Practice (Theology)

HERMENEUTICAL MEDITATION AT FOUNTAIN OF LIFE: FOSTERING A HABITUAL INTERACTION WITH SCRIPTURE AMONG MILLENNIALS

Author
Matthew Bassett Ford D.Min.
Abstract
Thesis:
A certain kind of habitual interaction the author calls “hermeneutical mediation” is both biblically warranted and effective for cultivating growth in life transformation for the Christian. The author asserts that properly interpreting the Scriptures as well as properly interpreting oneself in light of the Scriptures is paramount for life change. The study especially focused on cultivating this habit among Millennials.

Method:
After submitting a questionnaire to the congregation at large and facilitating pre-seminar interviews with a volunteer group of Millennials from the congregation, the author implemented a six-session seminar designed to cultivate “hermeneutical meditation” among the Millennials who volunteered. Post-seminar interviews were then facilitated in order to discern the results of the effort.

Conclusion:
The seminar could be improved, but after the implementation and interviews, it is clear that fostering hermeneutical meditation through a seminar format was effective for helping Christians (especially in this case, Millennials) grow in life transformation through their habitual interaction with Scripture.

Faith-Driven Impact Investing: Renewing a Belief that an Investment in Entrepreneurialism and Commerce is Central to God's Plan of Redemption and Human Flourishing

Author
Jonathan Mark Halverson D.Min.
Abstract
This project addressed the need for a renewed belief among faith-driven investors that investments in redemptive businesses is central to God’s plan of redemption and biblical human flourishing. The explosive growth of values-aligned investing, such as Socially Responsible Investing and impact investing, has opened the door to introducing values into investment decision-making. There are significant opportunities for Christ followers to align their biblical values with their investment strategies, and to “put to work” (Matt. 25:16) resources apportioned to them by God; however, they have been slow to embrace the opportunities. Research was conducted to understand the underlying biblical-theological beliefs of high-net-worth individuals and wealth management advisors that support or discourage faith-driven impact investing. The parable of the talents was dissected to understand Jesus’ intent when he chose the Greek word talanton to communicate his leadership expectation to his closest follower. The Quakers are highlighted as an example of a group that embraced commerce as a primary strategy for expressing their faith, providing for their families, developing young leaders, and engaging with the world. The research findings were synthesized into a new biblical-theological framework for Kingdom Impact Investing that is offered as a model for the growing faith-driven impact investing movement. A major goal of this project was to contribute to the broader biblical-theological conversation regarding the integration of faith and investing. Values-driven Christ followers should be on the leading edge of impact investing instead of lagging far behind.

Creator God, Humans, and Artificial Intelligence: Framework to Address Theological and Relational Issues

Author
Tinku Thompson D.Min.
Abstract
Technological advancements are happening at an accelerated phase. Five decades ago, no one even owned a personal computer. A decade ago, smartphones did not exist. Today there are 2.71 billion smartphone users in the world, which is more than thirty-five percent of the world’s population. Many developments have happened in the field of Artificial Intelligence (AI), Robotics, and Mixed Reality. AI is the term used to describe a machine’s ability to simulate human intelligence. Characteristics once considered unique to humans like learning, logic, reasoning, perception, and creativity are now being replicated by technology and used in every industry. The problem this project addressed is the lack of a theological framework, and especially the absence of a framework highlighting the character of the biblical God, by which to analyze, interpret, and evaluate AI and its implications for human life in a theologically informed manner. In response to this problem, the researcher explored and identified biblical themes of eight attributes of God from the Bible and the relationality between the creator and creation. A study of current literature on the recent development of AI/robotic technology and the responses and concerns raised by Christian organizations or groups in the form of official statements related to AI, theology, and God were analyzed. The researcher collected data through a survey conducted among young Christian students and interviews conducted among pastors and Christian leaders, Christians, and non-Christians working in the technology industry. The researcher then developed a framework that addresses unique characteristics of God as the creator of all creation in comparison to humans as creators in light of technological advancements in AI/robotics.

Preaching in the Midst of Appointive Change in the United Methodist Church

Author
Scott Eugene Carnes D.Min.
Abstract
The special requirements of preaching during appointive change has long been overlooked with few resources available to provide much-needed assistance. The work required for effective preaching during appointive change has critical elements that are difficult to navigate without an existing pastoral relationship with the congregation and community. This thesis describes a process that incorporates specific and direct attention to elements of change and vulnerability. It offers methods and models for enabling effective preaching during appointive change through deep connection between the congregation and the preacher. This process offers a plan for healthy pastoral transition and contextualized preaching from a place of vulnerability.

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

Author
John Matthew Weiler D.Min.
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.
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