Assemblies of God Theological Seminary
Charlie Self, professor of church history
For the past year, the Oikonomia Network program at Assemblies of God Theological Seminary (AGTS) has been primarily focused on the new Discipleship Dynamics Assessment ™ (DDA). While curricular integration and other initiatives have continued, the development and public release of the DDA, with associated network building and relationship strengthening efforts, has consumed the bulk of our creative energy. We are already seeing fruit from these labors, including the initial development of the AGTS Discipleship Network, a network we plan to launch for leaders and congregations seeking to build whole-life discipleship. And we are particularly excited that the DDA is helping connect the faith and work movement to blue-collar audiences it has not traditionally reached well.
The DDA is the first biblically grounded and empirically validated whole-life discipleship assessment that integrates faith, work, and economics. After two years of development in consultation with leaders across the country, the DDA is now live and serving communities and individuals. The DDA is revolutionary because it is not a program, method, or curriculum. It is a resource that offers an accurate snapshot of spiritual maturity. The DDA offers the user a comprehensive 13-14 page report on five dimensions of discipleship and 40 outcomes reflecting the maturity of a follower of Jesus. Leaders who invite a group to use the DDA receive a summary report on the maturity level of the group in each outcome. The website also offers resources for further growth, including a blog.
As development and testing were being finalized, the DDA was introduced to the larger public at the Assemblies of God Centennial in August 2014. It was immediately of interest to hundreds of global leaders. We received requests to translate the material into several languages, as well as helpful insights on making the website more efficient. We made many improvements during the fall, including a sliding pricing structure and easier tools for group leaders. A full public launch occurred in late 2014.
The Assemblies of God USA (AGUSA) national office leadership is endorsing the DDA wholeheartedly, and other movements and networks are evaluating using the DDA in their discipleship initiatives. At the global Empowered 21 conference in Jerusalem in May, DDA co-developer Johan Mostert, professor of community psychology at AGTS, will share the platform with Alton Garrison, assistant general superintendent of the AGUSA. The Pentecostal Assemblies of Newfoundland and Labrador invited me to present the DDA to 250 pastors in May, and are planning to feature the DDA as a key resource in an eight-year plan for discipleship.
Pastors have been generally favorable. A key challenge has been follow-through after giving the assessment to congregants; pastors are sometimes at an initial loss for what to do next. The DDA website has a growing list of recommended resources, including a special page devoted to pastors. But an important value of the DDA is that it is not a curriculum or program. It is designed as a snapshot, a tool, and a catalyst. Follow-up needs to be chosen by leaders who know their communities. We are seeing more users enjoy the resource and we expect a first “tipping point” soon as local churches see the benefit of focused equipping.
One veteran church-planter and equipper summarized the response of many when he said, “The only problem with the DDA is that it compels us [pastors and leaders] to do our job [make disciples].” Another enthusiastic adopter recently shared, “The DDA takes the guesswork out of my discipleship. I now know the strengths and weaknesses and can plan accordingly.” Other leaders profess interest, but time will tell if they are willing to accept the accountability that comes with the objective knowledge provided by the assessment!
At the March 2015 meeting of the Society of Pentecostal Studies, the leading academic conference for global Pentecostal and charismatic scholars, the DDA was shared with hundreds of leaders and the response was heartening. Global luminaries such as Peter Kuzmic of Croatia (who holds a distinguished professorship at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary) and Ivan Satyavrata of Kolkata endorsed this effort, along with many others.
An AGTS D.Min student, Kent Duncan, has focused his D.Min. project on helping blue-collar workers in his rural church find kingdom meaning at work. Using the DDA and other resources, he found significant improvement with how his congregants understood their daily labor. Most theology of work and business as mission materials are designed for the middle and upper classes and the well-educated. While the DDA will challenge educational elites with its breadth and depth, it is useful for all disciples.
Duncan received a standing ovation when he presented his findings at a conference introducing the DDA to leaders and congregations in Springfield, Mo. in January. This was the first of six regional conferences AGTS is holding. Building on the relationships we form through these conferences and other efforts, we plan to launch the AGTS Discipleship Network. This new group of both Assemblies of God and other Pentecostal and evangelical leaders is designed for the exchange of ideas and insights concerning whole-life discipleship and faith, work, and economics issues. Our goal is a network of 300 committed leaders by late 2015.
The DDA is designed for use in all churches, educational institutions, missions, and any organizations and communities committed to whole-life discipleship and faith, work, and economics integration. We hope ON educators and schools will find it useful to evaluate the progress of their seminarians from entrance to graduation. The challenge, of course, is the commitment to the outcomes – all of which are designed with ON principles in mind.
Every God-ordained blessing is found on the other side of fear. It is our prayer that the DDA will spark not only debate and discussion, but also profound spiritual renewal as followers of Christ recognize the integration of a deep prayer life and meaning at work, and the inseparability of healthy relationships with being an asset to their employers. Colossians 3:17-24 reminds us that all we do can bring glory to God – including becoming focused and intentional concerning discipleship in our churches and seminaries.