Western Theological Seminary (Holland, Mich)

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.

Salud mental y cuidado pastoral

Rupert Neblett
The present research project of bibliographic modality and field research has its fundamental purpose to evaluate the importance of mental health care in pastors, ministers, leaders, and laity who have levels of responsibilities in human resources administration in the different denominations of Christian families.

With the understanding that "without mental health, it is not possible to have good spiritual health". This research has been motivated by the level of stress and its consequences of emotional situations that the COVID-19 pandemic has promoted.

As a result, an educational conference was held on Saturday, March 20, 2021, under the theme: "Leaders in Christ, Anxiety, Post-traumatic Stress, and Depression". This Conference was held in one of the church facilities where 38 pastors participated. It was found in the post-conference evaluations that 50% of the participating pastors and ministers presented a high level of stress.

An action plan is proposed that entails improving mental health of the Pastors, to immediately address the inadequate conditions that harm all those ministers and leaders who are in charge of human resources authority responsibilities in the churches by carrying out workshops that lead to developing the guidelines to put into practice strategies that lead to mental health.

Comparison of Luther and Calvin on Sunday observance

Harry Buis
How should a Christian sanctify the Lord's Day? What principles should direct him in making use of this day according to the will of God? This problem has become increasingly perplexing in our nation today. It is a problem which is especially acute for many people in the Reformed Church in America. Many of these people came from a background of strict Sunday observance. Is this observance primarily cultural or is it biblical? If it is a combination of the two, on what basis can one untangle these

This problem is especially critical because today, as never before, the Reformed Church in America is reaching out into the typical American community with an evangelistic approach. As she does so, she must not lose her rich heritage; rather she must share it. On the other hand, she ought not to impose upon others any part of that heritage which is culturally conditioned rather than essentially Christian. Even those aspects of that culture which are commendable ought not to be made requirements for membership in the Church of Jesus Christ.

In dealing with Americans of many different cultural and religious backgrounds, one finds no greater variety of viewpoint than that toward the proper use of the Lord' s Day, for America itself is undergoing a great change in its attitudes toward the use of Sunday. In a few generations, this day has been changed from one largely used for rest and worship to one used largely for work and leasure. The Puritan Sabbath, which had a large influence in earlier American history, has given way to a far different viewpoint. The result is confusion of thought on the subject, and therefore prevailing practices are based on expediency rather than on definite principles.

La educación teológica ante las nuevas tecnologías y su enfoque pertinente en las nuevas generaciones

Roy Rodríguez
This present research project carried out through the bibliographic modality and with a field research complement through the application of a research instrument called a questionnaire has as its essential purpose to make known the importance of the need to use social networks as an instrument of evangelization in this time of isolation and restrictions regarding personal social interactions. In the same way, to know the point of view of some ecclesiastical leaders concerning their points of view of the use of social networks as an instrument or transversal axis in the modalities of evangelization. Similarly, recognize that this research arises from the need that has led to isolation and social distancing due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the limitations that being able to carry out cults and other ecclesiastical activities with the usual openings have brought with it. As a result of this effect, it was necessary to investigate the level of understanding in the management of technological tools and social networks by the leaders and ministers of the congregations and thus know for sure if there was a ministerial body in the congregations conditions to carry out a task of evangelization through social networks and thus reach the largest possible number of new generations, which are very active in the use of new technologies as their preferred means of communication.

Factores contribuyentes al crecimiento de la Iglesia de Dios de la Profecía en México, Centroamérica y el Caribe de Habla Hispana 2010-2020

Benjamin Feliz
The Church of God of Prophecy arrived in Central America in 1932 with the founding of its first congregation in Costa Rica. The church began to expand throughout Mexico, Central America, and the Spanish speaking Caribbean. By the end of 2020, the church in this region had a total of 182,607 members and 3,376 local churches.

During the decade between 2010 and 2020, the church experienced a net growth in its membership of 56,620 new members (an increase of 45%) and 1,074 new churches (a net growth of 47%). This growth outpaces the growth of the previous decade (2000-2010) at almost double the rate and was significant in comparison to other regions and denominations considered in this research.

The purpose of this research is to identify the factors that have contributed to this growth. In order to accomplish this, I consulted with the national overseers of this region who interpreted the contributing factors from their perspectives. Their observations and answers did not surprise me; it was through their effort and collaboration with myself, the regional presbyter, that this growth took place.

Every region of the world passes through a season differently, and the vitality of the Church has always been in flux. Every world region has had its moment over the course of two thousand years. The comparisons established in this research have been necessary in order to establish the context in which the growth took place. When drawing parallels, I recommend considering the proper parameters in order to reach wise and sober conclusions. Likewise, if there is any value in adapting or adopting any takeaways from this research within or outside of the Church of God of Prophecy, nothing would bring me more joy than having contributed a grain of sand to the well-being and growth of the Universal Church.

Strangers and foreigners : developing a balanced Biblical perspective on immigration

Katherine P Osborn
We live in a nation that has been marked by much disunity in recent years. One of the issues contributing to the dilemmas we face is what to do about immigration. Society is torn between polarized views coming from both sides of the political spectrum, which has affected the Christian community as well. Initial research showed that the Church of God of Prophecy issued a short but biblically sound resolution on this subject in 2008, but little, if anything, has been published since then. Our silence as a denomination leaves us looking like we are hiding our heads in the sand. This thesis seeks to address this issue by correcting some of the misinformation circulating in the media while answering the question, “Who is my neighbor, and what constitutes authentic expressions of Christlike love and hospitality when it comes to welcoming and ministering to ‘strangers and foreigners’ who live in our midst?” The methodology is based on Richard Osmer’s four tasks of practical theology and includes both a survey of church leaders and interviews with immigrants. The research draws from history, political and social sciences, and theology to guide the church in shaping an accurate view of the immigration crisis while developing a biblically sound response to the issue. The goal is to open the door for honest conversation on the issue, develop a plan of action for ministering to the “strangers” in our midst, and ensure that our ministerial praxis is marked by authentic love for all people.
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