Practical theology is an academic discipline that examines and reflects on religious practices in order to understand the theology that is enacted in those practices and in order to consider how theological theory and theological practices can be more fully aligned, changed, or improved. Practical theology has often sought to address a perceived disconnection between theology as an academic discipline or dogmatics on the one hand, and the life and practice of the Church on the other.
As articulated by Richard Osmer, the four key questions and tasks in practical theology are:
Practical theology consists of several related sub-fields: applied theology (such as missions, evangelism, religious education, pastoral psychology or the psychology of religion), church growth, administration, homiletics, spiritual formation, pastoral theology, spiritual direction, spiritual theology (or ascetical theology), political theology, theology of justice and peace and similar areas. It also includes advocacy theology, such as the various theologies of liberation (of the oppressed in general, of the disenfranchised, of women, of immigrants, of children, and black theology). The theology of relational care, which concerns ministering to the personal needs of others, may also be discussed as a field of practical theology.
"Convergent practical theology" has emerged from the combined studies and practice of missiology with organizational development since the publication of Missional Church: A Vision for the Sending of the Church in North America. This new perspective is described by Christian Boyd as "living our theology (primary and secondary) and practicing social science theologically, [so that] our minds are renewed and the community formed nurtures a new imagination for being and doing church."
The Core Tasks of Practical Theological Interpretation
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