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|Title:||Intimacy with God: A Reorienting Pastoral Theological Reflection Upon Church Decline|
|Advisor:||Zylla, Phil C.|
Knowles, Michael P.
|Keywords:||intimace, God, pastoral, theological, Church decline, spiritual, fear, love|
|Abstract:||<p> This dissertation offers a reoriented perspective of church decline as discerned through a process of pastoral theological reflection. The conversation partners are: (1) statistical indicators of church decline; (2) case studies of church decline as described by congregational studies research; (3) church renewal materials; (4) elements of grief theory; and (5) theological and spiritual resources related to God's power and presence in weakness. Statistical indicators suggest that decline is still an issue for local churches today. In response to this ongoing situation of decline, myriads of renewal materials have been produced offering ways and means for the church in North America to be renewed. Unfortunately these materials, and the assumptions which undergird their proposals, can be detrimental to declining churches, and fail to address the actual experience of decline as revealed by the case studies. For this reason, this dissertation offers a reoriented perspective of decline. It is a perspective that affirms that even those churches suffering the effects of decline can experience intimacy with God, and participate in God's fruitfulness. This perspective affirms, in concert with grief theory, that declining churches will need to acknowledge and mourn their losses brought about by decline. It also asserts, however, that theological and spiritual resources are needed to support churches in this regard. To this end, two theological and spiritual polarities will be offered for the purpose of articulating the reorienting perspective. The first polarity involves the movement between decline and a focus upon God as the One who re-describes our experience of decline. The second polarity involves the movement between an avoidance of decline and a focus upon God as the One who is present with us in it. Ultimately both of these polarities are understood as being grounded in the movement between fear and love. This pastoral theological reflection upon church decline is offered as a means of bringing hope and encouragement to those churches struggling with decline. Decline is serious, but it can also be an occasion of experiencing a profound deepening of the church's relationship and ministry with God.</p>|
|Appears in Collections:||Open Access Dissertations and Theses|
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