Project Documents

Date of Award

1977

Document Type

Project Report

Degree Name

Doctor of Ministry

School

Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary

Program

Doctor of Ministry DMin

First Advisor

Benjamin Reaves

Second Advisor

Charles Crider

Third Advisor

Donald Jacobsen

Abstract

Theologically in the Old and New Testaments the laity or "God's own people" are commissioned with the responsibility of communicating the gospel to the world in word and life. However, the contemporary Christian church finds itself under growing criticism for its failure to fulfill this commission. Although the gospel of Jesus Christ offers solutions to man's inmost needs an increasing number of congregations seem unable to meaningfully promulgate their message. This study contends that a chief weakness is the lack of genuine Christian life and fellowship within the churches.

What approach or means can be taken to encourage and stimulate spiritual renewal and outreach within the church? It is suggested in this project that through the organization of church members into small Bible study groups, spiritual and evangelistic renewal can be effected. These groups using what has been termed relational Bible study as a basic format serve as cells for spiritual communication, nurture, and outreach. Teams of two formed the nucleus of the initial larger field practicum groups. The main principle of this approach was that after the cell groups had reached a certain point of maturity, they invited interested nongroup members (church members and nonchurch members) to join them. Study sessions were informal and followed a participant sharing relationship rather than a student-teacher pattern. This situation allowed for a free and open atmosphere. The intent was that participants were not to feel threatened or "called upon" to give answers to questions for which they might not be prepared. Additionally, the reluctance of those desiring to join the groups for their Christian fellowship and Bible discussion would thus be reduced. It was further intended that a mutual relationship of trust, confidence, sharing, Christian concern, and fellowship (koinonia) should be established within the groups.

The project was structured in the form of a training program for Bible evangelism to be used by laymen with the above-mentioned relational Bible study and small-group method at its core. To this end, seventeen trainees were involved in a training program over a period of ten months. The program consisted of four phases: (1) motivation, (2) workshops, (3) practicums, and (4) evaluation. It was actualized in the context of a local church situation to observe what impact it would have upon the church as an influence for spiritual renewal and outreach. The first phase entailed the distribution of questionnaires, church-growth seminars, film discussions, preaching and lay-emphasis programs. The second featured a series of workshops stressing relational Bible study and small-group methods. The third required the trainees to take the leadership in Bible studies within the full group. Later they were responsible to arrange studies with outside contactees. The fourth was an evaluation of information gathered for indications of the program's effectiveness. The results indicated that some impact was made on the immediate spiritual life of the church. A new sense of concern was aroused in spiritual renewal, greater missionary witnessing, and social outreach. Some cohesiveness was evident within the group structure. Church members and leadership (pastors and lay activities leader) indicated optimism about the future effects of the program. Specific recommendations with respect to future applications suggested that pastors should: (1) explore Bible evangelism in the form of small-group relational Bible study, (2) take the initiative in instructing their congregations in small-group witnessing and the concept of koinonia, (3) recognize that evangelism must manifest a concern for the total man through visible community social outreach, (4) recognize the potential for implementing small-group evangelism which is to be found in a careful use of Wednesday prayer meetings, the writings of E. G. White and other literature, as well as workshops and other appropriate resources.

Subject Area

Evangelistic work--Seventh-day Adventists; Laity--Seventh-day Adventists

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