Presbyterian/Reformed Churches

Rooted and reaching : liturgically formed for mission

Miriam A. Barnes
This is a project about Second Reformed Church in Zeeland, Michigan at the intersection of missiology, ecclesiology, and leadership—the three main subjects of the cohort, Leading with God Ahead of Us. This project explores the liturgy of Second Church as a dynamic influence on the church in mission. The rhythms of our weekly Sunday morning liturgy are formative for the people of Second Reformed Church. Not only are people rooted and grounded in God’s presence through Word and Sacrament, but they are also sent out from worship to engage specific places in God’s world using their gifts and passions to serve others.

The practice of ethnography reveals the ways the liturgy challenges, confirms, and inspires the people of Second Church to engage in mission. The liturgy of Second Reformed Church provides a framework for that service and engagement, whether at home, work, serving on a non-profit board, direct community service, or financial generosity.

The connection between liturgy and mission is not new for Second Reformed Church, yet this focus comes at a critical moment in Second’s story. The building project (completed in 2018) included vision for a different kind of community engagement that we have not yet embraced due to a pastoral crisis followed by a global pandemic. In this season of re-emerging from a global pandemic, Second is poised to explore critical questions around mission. By shaping a house of language around mission, this project demonstrates how liturgy helps Second Church to be “rooted and reaching” in Zeeland and beyond.

FOOD, FAITH, AND FILM: Cultivating a spirituality of Hospitality in a Presbyterian Congregation.

Robert Elliot Martin D.Min.
Welcoming strangers into a home and offering them food, shelter, and protection were historically key components in the practice of hospitality. Many consider the church to be a home. How do we extend welcome and hospitality to those in our context? In this paper, I link the power of storytelling in film to developing a theology of hospitality. To share meals with strangers is one of the most powerful and practical things we can do to help the church shape a more just and hospitable spirituality. Through film, the study of scripture, prayer practices, and table discussions, can we link our present and future faith practices to a theology of hospitality? A final analysis will allow us to begin clarifying what effective and transformative practices of hospitality in the name of Christ looks like.

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.


Philomena Ofori-Nipaah D.Min.
This research examines how a Reformed understanding of prayer can be enriched by the use of the Prayer of Nehemiah and the Lord’s Prayer. The project demonstrates that a better-informed theology of prayer results in a deepening of the spiritual practices of clergy and church leaders, allowing them to slow down and be involved in a faithful and sustained discipline. This helps them develop a deeper relationship with God. The results are established by a comparison of participants’ surveys taken before, during, and after they have practiced different prayer rules and through the interviews I conducted with the participants.

Desafíos y oportunidades para la iglesia hispana de tradición reformada en una era secular

Gianni Gracia
In this academic exercise, the author will reflect on and express his conclusions about secularism and how this phenomenon has influenced Hispanics once they emigrate and integrate into the culture of North American society. This exercise will also explore how this phenomenon impacts pastoral work, both positively and negatively, in the process of formation of Hispanic congregations within our context. And finally, the author will analyze the different scenarios and opportunities that arise to rethink strategies and models of ministry in accordance with the relativism and pluralism of today's secular society and within the context of the reformed influence on the reality of first-generation Hispanic immigrants. First, we must ask the following question: What does it mean that we live in a secular age? And consequently, how can secularism be defined?

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.

Transformational leadership in the church

Peter Borgdorff
This project is designed to explore and develop a perspective on transformational leadership in the church. An interest in this subject emerged as a result of the author's professional development in industrial, educational, and ministerial settings.

Chapter 1 explores selected biblical passages from both the Old and New Testament and selected theological themes which relate to the subject of transformational leadership in the church. Saint Paul's writings are the primary material used for the motivation and purpose of leadership.

Chapter 2 is a report on selected literature dealing with transformational leadership. The scholarly contributions of James MacGregor Burns and Bernard M. Bass are given primary consideration.

Chapter 3 describes the procedures used in the research part of this paper. The thesis tested in the research is that the core values of a transformational leader are different from the core values of other types of leaders and that in both cases those core values influence the style of leadership chosen.

Chapter 4 summarizes the results of the research and provides interpretation of the data collected. Specific core values are identified, especially for transformational leaders, and those values are compared to the values reflected in the control group.

Chapter 5 integrates the learnings of the preceding chapters and proposes a strategy for transformational leadership in the church.

A leader among servants : a manual for deacons' conference leaders : an examination into how deacons conferences and their leaders can better equip deacons in the local congregation to fulfill their office

Douglas R Fauble
This book is designed to upgrade the skills of deacons' conference leaders in the Christian Reformed Church in North America (CRC) so that they, in turn, help the deacons in the local churches fulfill their office better. The manual consists of an introduction, five chapters including footnotes and discussion starters, two appendices, and a bibliography.

Chapter I details the origin, development, and parachurch status of deacons' conferences. Three eras of conference history are described: 1906-1930, 1930-1962, 1962-present.

Chapter II is a biblical study of service including an examination of Isaiah's suffering servant texts, Mark 10:45 and its Christological basis for service by each Christian, and a study of four New Testament texts frequently noted as influencing our understanding of service and deacons: Acts 6:1-6, Philippians 1:1, 1 Timothy 3:8-13, and Romans 16:1-2.

Chapter III examines the theology of service in the Reformed tradition by considering statements in John Calvin; 16th and 17th century Dutch Reformed Church Orders; the 1978-1979 CRC synodical position on worldhunger, "And He Had Compassion on Them"; Karl Barth; and The Deacons Handbook.

Chapter IV considers similarities and differences in the structures of deacons' conferences by comparing past and present conference constitutions. An appeal is made for greater uniformity for deacons' conferences and a new model constitution is submitted for consideration.

Chapter V examines deacons' conference constitutions to discover how people become leaders of conferences and what their responsibilities are. Four circles of leadership are detailed, and uniform titles and job descriptions are suggested. The chapter concludes with an analysis of motivating others to engage in diaconal work.

Preaching : an essential component in a long pastorate

Leon D Draayer
An article appearing in The Church Herald served as a catalyst for this project. About the same time as the article , "Deliver Us From This Domine : The Problem of Clergy Immobility" by Alvin J. Poppen was printed, I was searching for a topic for my project. The project evolved out of a wedding of Poppen's concern for clergy immobility and longer pastorates and my concern for good preaching.

A search for information turned up few resources. I could only find two books and a few articles on long pastorates. No one had written extensively on the combination of long pastorates and preaching. The combination seemed to be a current and fascinating topic for further investigation. The project evolved to the point where I sought to understand the relationship of good preaching to the healthy, long pastorate.

The project looked to the Reformed Church in America as the larger arena. It is my denominational affiliation. The project narrowed the arena to those churches having long pastorates concurrent with the beginning of the investigation. The project turned to Scripture and to those who experienced the long pastorates to gain insight about preaching ' s place in the long pastorate.

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.
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