What is Practical about Theology?

I get this question almost every time I tell someone I have been studying for a Masters of Arts in Practical Theology.

I think of Practical Theology as being like one of those fabulous French boulangeries.


The Master Baker

The master baker, started the bakery because of the love of the creative process. God envisioned people working together to care for what was created and to build joyful, productive lives. Their work would produce good things that would benefit everyone.

God saw everything that God had made, and indeed, it was very good. Genesis 1:31 (NRSV)

The People 

People are the apprentices, wait staff and counter help, each special and unique in the work of the bakery. Each person in the boulangerie has a special role to play in creating the day’s offering of goodies.

  • The ingredients must be gathered and measured according to the recipe
  • They must be mixed to the consistency required by the master baker
  • The ovens must be heated to the perfect temperature
  • The pastry or bread must be carefully tended and removed from the oven when it is baked to perfection
  • Sweets may require frosting or glazing

For as in one body we have many members, and not all the members have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another. We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us. Romans 12:4-6 (NRSV)

Baking Ingredients and Tools

The master baker provides the ingredients, the gifts of creation, to be used for wonderful baked goods. The basic ingredients of flour, sugar, butter, eggs, milk will be turned into such a variety of wonderful breads and pastries. For some, more sugar is added, along with chocolate, nuts or fruit. For others the flour may be stone ground, whole grain and yeast will be added to make wholesome bread. The master baker also provides the best tools and equipment needed for baking. Mixers, ovens, cooling racks, bowls, whisks, rolling pins and so much more are available.

Fasten the belt of truth around your waist, and put on the breastplate of righteousness. As shoes for your feet put on whatever will make you ready to proclaim the gospel of peace. With all of these take the shield of faith.   Ephesians 6:14-16 (NRSV)

The Process

The master baker starts the day with a list of customer requests and a plan to produce the best breads and sweets. The kitchen is clean and surfaces gleam clean and shiny. A wide range of ingredients fill the bins. The equipment and tools of the bakery are ready and waiting.

As workers begin the day and customers come and go, the course of the day becomes less orderly.  There is a rush in the early morning for unexpected items. A last minute order comes in for cookies for an evening event. The plan for the day changes and people in the kitchen began to scurry around. A flour bag gets turned over and a recipe has to be modified because there are no walnuts left. But the team works together, laughing and helping each other with their tasks.

The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness,
and self-control.
Galatians 5: 22-23 (NRSV)


The End Product

The baked goods are fragrant and beautiful to be savored and enjoyed.  As the breads, cakes and pastries are displayed, the Master Baker is pleased with the result of the work that has been done. Preparation has been made to feed hungry people.

Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a little, I will set you over much; enter into the joy of your master. Matthew 25:21 (NRSV)