Date of Award
Doctor of Ministry (DMin)
This project seeks to customize generic preaching skills to better serve rural Midwest churches in a time of great transition. “What seeds are we planting that our harvest will be hope in Jesus Christ? Does the Word of God affect our response, and are we transformed by that change, so that hope becomes part of our faith DNA?” Seeking to encourage prophetic visioning, preacher, leaders, and members to live into God’s ongoing new creation. Harvest is a major theme in rural communities and biblical narrative, a metaphor of grace and judgement. Preachers are encouraged to glean the faith stories of the members and leaders of their congregations. Those faith stories then become evidence of our participation in God’s works. Linking harvest and hope, these Spirit filled narratives inspires a more purposeful theology of hope and realized eschatology. There are few contemporary resources focused on preaching for decentralized rural congregations. Congregational and regional contextual understandings, together with transitional preaching resources develop unique tools for this distinct community. Seldom do people of the land receive honor and respect for their persistent faithfulness. Lifting those up in worship especially in sermons, becomes a celebration of God filled moments. If we do not celebrate the small dailiness of authentic Christ centered discipleship, we lose heart and hope.
Personal, congregational, and community narratives are interwoven with scripture and theology. Using less familiar scripture texts encourages a wider view of God’s present activities. The decentralized status of these congregations is grieved. Yet a new hope arises in participating in God’s kingdom here and now, rather than waiting for the kingdom to come. Rituals and congregational values assisted in evaluation of responses to the sermons and the sermon series. Survey results from 2014 and 2019 were integrated suggesting a new vision of the core mission theology for one congregation. Intentionally seeking response to sermons encouraged greater discernment within both congregations and motivated this preacher to greater reliance on God’s truth. There is value in intentional listening to contemporary faith stories. Life experiences of the faithful are then laid beside biblical narratives pointing to God’s ongoing activity. Use of specific discernment tools for evaluation of a community’s diverse preachers will nourish preachers’ skills and theological language.
Belles, Catherine, "Harvesting Hope: Biblical Preaching with People of the Land" (2020). Doctor of Ministry Theses. 56.