Date of Award

2022

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

College

College of Education and International Services

Program

Leadership PhD

First Advisor

Erich Baumgartner

Second Advisor

Petr Cincala

Third Advisor

Diana Ming

Abstract

Problem. Plant1000 was launched in 2016 by the North American Division (NAD), the fifth largest of 13 divisions of the worldwide Seventh-day Adventist Church. Since then, it has been reported that over 1000 new church plants have been started, but we do not really understand how healthy most of these are, or not. We also do not know what they are actually experiencing in their developing into viable congregations. The focus of this dissertation is the story of four selected church plants that may be able to help us understand those dynamics that, at the moment, are little understood. -- Method. This research was designed as a qualitative, descriptive case study. It directed attention to a central question: How do church planters describe the actual experiences and stories of four church plants? The four selected churches were planted in the last ten years and their membership/attendance has grown to currently 50-200 active members. This qualitative study used semi-structured interviews to explore the stories of five pastors representing the four church plants with the intention to better understand the opportunities and challenges that are part of the adventure of planting churches. Each interview yielded an in-depth wide scope of detailed information about the realities of these churches. The study paid special attention to the different realities faced by Communitybased entrepreneurial churches (a process of evangelism where the primary financial and volunteer support are independent of official church organizations) and Regular church planting (establishment of other congregations by a parent church or church planting organization which is the sole source of funding and volunteers for this enterprise). The case studies were completed in 2020 during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic. Interviews had to be conducted virtually on Zoom, due to COVID-19 travel restrictions. Despite these limitations, the study brought together a vivid array of voices and perspectives. -- Results. The study results confirmed that Plant1000 has been a catalyst for some amazing church plants that are reaching their communities creatively. It also became clear that church planters favored creative over traditional approaches to worship and ministry. This was reinforced when the COVID-19 pandemic prevented parishioners from attending churches across the nation. Presently, uncertainty looms in several crucial areas of church work, making it important to seriously look at and understand church planting as a new alternative evangelistic tool to grow churches in the NAD context. The common thread from the five individuals of the four church plants interviewed, was that we need to think more of entrepreneurial methods of church planting and new ways of determining growth which may be the answer in the 21st century’s chaotic environment and economy. Other crucial findings related to issues like (a) the drying up of financial assistance; (b) the information wilderness experienced by planters; (c) the centrality of community outreach, and (d) the crucial importance of worship and fellowship. -- Conclusions. In terms of the success of church planting in the North American Division (NAD), it is clear that much has been achieved by Plant1000, but a wide door of opportunity is available to facilitate a rise to other heights of accomplishment. The words of Margaret Wheatly (2005), written to inspire leaders to function at a higher level in our increasingly chaotic, uncertain world, best captures this opinion: I believe that we have only just begun the process of discovering and inventing the new organizational forms that will inhabit the twenty-first century. To be responsible inventors and discoverers, we need the courage to let go of the old world, to relinquish most of what we have cherished, to abandon our interpretations about what does or does not work. We must learn to see the world anew. (p. 7) Church planting in the NAD needs better support structures. Church planting can and must continue to be conceived and practiced in innovative ways. The passion of planters, whose numbers continue to increase, demands this even as it assures the accomplishment of such a cherished goal as a greater harvest in the North American Division of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.

Subject Area

Church development, New; Evangelistic work; North American Division of Seventh-day Adventists; General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists. North American Division

Share

COinS