Church History

From puffs of dust to pockets of grace : the present-future of RCA Global Mission

John Paul Sundararajan
RCA Global Mission has been the prophetic voice on the forefront of changing tides around the world, and in many cases, helped usher in change in global missions and missiology. RCA Global Mission has been the glue that held the denomination together through the chasms and disagreements that divided us. RCA Global Mission has been the rallying point for the denomination through its various ups and downs through history here in North America.

Unfortunately, the denomination is engaged in another period of division, and RCA Global Mission is faced with questions of survival and stagnation at a time when the denomination needs a bold new vision from its historic mission agency. This project offers a case for how RCA Global Mission can be an agent and participant in God’s mission of healing for the RCA over the next 10 years.

Liderazgo transformacional y cambio institucional : las reformas de la década de los noventa y su impacto en la Iglesia de Dios de la Profecía en América del Sur del 2010-2020

Gabriel Elías Vidal
The purpose of this study is to explore the reforms of the Church of God of Prophecy during the 1990s and the impact of those reforms on the Church in South America between 2010 and 2020. The investigation required a thorough historical analysis of the changes to the denomination, beginning with its establishment in 1886 in the mountains of North Carolina, U.S.A., until the year 2000. Additionally, the opinions and strategies of several writers concerning changes have also been included in an attempt to determine if the methods these leaders employed during the decades studied coincide with ordinary aspects and methods of change in general.

These results indicate that the 1990s reforms were widely accepted by those surveyed. It was determined that, as a component of these reforms, changes in ecclesiology played a significant role as they led to a cognitive shift within the Church of God of Prophecy. As a result of the survey, we were able to determine the significance of Bishop Billy D. Murray and his leadership to the whole transformative process. Finally, we collectively determined that these reforms had been transcendent in creating a better future for the Church of God of Prophecy.

Anglos and Hispanics working together : an expression of the biblical vision of the church

John C Hutt
Because of the tremendous changes that are occurring specifically in Holland, Michigan, and in the U.S.A. in general with the continued growth and immigration of Hispanics, it is the intent of this project to look at ways that Anglos and Hispanics can work together most effectively in order to minister to this changing and integrated community. This is accomplished by examining Roman Catholic and Protestant attempts at Hispanic ministry in the U.S.A. in the past; by looking at the Biblical vision for a multiethnic church; and, finally, by showing what approach(es) would be necessary for an effective bicultural and bilingual ministry between Fourteenth street and Iglesia Hispana Christian Reformed Churches in Holland, Michigan.

Chapter one shows the changes taking place in our society and describes the characteristics of the Hispanics who are changing the fabric of our society by presenting the demographics of the Hispanics in the U.S.A in general, and, more specifically, in Holland, Michigan.

Chapter Two discusses an historical overview of the attempts by the Roman catholic and the Protestant Churches to minister to the Hispanics in the U.S.A.

Chapter Three attempts to argue for the multiethnic nature of the Christian Church as it is described by Saint Paul in his epistle to the Ephesians.

Chapter Four provides a brief history and description of the respective ministries at Fourteenth street and Iglesia Hispana Christian Reformed Churches in Holland, Michigan.

Chapter Five describes two different approaches that can be used for bilingual and bicultural ministries, namely, multiethnic and multicongregational.

The conclusion attempts to describe how these two different approaches can be applied in a bilingual and bicultural ministry between Fourteenth Street and Iglesia Hispana Christian Reformed Churches in Holland, Michigan.

Personal theological life-themes : keys to passionate preaching

David A Peterson
This project examines the impact and opportunities of the objective (transcendent) and subjective (experiential) elements inpreaching. The writings of Mark, Matthew, Luke, John and Paul, and the writing and preaching of John Calvin, Karl Barth, Frederick Buechner and myself, David Peterson, serve as key resources.

Chapter One defines the meaning of a Personal Theological Identity as God's unique revealing activity in and through our individual moments and personalities. These identities manifest themselves in certain themes that dominate all theological thought and speech and pose both rich resources and perilous obstacles for the preacher.

Chapter Two examines the impact of the interests of the various gospel writers upon the New Testament witness. The following four chapters carefully consider the writing and preaching of various individuals, identifying the themes that so often recur in their work:

Chapter Three: John Calvin (1) the sovereignty of God (2) Christ the mediator and (3) the vital need for orderly existence.

Chapter Four: Karl Barth (1) how does one Know God (2) God as the Being who loves in freedom and (3) to exist is to act.

Chapter Five: Frederick Buechner (1) the grace in the ordinary (2) facing the whole truth (3) the plot as a shared journey and (4) the silence in the plot.

Chapter Six: David Peterson (1) finding the "whys" (2) the audience of grace (3) transformation is always possible (4) freedom and grace and (5) the providential sovereignty of God.

The Seventh and final chapter summarizes the tension that dominates the work of the preacher. This tension requires that the preacher (1) listen for God by being fully absorbed in the daily drama of life and (2) attempt to see beyond the personal themes that so easily dominate the sermon by being continuously involved in theological investigation.

An essay on the Particular Synod of Michigan (Reformed Church in America) : its history, present identity and program, and its future

Howard D Schipper
Jesus was explicit when he promised to build the church upon the rock of Peter's confession, but He never spelled out how the organizational superstructure was to be formed. Peter and the the apostles, along with the expanding followers of Jesus, seemed simply to live out the early church history, building structure as it was required. These many centuries later, the church consequently displays a variety of forms and structures by which it organizes its authority and mission.

The basic patterns of church polity, however, may be reduced to three: congregational, Presbyterian, and episcopal. The derivatives are many, and have often been the painful result of needless controversy.

Not all the battles the church has engaged in were theo1ogical ones. Frequently divisions occurred or became entrenched over the preservation of a socio-political system or someone's personal position. Such perversity of the people who led and shaped the church over the years should not surprise us who hold are formation concept of depravity's permeation, I suppose. What we are about to find is the story of the ordinary people and the ordinary development of an extraordinary, divine institution: the church.

Henry Stout, pioneer missionary : his life, his mission, his world

Gordon D Laman
Upon numerous occasions, from the very first time I visited Saga and Nagasaki Prefectures in 1 9 60, I have heard the name of Henry Stout. During the twenty years I served in that region as a missionary of the Reformed Church in America, many times I was asked about this man who was one of my early predecessors . Snatches of information I heard suggested that he
had been a very important person. Reading I had done on the history of Protestant witness in Japan had made little-or no note of his contribution . More recently, my growing interest in the early history of the work of the Reformed Church in America in southwestern Japan led me to the discovery of how really valuable the ministry of Henry Stout had been to the development of that work. H.V.S. Peeke, a contemporary, said of the Stouts in 1922, "This couple were strong in piety and purpose, and their imprint is left upon the Kyushu field today to a degree, perhaps not fully realized by their successors."

I have now come to realize that their tremendous influence and significant contribution have never been widely recognized or properly appreciated. I perceive Henry Stout to be the sin­gle most-important missionary pioneer from the Reformed and Presbyterian tradition to work in southwestern Japan in the nineteenth century. However , he is little known, and evidently no detailed biographical presentation of his life and work has ever been made available to date. It is my hope that the fol­lowing pages will provide useful information and insights, not only about this person, but also into the missionary task and life situation in which his lifetime of service was offered. I consider Henry Stout to be an all but forgotten foundational figure of the church in Japan.

A contextual commentary on the Apostles' creed : envisioning the formation of a Christian missionary community in Japan

Manabu Ishida
The purpose of this project is to demonstrate that the Christian faith community is essentially a missionary community. I produced a contextual commentary on the Apostles' Creed for that purpose, interpreting the symbols of the Creed from the Japanese socio-historical perspective.

Chapter One briefly reviews some negative legacy of Christendom commonly known to Japanese people. This kind of knowledge is crucial to make effective communication of Christian faith to the non-Christian people.

Chapter Two is a brief introduction to the commentary and the text of the Creed.

Chapter Three deals with the first part of the Creed. I point out that it is necessary to convey to Japanese people the meaning and importance of the terms "believe" and "God" in a Christian sense.

Chapter Four is a commentary on the section of the Creed on Christ. I present the possibility of interpreting the credal symbols within a Japanese socio-historical context. I conclude that our way of life, in accordance with the coming of Kingdom of God in this world, is what identifies us as the people of God.

Chapter Five is an experimental description of how a Japanese Christian community can be a missionary community. I suggest the following three points: l.The church should be freed from a church growth oriented concept of mission. 2.The participants of the community are the narrators of God's saving activities in the world, and at the same time those who act out God's divine will. 3.The faith community should live a minority way of life in its society.

Racism and revival

Jeffrey Charles Porte
In this project I intend to lead the reader into considering the link between racism and revival. If seeking revival for our communities is our highest aim, then fostering racism is one of Satan's main strategies to frustrate our desires and efforts.

I begin this work with an autobiographical first chapter. My guess is that most readers have their own story of racial prejudices in their childhood. How God transformed and redeemed these prejudices is the heart of this chapter.

In chapter two I attempt to outline the biblical conviction that the universe is the playing field of the "powers" both good and evil. I encourage the reader to take very seriously these unseen forces which influence people and institutions.

Chapter three is a historical analysis of the Fulton Street Revival of 1857. I chose to write on this revival because it began in a Reformed Church in New York City.

The fourth chapter is an overview of the historical roots of racism, and my effort to identify racism as a significant spiritual stronghold. In chapter five I invite the reader to consider the history of Kalamazoo from a spiritual power perspective.

The last chapter is where I apply the learnings of the previous chapters to my interest in Kalamazoo. My earnest prayer is that if any of the ideas presented in this closing chapter are of God, that the Kalamazoo City pastors and intercessors would put these initiatives into practice.

Preaching and missional engagement : indwelling the Word, performing the Word, engaging the World

Jonathon P. Brown
This project is an appreciative inquiry of a homiletical method that involves interiorizing Scripture for performance as it’s offered at Pillar Church leading to increased missional engagement within the congregation. Through conversations with members of the Pillar congregation, as well as reflections from other pastors who practice a similar homiletical method, there is evidence that this homiletical method influences congregational missional engagement. The process is long and requires patience, but the stories suggest there is a connection.
As this project unfolds, I do hope to demonstrate through the lives of some of the participants in Pillar’s life and worship that there is a relationship between indwelling the Word for the sermon and a congregation’s missional life. I intend to offer a homiletical vision rooted in the missionary work of Leslie Newbigin, and the pastoral work of Eugene Peterson. This vision is demonstrated in the church’s first sermon by the Apostle Peter at Pentecost. A homiletical vision that calls the preacher to indwell the story of God as it is given in Scripture and offered to the people of God such that the missional engagement of a congregation increases. I intend to offer a homiletical method congruent with this vision that engages Newbigin’s notion of indwelling the word and Peterson’s notion of the pastoral ministry. In this way it will bring into conversation two leading voices in different sectors of the Western church today who are often not recognized as calling the church to a similar vision. A consequent contribution of this project will be to identify and introduce a theological paradigm operative in both Newbigin and Peterson that neither clearly articulate as a pattern.


Nathan Edwards D.Min.
The purpose of this project was to discover effective ministry methods for cooperating with the work of the Holy Spirit in the lives of followers of Jesus to nurture stronger affections of love, delight, and desire for God.

The author built the theological basis of the project from both Old Testament and New Testament passages that describe the role of affections such as love, delight, and desire, as well as anger and sadness in the lives of God’s people.

Jonathan Edwards, especially the Religious Affections, was part of the key literature the author drew from, looking also at a brief theological history around the theme of affections leading up to Edwards, with special attention on the Puritans. The author considered more recent spiritual formation literature regarding affections and spiritual disciples that nurture them in light of Edwards’s legacy.

The author conducted field research with ten participants around a series of eight meetings, utilizing a combination of biblically-based teaching curriculum and practical experiences of spiritual disciplines. Some adjustments were made for the COVID-19 health crisis.

The author identified meditating on God’s creation and candid spiritual conversations between followers of Jesus as the two most consistently effective disciplines for nurturing spiritual affections. Fasting also had a notable impact, especially associated with protracted time focused exclusively on God. The responses to biblical meditation, including scripture memorization and lectio divina, had a mixed reception from different participants. Participant responses highlight the importance of building the believer’s affection for God on God’s love for the believer and of finding expressions of adoration appropriate to the believer. The author concluded with some suggestions for implementing spiritual disciplines in the author’s congregation.
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