Date of Award

2012

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

School

Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary

Program

Leadership PhD

First Advisor

Duane M. Covrig

Second Advisor

Erich W. Baumgartner

Third Advisor

Stanley Patterson

Abstract

Purpose and rationale of the study . The primary role of the minister is to spiritually lead others and facilitate their spiritual growth. Traditionally, biblical and doctrinal teachings have played an essential role in this process. Sadly, two recent trends have worked against this pastoral role. First, research indicates that Americans and many Christians are less and less biblically literate. Second, spiritual growth scholars have observed that church leaders seem less and less prepared to convey biblical knowledge that can systematically and effectively guide others in their spiritual growth.

Christian spiritual growth literature establishes a functional and necessary connection between biblical literacy and spiritual growth. Both scholars and clerical leaders have articulated a leadership mandate on ministers that challenges them to guide church members toward spiritual growth.

The purpose of this study is to use a Delphi panel of experts to identify the biblical/doctrinal knowledge items considered most essential for the purpose of facilitating spiritual development of congregants.

Method . A Delphi study was employed to identify the biblical/doctrinal knowledge items considered most essential for facilitating spiritual growth in church members. Invitations to participate in the study were sent to 250 Christian Church/Church of Christ ministers via email. A custom web-based instrument was used to allow participants to select biblical and doctrinal ideas they thought were most essential for spiritual growth in church members. Respondent characteristics were also collected. Three Delphi rounds were used to finalize a list of 26 most selected biblical and doctrinal teachings.

Findings . An initial 600-item list of biblical and doctrinal teachings was refined by three Delphi rounds with 43 ministers to a final list of 26 biblical/doctrinal knowledge items perceived to be most essential for facilitating spiritual growth in church members. Those 26 items were: (1) Discipleship (what it means to be a disciple); (2) Baptism (immersion, New Birth); (3) Church, The purpose of the (Worship, Nurture, Evangelism, and Mercy); (4)Spiritual disciplines (Bible, hospitality, prayer, fasting, worship, meditation, stewardship, witnessing, self-control, acts of mercy and justice, etc.); (5) Grace; (6) Prayer; (7) God's attributes (Most High, Sovereign, Almighty, eternal, good, jealous, righteous/just, omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent, one, holy, love, transcendence, immutable, perfect, self-existent, spirit, true, wise, wrathful); (8) Bible (Word of God); (9) Forgiveness (remission of sins); (10) Obedience (Choosing God's ways); (11) Bible, Attributes of (Authoritative, inerrant, infallible, inspired, necessary, sufficient); (12) Holy Spirit, Roles of the (Power to live a holy life, indwelling gift, giver of gifts); (13) Worship; (14) Repentance (Repent); (15) Stewardship (Our use of money, resources, time, management, social involvement, outreach, etc.); (16) Evangelism (Witnessing); (17) Communion (Lord's Supper); (18) Acts 2:42ff. (Ecclesiology/the birth and mission of the Church); (19) 1 Corinthians 13 (Love chapter); (20) Holy Spirit (Third Person of the Trinity); (21) Matthew 28:18-20 (Being a disciple-maker); (22) Fruit of the Spirit; (23) Jesus; (24) Perseverance (through hardship, through persecution, through suffering, etc.); (25) Salvation, Plan of; (26) Satan (devil, Lucifer, Accuser, Beelzebub, Adversary, Prince of Darkness, Tempter).

I used literature, comments from ministers, and my ministerial experience to explore possible reasons these biblical/doctrinal teachings emerged as the most essential for spiritual growth. Suggested rationale for how each respective item contributes to the pursuit of spiritual growth was provided.

Conclusions and recommendations . The process of honing down the essential array of biblical and doctrinal teaching created insight into the Gospel commission to preach and teach and make growing disciples for Christ(Matt 28:18-20). The intent was not to dumb down Christian teachings to only a few constructs but instead to create a focus on the concepts that ministers believe must be reinforced in today's churches to help members experience spiritual development.

Several recommendations were offered for pastors, congregations, ministry and theological training institutions, and researchers. Pastors can use this study for personal development, teaching new converts, preparing the global teaching agenda for the church, and preparation of weekly teaching and preaching material.

Congregations can incorporate the items identified in this study into teaching venues, small-group curriculum, and assessment tools designed to measure biblical literacy. Churches can also use this study as a basis for evaluating prospective ministry staff members and candidates for ordination.

Ministry and theological training institutions can use this study to set degree requirements, establish course objectives, and conduct assessment of student learning.

Researchers can build on this study through replication and validation. Replication studies can focus on various faith traditions and faculty in the areas of theology, biblical studies, and practical ministry. Validation studies can be used to determine whether or not a correlation exists between spiritual growth and knowledge of items identified in this study and similar studies.

Subject Area

Spiritual formation, Spiritual life--Christianity, Discipling (Christianity)

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