Western Theological Seminary (Holland, Mich)

Brokenness, renewal, and restoration : God’s master story

Karen Cuthbertson
I am passionate about the concept of “home.” In fact, as a child, I spent much of my spare time outside in the garden where I created homes using bed sheets, clothes horses, and pegs. I loved creating spaces where I felt comfortable, safe, and able to invite friends to visit. As an adult, finding a true sense of home in this life through being transformed, renewed, and restored is my goal, and furthermore, to accept God’s invitation to participate in His Master Story of renewal and restoration in order to bring others home, too.

The journey of transformation is to be understood as something sublime and beautiful, fulfilling Jesus’ words that He has “come that you might have life to the full” (John 10:10). However, this journey can be particularly bumpy for those of us whose sense of home has been broken.

In this thesis I pursue answers to the questions: i) How do we find a true sense of home in this life? and ii) How do we continue to live when we are there? Then, through finding answers to these questions, I pursue the answer to my research question, iii) How do we create a sense of home from home for ourselves and for others in our Christian family/community/church?

The journey of transformation, the solution to the problem of brokenness, may be bumpy yet it is worth it, because it is our journey home. Home is where we are comfortable, safe, and able to invite friends and family to visit. We cannot journey alone, nor are we expected to do so. For this we cry out, “Come, Holy Spirit!”

The challenges of pastoral leadership within the Mid-Atlantic Region Church of God of Prophecy

Earl Antonio Robinson
One of the most pressing issues for the contemporary church is to train and educate culturally competent pastors to shepherd future generations of the church community. The proposed program included hands-on learning that facilitated change in the culture of the current leadership approach while addressing some adaptive and transformational leadership skills for enrichment in performing ministry tasks. The purpose of the program was to produce matured, effective, confident, committed, and able men and women in shepherding God’s flock while creating the knowledge necessary to develop and implement an educational leadership training program. This leadership program was designed to provide the opportunity for educational development for current leaders to prepare those seeking entry into ministry in the Church of God of Prophecy, Mid-Atlantic Region. Thus, pastors and bishops from the Church of God of Prophecy, Mid-Atlantic Region were surveyed and interviewed regarding the knowledge and skills that would be beneficial to future leadership training programs. Results of the survey indicated a need to improve the existing practices of leaders in the region. Participants defined a need to improve on learning new things and implementing them in the region. Results of the interviews revealed that (1) church leaders prepared for the role through learning formally and informally, (2) church leaders prepared for the role through prioritizing service, and (3) leadership qualities could be nurtured depending on the individual. The themes indicated that continuous and effective systems were in place to provide training and guidance for pastors and young aspiring ministers in preparation for effective ministry engagement. However, survey results indicated a need to improve the current education system for ministerial licensing of leader.

La mesa campesina

Thelma Herrera Flores
The purpose of this research is to develop a United Methodist ministry with Hispanic migrant and seasonal agricultural workers, also known as Campesinos, in the United States of America. The Campesinos encounter numerous struggles that go beyond the poverty of living standards, food, and education. This study will address a specific problem within the communities of Campesinos. Namely, the lack of spiritual leadership and guidance by clergy and laypersons within the church.

My methodology includes the development of an educational program that will enable churches to understand the plight of the Campesinos through bible study, testimonials, watching selected portions of videos, singing, and sharing fellowship Campesino meals. All with the purpose of stirring the church’s heart to action and leading them to a hands-on ministry with the migrant agricultural farm workers.

It is my hope that the United Methodist Church will reach out to the Campesinos to help them discover that Christ is walking next to them in the crop rows and drinking with them from the irrigation ditches. I believe in the beauty manifested through God’s love. The same love that can allow us to see that we are all the same. We all need Jesus.

Acting our way forward : the hope of the ascension for the leadership of the church

Jonathan A Ytterock
Christian congregations today live under the reign of the ascended Lord Jesus, who has been exalted to right hand of God the Father, lives to intercede for us, pours out his Spirit, and promises to return. Yet the reality of Jesus’ ascension is often dramatically undercelebrated, distorted, or dismissed. When this happens, congregations not only lose a key part of the Biblical witness, but also a key way of understanding their identity, calling, and hope. If the church today relates to Jesus as the ascended Lord, pastors and Christian leaders should be asking, what are the implications of the ascension for leading congregations to participate in the mission of God? In response to that question, this project places the doctrine and story of Jesus’ ascension in conversation with pastoral ethnography and the organizational theories of sensemaking and innovation as defined by Karl Weick and Clayton Christensen. Through this conversation, and by focusing particularly on the congregation of Mt. Horeb Presbyterian Church, I propose that the reality of the ascension – particularly Jesus’ incarnate exaltation, his intercession and gifting of the Spirit, and his promised return – gives small to average-sized mainline congregations stability in the present and resources to act and improvise hopefully into the future as they participate faithfully and contextually in the mission of God.

Servant leadership in Burmese

Tial San Bik
The main purpose of this thesis is to provide an overview of leadership in the Burmese culture, to describe how it has changed in the last few decades, to recommend what is now needed to reform it and bring it back to health in society and, particularly, in the church. In a church steeped in a culture led by dictators for generations, the pastor can quickly become an authoritarian figure. However, in light of the gospel, all who follow Jesus ought to become servants. This project asserts and tests that servant leadership is a key factor between Burmese Christians and congregations in the USA as they work to understand the challenges of immigrant life.

This project is a case study that will look at the current situation in Burma through the eyes of Christian immigrants to the USA. The aim is to focus on leadership for Burmese immigrant congregations to understand the changes that have happened, to use biblical theology to understand that leadership, how it has changed, and how it must keep changing in a healthier direction.

Marketplace leaders of Legacy Church and the Great Commission

This world is marked by volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity (VUCA). Coupled with ecclesial ambivalence, Legacy Church seeks to address believers who can be salt and light in a struggling landscape. The Great Commission is Jesus’ final instruction to His disciples as the invitation to seek out the world and make disciples.

This project focuses on how marketplace leaders of Legacy Church understand their role in fulfilling the Great Commission. Legacy Church is a marketplace church committed to impacting our geographical area by engaging in missional and incarnational living outside the construct of church activities.

This is an ethnographic study exploring how marketplace leaders view themselves as disciples and how they participate in the Great Commission due to their adoption into the Kingdom of God. The exploration of the data reveals a deep sense of belonging in Christ that shapes the way marketplace leaders live and engage in church activities and also reveals a gap in their comfortability to engage in faith-based conversations at home, in the neighborhood, or at work.

This gap compels Legacy Church to add to its Growth Track and produce a learning engagement that will equip marketplace leaders to have curious and courageous conversations about their faith outside the church. Life Groups are a core activity for developing authentic relationships; the study reveals the impact of these groups. This project leverages the natural relationships of Life Groups within Legacy to develop marketplace leaders who will be equally empowered in their faith at home, at work, and in neighborhoods as they are within Legacy Church.

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.

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.

Pastoral presence as disruption of shame : the experience of engaging and equipping communities of faith in Bangkok with practices of transformative discipleship

Rawee Bunupuradah
The dissertation explores dynamics of spiritual transformation through the practice of discipleship and pastoral care. Intersecting multi-disciplinary sources of theology, psychology, and neuroscience. The work proposes, tests, and records observations in developing a practice to lead people into transformation through relationship with God and within their faith community.

I find that the process of transformation is a holistic process of cultivating mind, heart, and body, which form a holistic faith. The Trinitarian doctrine of perichoresis helps us see the potential of transformation with loving community. I also discover the enemy of such transformation is shame. I define shame and its effects of disconnection with God and community. A workshop was developed to engage leaders within a context of community with these findings. The results in the form of pastoral encounters are recorded.

The work provides leaders with theology, practices, and case studies to facilitate spiritual transformation with a focus on engaging individual’s heart and story. Working with a diaspora urban faith community, I wonder if its application would benefit other contexts of culture, church, or ministry.

Overall, the work has helped me discover how to disrupt the effects of shame and lead others into healthier relationship with God and with their community of faith. My hope is that this work would equip leaders to make disciples and build community that reflects the love of God for the world.

Estrategia de crecimiento y su efecto en el crecimiento integral de la Iglesia de Dios de la Profecía en San Marcos

Miguel Ángel García Sarceño
Given the low growth that the Church of God of the Prophecy of San Marcos has experienced for more than ten years, we pose the following problem: Is there a relationship between the growth strategy and the low overall growth in the membership of the Church of God of the Prophecy of San Marcos?

To start the investigation, we set a general objective and three specific objectives:

General objectives: Determine the relationship between the growth strategy and the low integral growth in the membership of the Church of God of Prophecy in San Marcos.

Specific objectives: 1. Determine the relationship between the missional strategy and low integral growth in the membership of the Church of God of Prophecy in San Marcos. 2. Determine the relationship between the organizational, structural strategy and the low integral growth in the membership of the Church of God of Prophecy in San Marcos. 3. Determine the relationship between the strategic role of leadership and low overall growth in the membership of the Church of God of Prophecy in San Marcos.
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