SEEKING THE MIND OF CHRIST TOGETHER: PROGRESSIVE BAPTIST ECCLESIOLOGY AS A FRAMEWORK FOR CONGREGATIONAL DECISION MAKING, AN EDUCATIONAL INITIATIVE OF THE CENTER FOR BAPTIST HERITAGE AND STUDIES IN COOPERATION WITH RIVER ROAD CHURCH, BAPTIST, RICHMOND, VIRGINIA
ABSTRACT NATHAN LEE TAYLOR SEEKING THE MIND OF CHRIST TOGETHER: PROGRESSIVE BAPTIST ECCLESIOLOGY AS A FRAMEWORK FOR CONGREGATIONAL DECISION MAKING, AN EDUCATIONAL INITIATIVE OF THE CENTER FOR BAPTIST HERITAGE AND STUDIES IN COOPERATION WITH RIVER ROAD CHURCH, BAPTIST, RICHMOND, VIRGINIA Under the Direction of WILLIAM LOYD ALLEN, Ph.D. This project explores the effectiveness of a pilot course designed to equip lay leaders of Baptist churches with an enhanced theological framework for decision making from a progressive Baptist perspective, in addressing contextual challenges. The course intended to help participants to cultivate an enhanced sense of their own tradition’s ethos, especially for addressing presenting historical-theological problems, and/or church practices which have become hindrances in themselves. Questions such as the following were addressed. How effectively might a group of leaders employ a progressive Baptist ecclesiological perspective for decision-making after completing a formational-educational experience in Baptist identity from such a perspective? How effective is the course in preparing lay leaders to address problems of practice, through a more developed sense of progressive Baptist heritage? How might such an experience enrich the theological identity and functional leadership of the participants? Might there be unanticipated benefits? This project employed qualitative methods of focus group assessment to evaluate the effectiveness of a course designed to elicit Christian formation in the area of congregational decision making from a progressive Baptist perspective. Eight participants were selected and individually interviewed before the pilot course. The course met for four sessions lasting one hour and a half, within a two-week period. The first three sessions were content presentations, followed by a fourth session for assessment, which employed fictional case studies in which the class practiced resolving a congregational problem. Following the experience, participants again were interviewed individually. Data was collected by audio recording each individual interview, as well as the group discussion of the case studies. This data was transcribed, coded, and analyzed for interpretation. The results of the study revealed that the pilot course was generally effective in enhancing the participants’ ability to make decisions from a more developed sense of a progressive Baptist theological framework. Results also suggested that some practical applications, especially the incorporation of spiritual experiences in church business, were not inculcated effectively by the course process as delivered, suggesting areas for future development. Further study should include more exploration into how religious experiences benefit and factor into spiritual discernment for such congregations.
Taylor, Nathan Lee