Project Documents

Date of Award

2015

Document Type

Project Report

Degree Name

Doctor of Ministry

School

Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary

Program

Doctor of Ministry DMin

First Advisor

Ann Marie Buchanan

Second Advisor

Orville Browne

Third Advisor

Kelvin Onongha

Abstract

Problem

Miles (2011) maintains that no church community is "immune" to situations of abuse, "yet" he said, "pastors still receive very little training in this area" (p. x). As a result, many victims of abuse are seen to experience secondary victimization on top of the trauma that brought them to their church for help in the first place. This secondary victimization has been caused by the utilization of simplistic scriptural solutions to complex life situations. These solutions are well known in the churches and commonly used, having been handed down from generation to generation. The pastors who use them are intent on helping, not hurting, but by their very application of these simplistic scriptural solutions to the lives of deeply hurting people shows a lack of understanding as to how abuse hurts people to the very core of their being (Doyle, 2008; Duncan, 2003; Tracy, 2008).

Method

It was the purpose of this doctoral project to test-run a course made up of five pastoral educational modules specifically designed to help equip pastors to minister to abused and oppressed people. A focus group of church leaders met for two hours each week on Thursday evenings from November, 2014 to April, 2015, to test-run the full course. Evaluations were completed at the end of each of the five modules. The evaluative input is included in Chapter 5 of this project document. It was hoped that these evaluations from the very clientele that they were designed to serve would be positive and that they could be used to encourage seminaries to consider running such a course in their core church leadership programs.

Results

The focus group affirmed 100% that this course be a mandatory part of the core seminary program and for church leaders already in the field. Although the focus group was a little curious about the need for such a course in the first place, by the end of the first part of the first module they were in agreement with the necessity to equip church leaders in such a way. What influenced them so strongly was the fact that every part of the course was justified by Scripture and equipped with deep and appropriate Scriptural solutions for the complex issues of abuse situations. What also caught them by surprise was the extent of harm done that was evidenced in relevant books and research, that most of them had no idea existed before participating in this project. They were shocked at the prevalence of abuse across the whole interdenominational spectrum of Christian churches that has been disclosed and brought to conviction in a court of law. There was also a new realization of the significant number of abuse survivors a pastor can expect to find in every congregation, and how that needs to influence the language and approach taken in all church activities. By the end of the course, the group was fully aware of how God’s people are in the midst of a spiritual battle and how child sexual abuse in particular is one of Satan’s strongest weapons. We know this because 1 Peter 5:8 tells us that "your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour" and it is commonly known that lions chase the weakest in the herd when hunting. But the most influential aspect of the course that secured their decision to recommend mandatory inclusion of this cause in the core seminary program was that it was all about the Gospel message of setting people free from what binds them. It is God’s directive that we serve as His ambassadors to "loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free" (Isa 58:6). The focus group acknowledged how this course empowers church leaders to free up those who are bound by oppression, to claim the promise of abundant living that Jesus gives us in John 10:10.

Conclusion

The researcher's hypothesis was that church leaders would fully embrace the training she proposes, if they could be shown that the justification for such a course was biblical. This was achieved. The researcher had been determined to be a significant element for a systems change in the organisation of the Christian church. This systems change was not so much to convince church leaders that as children of God, we needed to help people who are in trouble, but that as children of God, the Bible tells us that this is the core of who we are as believers in Jesus Christ. In other words, unless we actively learned how to utilise the Scriptures to set people free from the bondage of abuse and oppression in these increasingly dangerous end-times, then we are neglecting our role as ambassadors for Christ. This was realised by the focus group early on in the course and fired their enthusiasm for returning for each and every module as other commitments would allow. The focus group expressed alarm that this kind of training was not already in place in the core seminary program. The sense of urgency that is required to achieve any systems change (Kotter, 2012) had been achieved, at least, in this group of nine research participants.

Subject Area

Family violence--Religious aspects; Child abuse; Christian leadership; Church work

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