Below is summary of a webinar presented by The Church Network discussing the Project Thrive 7 Thriving Traits found in a congregational study conducted by Belmont in 2019. The webinar is part of a series that focuses on how congregations practice the thriving traits.
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Thriving Trait 4: Faithful Engagement
Project Thrive describes faithful engagement as an expanded understanding of Christian practices and sacraments.
Dr. Darrel Gwaltney, Dr. Barry Vaughn, and Dr. Bill Sheill share different ways they have experienced, welcomed, and challenged the depth of Christian practices.
COVID-19: A Catalyst
Dr. Gwaltney, Dean of the Belmont College of theology and co-director of Project Thrive, encourages people to have an “expanded understanding of Christian practices.” He explains that COVID pushes the Church to see what practices are the most effective and important for their congregations. Practices like building a church community, helping the poor, coming together as the body of Christ, and even the eucharist may change.
Pastors met with church members over zoom to shepherd their flock, congregations met together on zoom, and churches provided free COVID testing. These are only a few examples of how spiritual practices are expanding and this momentum should continue.
Dr. Gwaltney shares his observations of Christian practices from the past year:
- Online communion is quite the departure from Jesus’s last supper, but it is an expanded way of practicing it.
- The notion of in-person worship will never be the same after a full year of virtual worship.
- Similar to the printing press’s effect on the reformation, COVID is catalytic towards the practices of the modern church.
Dr. Vaughn, Rector of Christ Episcopal Church, explains that there is a joy and happiness that comes from the Episcopalean focus on Jesus’s life on Earth through incarnation. While this theology has a joy that Catholics and Evangelicals often miss, it lacks the robust necessity of need that the Catholic and Evangelical theology of the crucifixion carries. He encourages listeners to expand liturgy to include new and contemporary prayers that provide a relevancy to liturgy.
Dr. Vaughn suggests a balance in theology:
- The Episcopal church should embrace more of a theology of crucifixion with a recognition of sin and depravity.
- Other churches should embrace more of a joyful theology of God’s love and incarnation.
- Expand the typical notion of liturgy to include more than just the book of common prayer.
Dr. Bill Sheill, President of Northern Seminary, introduces and explains the value of online discipleship tools that equip lay people in discipleship and understanding of scripture. This movement started with the introduction of comprehensive Sunday school materials that facilitate discussion and expands to include videos and webinar trained racial reconciliation leadership cohorts.
Online resources recommended in equipping lay people:
- Desiring God
- The Bible Project
Dr. Sheill identifies that a lack of trained clergy necessitates the need for educated lay people. Online resources create a valuable and unprecedented populism to scripture and Christian teaching
Watch the full Faithful Engagement | Relevant Practices webinar here.