The role of pastoral example in the formation of Christian virtue
LE3 .A278 2014
Doctor of Ministry
Acadia Divinity College
Christian spiritual formation has deep pockets. Our biblical inheritance provides the original and central story that animates and infuses the entire formational journey. We are also the beneficiaries of nearly two millennia worth of theological reflection that bear witness to the notion that the Christian mind has always sought to reinforce the why of spiritual formation, and, only slightly less important, to understand the how. Each age has garnered rich guidance. Within this overabundance, we may be slow to realize the greatest human channel of spiritual formation: the person. Not the ‘celebrity,’ nor even the ‘expert,’ as helpful as he or she may be, but the person. The formational journey is relational and this thesis will demonstrate that the pastor’s person has the potential to offer a significant and beneficial model to those in the congregation. Firstly, this thesis presents New Testament evidence that imitative spiritual formation bears the imprimatur of God. Following that, it will trace this tradition through two thousand years of church practice. Then, through surveys and interviews, contemporary congregants are invited to share their experience of pastoral example. After that, the thesis reports on a ministry project that the author used to start the conversation about imitative spiritual formation with his current congregation. Finally, a conclusion about the entire experience is offered. The appendices will contain the survey forms and resulting data, along with the sermon manuscripts and personal letters used by the author to begin the dialogue. They will demonstrate that when a pastor engages in imitative spiritual formation by providing an imperfect-but-progressive Christian example before anything else he or she does, both pastor and people can be changed.
The author grants permission to the University Librarian at Acadia University to reproduce, loan or distribute copies of my thesis in microform, paper or electronic formats on a non-profit basis. The author retains the copyright of the thesis.