Professional Dissertations DMin

Date of Award


Document Type

Project Report

Degree Name

Doctor of Ministry


Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary


Doctor of Ministry DMin

First Advisor

Jon Lee Dybdahl

Second Advisor

Walter Douglas

Third Advisor

Bruce Moyer



Adventist Christians in Zambia wrestle with the tension between elements of their traditional religion and Western Christianity. Many of them, fearing spirits of the dead, participate in traditional funeral practices aimed at protecting them from spirit attacks. This presents a problem because many of these practices are contrary to what the Bible proclaims.


In this study, a traditional understanding of death and death rituals is developed. This is followed by a biblical understanding of death and death rituals. An analysis and evaluation of cultural views in the light of the Bible teachings on death, death rituals, and spirits is pursued. A model contextualization process is developed that local churches can use to analyze their own cultural ways in the light of the Scripture. A questionnaire and interviews were conducted to ascertain the areas that needed urgent study. Finally, a seminar program is developed that focuses on teaching eight lessons on death, death rituals, and other related topics.


The traditional understanding shows that all tribes in Zambia believe in spirit influence. It reveals early people movements, wars, and trade as factors that contributed to the mixing of cultures and similar beliefs. The most common element found in all tribes is the fear of spirits of the dead. The biblical study section concludes that the dead know nothing and therefore have no influence upon the living. An examination of the words "soul" and "spirit" reveals that these words do not carry with them any idea of continued existence outside the physical body after one dies. In comparing what is practiced in culture and what the Bible teaches, it was discovered that there are some cultural practices that are in agreement with Bible principles, and there are some that are in conflict with some Bible teaching. The results of the questionnaire and interview identified eight areas of need relating to the subject of death. Lessons were prepared to speak to these areas of need and educate both pastors and laity in cultural issues affecting the Church in Zambia.


Since the gospel commission was given to the Church and the presence of the Holy Spirit assured, believers of every culture must be trained to be responsible and must be equipped with the ability to decide what in their culture is to be discarded and what is to be kept. This training program will enable Zambian Adventists to perform the tasks of contextualization in relation to death and death rituals effectively.

Subject Area

Death--Religious aspects--Seventh-day Adventists; Thanatology--Zambia; Spiritualism--Zambia


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