A study of the correlation between pastoral theology of discipleship and selected practices in the local church
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This study was designed to investigate and analyze the relationship between pastoral theology, objectives, methods, and practical application of discipleship in local SBC churches in Indiana. Pastors participating were senior or solo pastors serving in both full-time and bi-vocational pastorates. The survey instrument was organized in two sections, the first being the demographic data. The second section consisted of 60 statements using a Likert response scale organized for research purposes into four categories (theology, objective, process or model and application). The data revealed the need for pastors to demonstrate alignment with belief and practice in their life and discipleship ministry as seen in the areas of accountability and leadership development. The data revealed significant discontinuity between theological belief and practical application. There appears to be a disconnect between pastoral perception of discipleship and the reality in the local church as demonstrated in the increasing level of ambiguity found in the survey as it progressed from theology, to objective, to process, to application of discipleship. The data revealed that pastors demonstrated solid theological principles and understood the objectives of discipleship. There was a lack of clarity on the model or process to communicate discipleship, and even less clarity in the practical application of discipleship. Pastors need skills to transition from theory to practical application. To remedy the confusion and correct the discontinuity between theology and practice of discipleship, the researcher suggests the use of this research by state conventions and local associations to help pastors bridge the gap between theology, objectives, process and practical application of discipleship. There are conferences where a pastor could have the opportunity to take the survey instrument and view his own results. This study could be used in a seminar format as classroom material, and it could be published for pastoral enrichment. The pastor must verbally, and in written form, consistently communicate that his number one passion is to make disciples and to help people develop toward maturity in Christ. The bar of expectation and accountability placed upon members and leadership may need to be raised. The data revealed the need for pastors to grasp and work out their leadership role in the discipling process. Pastors appear confused about how they are to equip their members. If the confusion continues, local churches may have little impact upon their communities because pastors and members will likely have a skewed understanding of their purpose and role in the Kingdom of God and the society in which God has placed them.