Practice (Theology)

Baptismal Covenant and Antiracist Identity: A Phenomenological Study of Christian Antiracist Formation

Author
John Matthew Weiler
Abstract
The purpose of this study was to explore the role of confession, repentance, and baptismal identity within the antiracist identity of four white Christians to further the work of antiracist transformation and organizing in the local church. The primary methodology for this work was exploratory, utilizing phenomenological, semi-structured, in-depth interviewing with a sample of four, white Christians at Eastern United Methodist Church in Michigan. The thesis was that baptismal identity, and the Christian practices of confession and repentance in the work of antiracism liberates white Christians to joyfully make space for all people to experience the liberating love of God.

From Joseph to Zaphnathpaaneah: A Theory and Practice of “Starting from Scratch” for Pastoral Leadership in Immigrant Churches
從約瑟到撒發那忒巴內亞:「從零開始」的移民教會教牧領導理論與實踐

Author
Yan Kwong Joshua Yeung M.Div.
Abstract
This paper is intended to explore Joseph’s life and career transformation. The phrase “from Joseph to Zaphnathpaaneah” includes situations like moving from his hometown to a foreign land, from having nothing to acquiring superior ability, skill, and maturity, thus accomplishing God’s plan for him, all "starting from scratch". When immigrant pastors come to North America and lead church of immigrants, they are, in a way, "starting from scratch". This paper further explores how immigrant pastors in churches of immigrants in North America can be a “Joseph” in their ministerial leadership by examining Joseph’s journey to become Zaphnathpaaneah, Egypt’s prime minister.

Even To Our Graying Years: Faithfulness and Renewal In An Aging Church

Author
Jeffrey Colarossi D.Min.
Abstract
My Project in Ministry has begun a conversation that will, with God’s help, work toward the renewal of an aging congregation, Westwood First Presbyterian Church, offering a pastoral care plan to calm members’ anxiety and fear over the challenges threatening the church, and an action plan necessary for the church to be able to live faithfully, into a hopeful future, trusting in God. Engaging Biblical texts, Reformed Polity, the Spirituality of Aging, and key theologies––Practical, Vocation, Discipleship and Life-Long Learning––the project offers the church a clear vision for the future and a tangible plan to organize, energize and engage the congregation. The implementation of the project, involving the Worship and Christian Education ministries of the church, as well as the qualitative social research methodologies of self-report questionnaires and guided interviews, enabled the project to clearly communicate that vision and plan, and convey the sense of validation needed to establish participants trust, so crucial to the success of the project. The enthusiastic response, participation and support of the church throughout the process––particularly its leadership––offers a sense of confidence that the conversation will continue well into the future.

Work Perspectives, The Sacred/Secular Divide, and Workplace-Related Preaching, Equipping, and Church Support

Author
Joy P. Dahl D.Min.
Abstract
This study explored perspectives of work and workers, as well as potential connections between these perspectives and a lack of workplace-related preaching, equipping, and support provided by the church to congregants. This research, founded on a biblical theology of work, identifies implications for understanding church dynamics, and for dismantling beliefs and practices upholding the unbiblical sacred/secular divide.

The research engaged two groups within one church: pastors/paid church staff and congregants. The survey focused on: (1) value of work inside versus outside the church; (2) value of workers inside versus outside the church; (3) importance of work-related topics for preaching, equipping, and support within the church; and (4) adequacy of pastor/staff understanding of non-church workplaces and their ability to help congregants address workplace issues. This Doctor of Ministry project represents a unique study which evaluates perspectives of church workers and non-church workers within one church body regarding a primary area of everyday life often unaddressed or under-addressed by the church.

Two descriptive surveys, one for each group, garnered a 69.01% response rate from 71 pastors/staff, and a 9.62% response rate from 5,113 congregants. The surveys gathered quantitative responses, except for two qualitative responses regarding workplace demographics (for congregants only) which assisted the church in understanding the makeup of its non-church workers. The results of the surveys revealed that both pastors/staff and congregants within this church placed similar, high value on church and non-church work and workers. However, these perspectives did not translate into pastors/staff attributing high importance to work-related topics within church practices when compared to other topics. Additionally, both groups affirmed an inadequate understanding by pastors/staff of non-church workplaces and the daily issues congregants face.

The final chapter includes conclusions of the study and implications for future research. It also provides recommendations of potential next steps for the church.

Finding Peace in Union with Christ through the Practice of Contemplation

Author
Gary W Brouwers
Abstract
Believers in Jesus exist in a powerful unsion with the ecodn person of the Trinity. Through this union, believers have access to everything that Jesus is, including the ability to expereince peace regardless of circumstances. This thesis examinded how a growing awreness of one's union with Jesus affects one's experience of anxiety. Using a mixed method phenomenological study, 46 participants spent increasingly longer periods of time contemplating on thier union with Christ. Anxiety levels were tested using pretexts and posttests of Beck's Anxiety Indicator (BAI). Participants kept records of their experiences using Likert-style scales as well as written journals. Data from BAI, the individual records, and a focus group were triangulated and compared. The results indicated that anxiety levels were reduced in 63 percent of participants. In addition , the data revealed common themes among the experiences of the participants, including strong expressions of God's love, continuing effects of peace beyond the period of contemplation and an appreciation for the structure and accountability of the project. In addition, most participants reported experiences of frustration and confusion as they attempted to spend time in contemplation.

Practical Enhancements to Willow Creek's Spiritual Continuum: Prayer, Mentoring, Small Groups, and the Cross

Author
Xavier N Sahyouni
Abstract
This project explores in three parts the connection between mentoring, growth in personal prayer practices, and spiritual growth. The first part looks at how mentoring and personal prayer practices influenced my personal spiritual journey. The second part provides practical enhancements to an existing model of spiritual formation and discusses the place of small groups, suffering, mentoring, and personal spiritual practices in that enhanced model. Finally, in the third part I review a ministry project where I mentored seven individuals in their personal prayer lives over a seven-week period. The results show that in this context, there is a positive link between mentoring and growth in personal prayer, and consequently spiritual growth.

Talking the walk: how spiritual practices influence youth's ability to articulate their faith

Author
Jack L Mannschreck
Abstract
Talking the Walk is a participatory action research project that describes the introduction of spiritual practices to high school and junior high students with the intent of equipping them with a vocabulary that will increase their ability to articulate their faith. Through the 4-D (discovery, dream, design and destiny) process of appreciative inquiry the youth took part in a process of exploring their beliefs, their community of faith, their call to ministry and sense of hope. These four assents to faith, identified in the National Study of Youth and Religion (NSYR), serve as indicators of spiritual growth and maturation.

Church leadership enhancement and spiritual disciplines

Author
Shusheng J Siah
Abstract
This research dissertation is mainly a case study of the Chinese Evangelical Free Church of Los Angeles (CEFCLa), where the writer has ministered to the Mandarin congregation as the lead pastor for about ten years. Its goal is to search for implementable principles, strategies and methodologies with sound biblical and theological foundation to enhance the church leadership and spiritual disciplines, so that a so-called healthy and balanced church could be operated. This implies that this church will be undergoing three conditions: (1) a sound structure system and well operational function; (2) her members demonstrating balanced and vivid Christian life; and (3) undergoing sustainable implementation plans.

Made to make a difference: ministry formation and the holistic redemptive vision of the kingdom of God

Author
Lance Blair Dixon
Abstract
Building on the work of Harv Powers and Rod Cooper in redemptive leadership, this thesis-project seeks to clarify the biblical meaning of redemption and provide a model of discipleship that takes into account the full implications of participating in Christ's transformative work in the world. The goal of designing a holistic discipleship model is to enable Christians to understand more fully and practice more intentionally the true nature of God's reign which we have been called to witness and serve, which is the redemption of all creation. The chapters build toward the development of a curriculum designed to offer every disciple a deeper biblical understanding of God's reign, a clear process of growth consistent with this holistic redemptive biblical vision, and a set of right practices to follow in each dimension of growth, regardless of the participant's particular sense of vocation. By building the curriculum on two influential ethical models of character formation, participants were given the tools to identify ways of deepening their commitment to Christ, growing in their conviction of the kingdom of God, cultivating a more compassionate heart, and developing the kind of Christ-like character that would bear the fruit of the kingdom in their daily lives.

Lectio divina as a catalyst for spiritual growth: a case study among mature believers

Author
Katherine Mills Johnson
Abstract
The recent rise in interest in spiritual formation and the spiritual disciplines seems to indicate that there is a growing awareness of the need to attend to the spiritual lives of Christians especially those who have been believers for some time. Studies show that many believers consider themselves to be stalled in their spiritual growth and that they often view prayer as a duty rather than a delight. The purpose of this thesis-project is to explore the question of whether or not prayer that is based in an intimate relationship with God, using Scripture as its foundation, can make a significant impact on the spiritual growth of Christians. To this end, thirty-eight individuals participated in a six-week study using lectio divina in their personal prayer time. Of these, 95 percent reported some degree of spiritual growth. The conclusion of this project is that lectio divina appears to have catalyzed growth in four areas: listening to God; deepening personal relationship with God; using Scripture as a basis for prayer; and being more disciplined in prayer.
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