Date of Award

2020

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts

College

College of Education and International Services

Program

Leadership, MA

First Advisor

Reinder Bruinsma

Second Advisor

Gus Gregorutti

Third Advisor

Marinko Markek

Abstract

The problem underlying this study is the slow but steady decline in membership in the Seventh-day Adventist Church in the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia. Numerous missionary efforts in the past have not been able to change this trend. However, an approach that summarizes the work of Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew has not been followed: Namely that Jesus taught people about the Kingdom of God and healed them through prayer. Both church historical sources and modern research suggest that wherever the biblical example of Jesus was followed closely it had a positive influence on the growth of churches. In order to investigate whether such an approach could produce a similar result within the context of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, a qualitative study was conducted in which nine people were interviewed, with some questions based on drawings they had made themselves. All participants had stated that they had been healed through prayer in the context of the Adventist Church. Besides the description of their teaching and healing experience, the two central questions were a: what influence their teaching and healing experience had on their relationship with Jesus Christ and b: what influence this experience had on their relationship with the Adventist Church.

The evaluation of the interviews showed that the relationship of all study participants to Jesus improved significantly and permanently through their healing experience. They were motivated to share their testimonies and pray for healing for others. With regard to the influence their experience had on their relationship to the Adventist Church, the picture was more differentiated. Wherever the churches reacted positively or tolerantly to these members, the sense of fellowship and of community, and the missionary commitment of the study participants increased or was taken up after years of passivity. Of the three persons who initially did not belong to the Adventist Church, two improved their attitude towards it, and a third person was baptized and became an active member.

However, where congregations reacted negatively to the experience of the study participants, the relationship between these persons and the church deteriorated increasingly. In the end, this led two people to leave their respective local churches. In addition to considering whether, and to what extent, a New Testament approach to teaching and healing could be applied in the Adventist Church and thus make use of its positive effects, further questions arose for future research. First of all, it would be recommendable to deepen the research results in further studies and consider the topic of this study from a variety of perspectives. Among the latter is the question of how churches experience members who claim to have been healed through prayer, but also the question of how a person feels and reacts who has not been healed despite prayer.

Subject Area

Seventh-day Adventists--Germany--North Rhine-Westphalia; Church membership; Jesus Christ--Teachings; Jesus Christ--Miracles; Healing--Religious aspects--Seventh-day Adventists; Missions, Medical

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