Date of Award
Doctor of Ministry
Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary
Doctor of Ministry DMin
Kleber D. Goncalves
S. Joseph Kidder
There is a general lack of understanding and practice of discipleship within Western Christianity. This lack of discipleship can be observed within the University City Seventh-day Adventist Church. Many Christians view their relationship with Jesus as something that affects the afterlife but has little effect on the present. There is a grave need for the church to have a culture of discipleship in which people are encouraged to have a daily and lifelong connection with Jesus.
Building on conclusions drawn from theological reflection and a review of relevant literature, an intervention was developed that sought to draw church leaders into a process of intentional connection with Jesus in which they would experience discipleship. The intervention was developed with the belief that an increased personal awareness of their discipleship would change how leaders live their lives and that their influence would begin to change the church culture to one in which discipleship is seen as essential for all church members. The intervention consisted of a suggested spiritual growth plan that could be adapted to an individual's needs and circumstances and be carried out in the context of a microgroup (ideally three people). The growth plan was built around three elements of discipleship: (1) intentionality, (2) communion (time with Jesus) and (3) community. Church board members were invited to participate in the growth plan. Those who agreed to engage in the process completed the Growing Disciples Inventory (GDI) before beginning the intervention and again at the end. By analyzing changes in scores, it was possible to determine if participants grew in their sense of themselves as disciples.
Nine people participated and provided research data. As expected, those who participated in the process saw measurable growth in various aspects of discipleship. The GDI "Connecting" process was the most significant area of growth. Participants experienced large mean gains in their sense of connection with God, with church, and with others. In addition, people who met with a microgroup more frequently saw some limited positive results over those who met infrequently with a microgroup. Surprisingly, analysis also revealed that participants who engaged in the process for five months benefitted more than those who stayed in the same microgroup for twelve months. Possible explanations for the results are examined in Chapter 6.
An intentional personal growth plan with microgroup support produced significant increases in self-reported measures of discipleship when implemented at the University City Seventh-day Adventist Church. This growth plan was designed for its context but may have applicability to other contexts as well. As pastors look for ways to encourage their churches to become places where discipleship is the norm, calling church leaders to be intentional about spending time with Jesus and supporting that practice with a microgroup community is a promising first step.
Discipling (Christianity); University City Seventh-day Adventist Church (Charlotte, N.C.)
Ashlock, Ryan Lee, "Intentional Discipleship: Using a Personal Growth Plan with Microgroup Support as a First Step in Creating a Culture of Discipleship at the University City Seventh-day Adventist Church" (2022). Professional Dissertations DMin. 753.
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