One small adjustment I’ve had to make coming fresh out of seminary (well, still being in seminary actually) is to not necessarily be alarmed when church members don’t articulate their faith with the same theological clarity everyone in seminary does.
In talking with my fellow church members at Central, I quickly found out that most Christians don’t know phrases like “penal substitutionary atonement” or “plenary verbal inspiration.”
For example, a friend and I might strike up a conversation about our faith or what God has been doing in our lives lately. The person I’m talking to might never use the phrase “the gospel” in describing the time they first came to Christ. They might say, “found God” or “got right” or even “got saved.”
I paused for a few days to consider whether I should wonder about the validity of their conversions in light of the lack of theological terminology. I’ve decided against it, at least based solely on those simple conversations. The reason is that just because someone doesn’t know all the terms doesn’t mean they don’t agree with them. It just means they’ve never heard of them before. A faithful church member’s ignorance of terms doesn’t mean they’re not a Christian. It just means they’re not a seminarian. And that’s OK.
Don’t get me wrong. I’ve been going to church as a Christian long enough to know there is such a thing as false conversions and false assurance. But just because someone can’t articulate their faith in the same way I’ve been exposed to doesn’t mean they’re not really a Christian.
It’s good to be patient, get to know people, give new friends the benefit of the doubt, build trust. Then, speak and teach at appropriate times.