Professional Dissertations DMin
A Strategy To Increase Spiritual Maturity by Practicing Spiritual Disciplines at Berean Seventh-day Adventist Church in Houston, Texas
Date of Award
Doctor of Ministry
Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary
Doctor of Ministry DMin
Berean Seventh-day Adventist Church has been a pillar in the Third Ward community of Houston since the 1900s. Berean has two distinctions. It is the only Seventh-day Adventist church in downtown Houston. It is also the only predominantly African American Seventh-day church in the area. Its DNA has always been community and civic minded. Like many other churches, Berean is a commuter church. There are two individuals who live near the church; however, the majority of the members who attend Berean commute to the church to minister to the community. Berean was established by individuals who had a desire to minister in an urban context, more specifically in the Third Ward community. Berean was established as a collaboration between two churches. Berean also had the first and only Adventist Christian school in the metro Houston area. However, due to the relocation of several members, the school has since been closed down. Berean is experiencing a paradigm that is a reality in other churches as well, which is a lack spiritual maturity among a percentage of leaders and laity in the church. This lack of spiritual maturity among members and leadership translates into lack of evangelism, amoral behavior, inauthentic fellowship, estranged relationships, lack of having a biblical worldview, and other fruits of spiritual immaturity. The church, like other churches in this situation, finds itself struggling to grow and be the church that God called it be. There is an unwritten assumption that church attendance equates to spiritual maturity. However, the researcher dismisses this thought and believes spiritual maturity is an intentional and consistent practice of spiritual disciplines which will have a positive impact on spiritual maturity. He proposes that what is missing is an experiential knowledge and power of the Holy Spirit among spiritually mature church members and those who lack spiritual maturity. Because of this lack of experiential knowledge of the Holy Spirit for spiritual maturity, research shows that churches are declining, plateauing, and dying. This can be noted in church divisions, lack of authentic fellowship, lack of empowering laity, and lack of authentic worship, as well as noted in other areas of church culture. It can also be seen in a lack of leaders empowering and challenging church members to become spiritually mature. The practice of spiritual disciplines for spiritual maturity is paramount in today’s environment because spiritual maturity is the essential element in creating a healthy church. Spiritually mature members will create a spiritually healthy church which will lead to churches growing organically. When there is a public evangelistic meeting, new believers who join the church through baptism, profession of faith, or transfer of membership will be loved and discipled. They will go through a process that will ground them, grow them, and prepare them for the soon return of Jesus Christ.
The investigator approached the project with a clear objective in mind—to create a program that would have a positive impact on spiritual maturity at the Berean Seventh-day Adventist church through the practice of spiritual disciplines and measure if the program had a positive impact on the spiritual maturity of the selected volunteers. A guided journal of selected spiritual disciplines was created with the sole purpose of seeing if the practice of those disciplines had a positive impact on the volunteers. Twenty-one spiritual disciplines were selected for the guided journal. The researcher proposes that any church member, believer, or seeker will continue to mature spiritually as they continue to practice other spiritual disciplines. The volunteers took pre- and post-assessment questionnaires (see Appendices A&B). The volunteers met with the investigator twice a month via Zoom to answer questions or concerns.
This study determined that the intentional and consistent practice of spiritual disciplines had a positive impact on the spiritual maturation of those individuals who went through the 21- day guided journal. Six of the seven individuals who consistently engaged in the 21-day guided journal reported that their spiritual discernment and awareness of the moving of the Holy Spirit increased during this period. The individual who did not actively engage in the 21-day guided journal found some increase but not at the level of the other participants. The post-assessment survey was a valuable tool in measuring the effectiveness of this project. When juxtaposing the pre- and post-assessment questionnaires, it became evident that going through the 21-day guided journal had a positive impact on the selected volunteers. There was a positive impact even with the one volunteer who did not engage the 21-day journal consistently (see Appendix C).
Research shows that there was a common pattern with individuals who experienced a move of God. This pattern was also found in individuals who God used throughout history. The commonality with all of these individuals was the fact that at one time or another, the believer practiced some type of spiritual discipline which did two things. First, it prepared and matured a believer to receive the Holy Spirit. Secondly, it allowed the believer to gain access to supernatural power through the Holy Spirit. Research also indicated that there has to be an intentional effort on the part of the believer who wanted to experience a personal encounter with the Holy Spirit. This can be done through the practice of spiritual disciplines. In light of this, it must be noted that church attendance does not equate to an intentional effort to practice spiritual discipline. Pastor(s) or leader(s) would have to be the catalyst for this, or a believer would have to decide that they wanted to become spiritual mature and allow the Holy Spirit to lead and guide them. Going through this project, the investigator became keenly aware that through the intentional and consistent practice of spiritual disciplines, along with a relationship with the Holy Spirit, any church member, seeker, or believer can be empowered to grow the kingdom of God by maturing spiritually. The investigator holds the premise that spiritual maturity does not happen overnight but is an ongoing process. This process continues until Jesus Christ returns. However, spiritual maturity can be documented by individuals who demonstrate the fruits, gifts, and administrations of the Holy Spirit and have a biblical worldview. Secondly, spiritual maturity occurs when a believer experiences a personal revival—or personal Pentecost—through a personal encounter with the Holy Spirit. Lastly, research shows that spiritual maturity is contingent upon a believer or church member becoming emotionally spiritually healthy; therefore, this project was designed for any believer to experience that personal revival, to mature spiritually by practicing spiritual disciplines, and experience the Holy Spirit in a way they have not yet experienced. The investigator also believes that the implementation of the 21-day guided journal may be essential for church growth and urges the church structure (i.e., Seventh-day Adventist conferences, unions, and divisions) to provide the 21-day guided journal as a resource to their pastoral team.
Spirituality--Texas--Seventh-day Adventists; Spiritual formation--Seventh-day Adventists; Berean Seventh-day Adventist Church (Houston, Tex.)
Norwood, Robert W., "A Strategy To Increase Spiritual Maturity by Practicing Spiritual Disciplines at Berean Seventh-day Adventist Church in Houston, Texas" (2023). Professional Dissertations DMin. 780.
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