Faith development

Helping People to Experience Spiritual Healing of Painful Life Experiences

Brian Smilde D.Min.
This Doctor of Ministry Major Project was intended to assess the extent to which people experience spiritual healing of past wounds through a series of small group gatherings focused on teaching and experiencing the spiritual healing of Jesus Christ.

The project began with identifying the biblical and theological foundation for Jesus healing people from their wounds—not only physical but also emotional or spiritual. Then examining what people in other disciplines—such as social science, counseling, and business—also think, believe and teach about healing or restoration from past wounds.

The intervention involved a small group of six participants experiencing a series of eight small group gatherings. They filled out a Pre-Group and Post-Group Questionnaire. After five small group gatherings of teaching, experiencing and praying, there were two Focus Groups which allowed the participants to share feedback about what they learned, experienced and thought.

The data from the two Questionnaires and the Focus Groups was analyzed in order to assess the effectiveness of these small group gatherings to lead participants toward the spiritual healing of Jesus Christ. The result of this analysis was that participants were helped to identify past wounds or traumas, they felt safe to share honestly and vulnerably with the other group participants, they felt that others responded with grace and empathy, and they reflectively and personally applied the teaching in ways that allowed them to experience Jesus release them from past pain.


Thomas Hein D.Min.
The project identifies some of the ways Christians grow in maturity during times of suffering. During these times some Christians grow in maturity, while others experience a setback in their spiritual growth. This is a pastoral study, meaning that it is primarily concerned with observation and analysis of the discipleship process in the lives of Christian believers. The project evaluates true and false beliefs about God and spiritual life that occur during the process of suffering in the lives of New Hope Evangelical Free Church (Adel, Iowa) adult believers. Fifty-seven church members answered questions in a quantitative survey inquiring about their spiritual life before and after their time of suffering. Interviews were conducted with fifteen of the survey participants for more in depth evaluation of their spiritual disciplines, attitudes, and beliefs.

The study evaluated some false beliefs about God and spiritual life that Christians may develop during times of suffering. In addition, the study evaluated what true beliefs about God and spiritual life sustained believers during times of trial. Finally, the study evaluated what spiritual disciplines helped people move toward greater spiritual maturity during a season of suffering.

The practical application outcome of the study is a small group workbook entitled, A Journey through Suffering: Processing the Painful Experiences of Life. This resource is designed to be an exegetical devotional guide to help people reflect on their suffering in the context of a biblical metanarrative. Prayerful reflection will potentially lead toward maturing discipleship that glorifies God.

Believing God in a Chinese context : a practice of promoting the deeper mutual understanding between Christian faith and Chinese traditional culture

Jungang Wang
Most Chinese people, within whom traditional culture is deeply embedded, reject Christianity because they see only conflict between the values of the culture they cherish and the Christian faith. After the author lays out the biblical-theological foundations for the lecture series by analyzing the biblical resources, this dissertation explains the practical process of this research project including the survey before the lectures themselves, the observation description of the lectures, and the communications after the lectures. The analysis suggests that the lecture series is an effective way to remove misunderstanding of young adults in the Beijing Nankou Church. It not only benefits young adults but also the whole congregation.

[Note about entry: Abstract submitted to the Atla RIM database on behalf of the author. The text appears in its entirety as it does in the original abstract page of the author’s project paper. Neither words nor content have been edited.]

The Mid-Faith Crisis: Introducing Evangelicals to the Dark Night of the Soul

Thomas Sweeney M.A.
The mid-faith crisis is a qualitative shift in our faith experience as God weans us of the spiritual delights lavished upon us in the initial stages of faith and leads us on an inner journey of awareness, repentance, and surrender. This typically occurs in middle age and often in the midst of successful ministry, so it is often misdiagnosed as falling away from faith rather than progressing in faith. Such strong medicine is necessary because it addresses a serious affliction: the false self which has smuggled itself unseen into the Christian life and forms the great obstacle between us and God as well as us and those around us. Through the mid-faith crisis, God invites us to lay aside the false self and its tools for navigating life, accept who we really are, and to grow ever more into our identity as the beloved of the Father. While the mid-faith crisis is divinely initiated and sustained, there is room for human participation in the work.
This research portfolio explores the author’s own mid-faith crisis, proposes a model for the phenomenon and reports the results of an action research project to develop and deliver a curriculum that introduces conservative Evangelicals to the mid-faith crisis. It concludes by identifying further potential development of the model and the curriculum.


Jonathan Nielson D.Min.
For this major project, the study participants were Princeton University undergraduate
students who were actively involved in the ministry of Princeton Faith and Action, which is
staffed and resourced by Christian Union. Students were observed, studied, and interviewed at
the beginning (fall) and conclusion (spring) of their freshmen years at Princeton, with the goal of
determining to what extent this campus ministry was contributing to their spiritual growth. The
research and study focused on five main metrics to measure the growth in spiritual maturity of
these students: Bible and theology knowledge, spiritual disciplines, personal holiness and
godliness, evangelism and gospel witness, and understanding of and involvement in local
churches. Conclusions were drawn about the strengths and weaknesses of this campus ministry
at Princeton University and its effectiveness in helping undergraduate students grow in spiritual

The Fear of the Lord: Its Meaning and Use as a Motivation for Christian Living

Bradley R. Sickler D.Min.
The fear of the Lord is a multifaceted concept. Rather than trying to narrow down the definition to one concept, this study defines the concept in terms of four broad vantage points: first, the fear of the Lord as an emotional experience with the living God; second, the fear of the Lord as an objective truth which can be taught to people; third, the fear of the Lord as a motive for behavior; and finally, the fear of the Lord in relation to the love of God. The study was motivated by a realization that it was rarely specified as a motive in Christian decision-making or Christian behavior among the congregation. To address this problem and pastorally respond to it, this study makes use of the discipline of biblical theology, tracing the theme of the fear of the Lord and its development from Genesis to Revelation (chapter 2). Four main concepts pertinent to understanding the fear of the Lord are then examined from the perspective of systematic theology (chapter 3), in order to define the meaning and purpose of the fear of the Lord from both a biblical and systematic perceptive [sic]. In order to help the congregation understand and live in the fear of the Lord, an assessment of what the congregation currently believes about the fear of the Lord is also needed. Chapter 4 presents the results of field research undertaken to assess these belief’s utilizing ‘Q methodology,’ a research technique that allows the researcher to conduct a qualitative study using quantitative methods. Chapter 5 concludes with a summary of the results of this study and offers reflections on how to move forward in light of those results, as well as a discussion of ways in which the field research might be improved.

Authority of Scripture in Today's PC(USA)

Peter David Jones D.Min.
For this project, a small group of dedicated adults studied the Authority of Scripture using historical, theological, confessional, and experiential methods seeking to better understand scriptural interpretation and application to daily life. Of specific interest, the group ended with a case study of scriptural approaches to the topic of homosexuality, seeking to understand how biblical interpretation affects daily life.

Below is an excerpt from the project report:
"Too often, clergy treat some information gathered in seminary as secret knowledge reserved for those deemed worthy enough to obtain it. This must emerge from either too high an opinion of oneself, too low an opinion of congregants, or an addiction to the power of knowledge, but the end result has been a highly educated clergy speaking to relatively ignorant congregants. This, of course, is no indictment of congregants, but rather a commentary on the ineffectiveness of clergy in appropriately and clearly providing people with the tools necessary to grow in their faith; to grow beyond the children’s sermon understanding of the Bible itself. This project is one example of ways in which the clergy can engage with congregants on a more level playing field, trusting in their abilities and Spiritual maturity to guide the process of learning. I have often heard it said that people enter seminary with strong faith, have their faith shaken, then emerge even stronger than when they entered. Why do we not believe that congregants can and should follow that same pattern in their faith journeys?"


Scott Fouts D.Min.
The purpose of this study was to discover in what ways did spiritual growth occur in a congregational based Holy Land tour. The research also sought to determine to what extent spiritual growth occurred. The tour visited the Sea of Galilee, Jerusalem, Bethlehem and the Jordan Valley.

The intent was to capture the participants feelings, perceptions, and actions about the tour experiences. They were surveyed, observed and interviewed to assess their perceptions of the encounters they were experiencing.

There were twelve themes which emerged. The participants expressed being touched by observing the spiritual growth of others and wanting more experiences in the Holy Land at a noteworthy level of intensity. They experienced the Holy Land encounter with a substantial level of spiritual growth throughout, seeing what they perceived Jesus saw, walking where they perceived Jesus walked, experiencing the ancient world coming alive, the impact of previous tours and worship through singing. The participants encountered geographic relationship, praying, the sacrament of baptism, the sacrament of communion, the self-perception of spiritual change and the hope of sharing their own experiences with others major spiritual ways. These themes caused the participants to grow in their faith at different levels.

Glimpses of Heaven among Friends: The Utilization of Film to Draw Interest in Small Group Studies at the First Baptist Church of Albemarle

Roger William Thomas
A small group study about heaven in scripture and contemporary film was developed in order to create interests in small groups. Believing small groups, discussions of the after life, and the power of storytelling are affirmed throughout scripture, individuals were recruited and led through the study. Surveys measured opinions on heaven and small groups among the entire congregation and the small group participants. Following the study, the participants were surveyed one final time on both subjects. Ultimately the study did not always change minds with concern to the afterlife, but the overall opinions of small group experiences seemed to be broadened.

Enhancing expository preaching skills to increase congregational awareness of selected spiritual disciplines at First Baptist Church, Stigler, Oklahoma

Daniel Milligan D.Min.
The purpose of this project was to enhance the project director's expository preaching skills to increase congregational awareness of selected spiritual disciplines at First Baptist Church, Stigler, Oklahoma. The project began by researching the fields of expository preaching and spiritual disciplines for the purpose of communicating selected spiritual disciplines from the book of Philippians. The research resulted in an annotated bibliography in the field of expository preaching and a report of selected spiritual disciplines. The project director used the research to develop a sermon series intended to raise the congregation's awareness of selected spiritual disciplines. The sermon series was delivered and thereafter evaluated using pre- and post-series surveys and response sheets provided to the congregation. Each phase of the project was evaluated using expert feedback.
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