats in the role, including filling in for the pastor when he is away, but the most important part of the job’s requirement is having a heart for God in service and in stewardship. The position also requires a business perspective and professional expertise. In my business career that spans more than 35 years (!) including a stint as a company owner, I will strive to contribute a fair amount of real-world experience in my service to Akron Alliance, but I could not do any of it without acknowledging the presence and the work of God through the Holy Spirit (2 Thessalonians 1:12).
Even with valuable experience, each of us in church leadership has much more to learn and to do—there’s no standing still. I will be pursuing additional education with online studies and with memberships in organizations to help bolster my knowledge of church administration, and I will be working very closely with Pastor Gus to move Akron Alliance Fellowship into a new and exciting era that will promote our present and future members to continue to reach people for Jesus Christ, in accordance with the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20).
One of our goals is to welcome new guests to our church, but we will trust God in this area, as He is the One who gives the increase (1 Corinthians 3:6-7). In the meantime, it is vital that we continue to enrich the existing membership and attendees with wisdom and knowledge imparted through God’s Word from the pulpit and in the church classrooms. My intent is to bolster our existing church activities and to introduce new and stimulating programs to Akron Alliance Fellowship, and I look forward to your participation in our ministry to the people of Greater Akron and beyond. Your talents and gifts are encouraged as welcome contributions to Akron Alliance Fellowship, for we are all fellow workers in Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 3:8).
An essential part of our transition as a church is the use of social media with church news, communication of the gospel message and words of encouragement. Please look for us on Facebook (by liking our page) and on Twitter (@AkronCMAChurch).
Your prayers for the people and the ministry of Akron Alliance are encouraged, and I wish you many blessings in the name of Jesus Christ.
04/09/2012 § Leave a comment
I will be hosting this year’s free two-day seminar on Friday, April 20 and Saturday, April 21 at the Hampton Inn in Stow, Ohio. The subject, God’s Love Languages For Your Life, will cover how God communicates with you and your communication with Him, while discovering ways to improve upon hearing how He speaks to you while enhancing your worship experience.
I recommend that you take advantage of the newly remodeled Hampton Inn hotel for an overnight stay on Friday, April 20 at a special rate of only $79 plus tax (ask for the Akron Alliance Fellowship room rate when booking your room). I promise that the entire event will help you to relax, refresh, and recharge, and you might just learn something, too!
There are still rooms available, but you need to act quickly. If you are unable to stay at the hotel and are in the northeast Ohio area, you’re welcome to visit for the seminar and enjoy the fellowship! For start times and more information, please call 234.206.0345.