Congregations often find it difficult to define their purpose, but even more when they are a merged congregation of two different mainline Protestant denominations. Theology, polity, and tradition must be assessed, combined, and relearned in such a way that there is health, growth, and service motivated out of a desire to serve God and bring about his Kingdom, not just self-service as the local church. If we as the local church are to live out our responsibility as “imago Dei,” God’s image bearers in the world, then we must grow individually and as a collective group in Christian spiritual formation, seeking to mature as disciples of Christ. This begins with fostering a deeper relationship with God and one another through intentional practices that encourage spiritual formation and discipleship. In turn these practices reap the rewards of turning the local church from an insular focus to external responsibility whereby using our hands and feet, we join God in his work of Kingdom building as Christ mandated.
This project takes an action research approach which studies, implements, and evaluates a four-part system by which a small local multi-denominational church begins to intentionally foster spiritual formation among the congregation over a fifteen-week period. First, the entire congregation will hear sermons presented from the pulpit during Sunday morning worship for twelve consecutive weeks focused on discipleship, spiritual formation and outreach to foster thinking in terms of God’s Kingdom. Second, a small group of volunteer participants will meet over the same twelve weeks to go over the material discussed in the following Sunday’s sermons and to be intentionally trained in using traditional Christian spiritual disciplines. Thirdly, the small group will participate in a day-long experiential learning retreat putting into practice some of the spiritual disciplines they have studied. Fourth, working together, the small group and larger congregation will host an outreach opportunity with the intention of beginning to build authentic relationships with the surrounding community.
As disciples who have been intentional in seeking to be spiritual formed, ministry within our local church has been focused on aligning our church’s vision with that of God. Here the renewed, healthier, purposeful and mature congregation has begun to function rightly in our purpose of being image bearers of God doing ministry to build God’s Kingdom. This project resulted in participants who are committed to growing in their faith and experienced the spiritual disciplines as a means of transformation into Christlikeness. The goals of being disciples who make disciples has begun as we move outside the church walls, attempt to build relationships with our community, and seek to bring others into the family of God.
|Advisor:||Grimm, Nelson J.|
|Commitee:||Goodnough, Dana L., Letterman, Rebecca S.|
|School Location:||United States -- New York|
|Source:||DAI-A 80/08(E), Dissertation Abstracts International|
|Keywords:||Discipleship, Spiritual disciplines, Spiritual formation|
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