Project Documents

Date of Award

2014

Document Type

Project Report

Degree Name

Doctor of Ministry

School

Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary

Program

Doctor of Ministry DMin

First Advisor

S. Joseph Kidder

Second Advisor

James Wibberding

Third Advisor

Boubakar Sanou

Abstract

Problem. A lack of discipleship of members in the local church contributes to insufficient spiritual vitality for missional involvement. This in turn plays a part in the plateau or decline of the church. The wide-spread problem of plateaued and declining churches in North America indicates that correct beliefs may not be enough for people to realize spiritual growth. This has been true of the Chestnut Hill Seventh-day Adventist Church, which was plateaued and at times declining, over the last six decades since moving to its current location. An accessible discipleship curriculum focused on individual transformation in devotional life and missional involvement was needed. Developing a discipleship process which intentionally assisted members in their formation of how to love God with all their heart and love others as themselves was of great missional importance for the local church.

Method. A 12-week discipleship process was created and introduced during the spring of 2011. Its purpose was twofold—to increase the devotional life as well as the missional involvement of a diverse set of participants. An experiential learning model was used, which allowed for participants to actively engage growth in their relationship with God on the levels of knowing, being, and doing. The use of one-on-one peer mentoring, small groups, and group instruction fostered relationships and formed a close community. The discipleship process began with an all-day spiritual retreat, continued with 10 sessions meeting once per week for two hours, and concluded with a second all-day spiritual retreat. Sessions focused on the following four categories: Relationship with God; Living in Community; Ministry and Mission; and the Cost of Discipleship (Suffering). Curriculum success was assessed through a focus group at the end of the process.

Results. Fourteen students enrolled in the Discipleship class, 13 of whom completed the 12-week process. All participants related that their devotional life had increased, in addition to their involvement in the mission of Christ. Participants expressed that the discipleship process helped them to: deepen their intimacy and trust with other believers, experience a greater frequency in their praise and prayer life, renew their devotion to God; slow down and spend time with God in His Word, change their perspective on facing trials and struggle, and to step outside their comfort zone to serve and bless others. The main weakness of the curriculum was a lack of experiential involvement in mission as a group. The goal of the discipleship process was to structure space for the Holy Spirit to bring about transformation in the lives of individuals. This transformation of the Holy Spirit was witnessed in the participants’ lives as a result of the implementation of this discipleship curriculum.

Conclusions. This project demonstrates that when local church leaders intentionally disciple members, devotional life and participation in the mission of Christ increases. As members learned how to follow Christ, they also learned how to disciple others in the same way. This finding suggests that intentional implementation of the proposed curriculum, or another discipleship curriculum, in the local church would have a positive impact on the devotional life and missional involvement of church members.

Subject Area

Discipling (Christianity), Church renewal

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