Spiritual Transformation

Timothy L. Cooley, Sr., Ed.D.

Abstract: Spiritual Transformation of Conservative Wesleyan-Arminian Bible College Students (2011)

The current study proposed to determine the level of spiritual transformation in students at conservative Wesleyan-Arminian Bible colleges and the association of spiritual transformation with selected Bible college activities.  The researcher collaborated with nearly 30 conservative Wesleyan-Arminian Bible college leaders to construct a survey that would evaluate the spiritual goals toward which they are striving—the Wesleyan Wellness Profile (WWP).  Five of the conservative Wesleyan-Arminian Bible colleges administered the survey to 432 students.  Two research questions guided the study: 1) What is the level of spiritual transformation in students at conservative Wesleyan-Arminian Bible colleges, as measured by mean values on the WWP? and 2) What are the correlations between the mean of spiritual transformation as measured by the WWP and students’ perceptions of the impact of selected Bible college activities on their spiritual growth?

Spiritual transformation emphasizes the deep changes involved in spiritual growth.  For the Christian, biblically and theologically, spiritual transformation (Romans 12:3, 2 Corinthians 3:18) is sanctification or growth into the likeness of Christ (Romans 8:29).  For the purpose of this study, spiritual transformation was defined as the shaping of the interior life—cognition, commitment, character/conscience, communion, and compassion—so that life flows out in an integrative wholeness (head, hand, and heart) increasingly more like Christ.  This definition of conservative Wesleyan-Arminian spiritual transformation was developed through reading, numerous personal interviews, and responses to two modified Delphi surveys administered among Bible college administrators.  This construct of spiritual transformation was further refined as follows:

  1. Cognition encompasses propositional truth (doctrine) cognitively grasped and believed about God (as personal and Trinitarian), humans (as free moral agents), sin (as both act and nature), salvation (received by grace through faith) as a present relationship, sanctification (including a Wesleyan understanding of entire sanctification), personal assurance of one’s relationship with God, eternity, ultimate meaning, even general knowledge of creation as it connects with ultimate meaning.
  2. Commitment entails personal commitment to God and His Word as having supreme value for the individual; personal choice, going beyond a conventional, second-hand faith (based more on family, church, friends) to a convictional faith (based on personal reflection); personal commitment to Jesus Christ, to His commands and His commission; spiritual disciplines; self-discipline, disciplined choosing of the more excellent, choosing even against one’s own short-term gain, willingness to suffer for spiritual value.
  3. Character/Conscience involves integrity, consistent living out or “incarnating” one’s faith and values, obedience to Scripture; conscience as consciousness, conscious sensitivity to moral right and wrong; openness to the direct dealing of the Spirit; conformity to Christ, fruit of the Spirit; wisdom, discretion, choosing the things that are excellent; personal stewardship of time, talent, and treasure (financial responsibility).
  4. Communion takes in koinonia (Greek, koinwnia) with God (prayer, worship, personal trust in God, sense of forgiveness from God), and koinonia with one’s spiritual community, with family, with people in general (including acceptance of others, forgiveness toward them, and global acceptance of the full diversity of humans as created in the image of God); acceptance of self; relationship to spiritual authority.
  5. Compassion flows out in willingness to serve Christ through serving others (servanthood), sympathy for the suffering, the poor, and the imprisoned.

The survey contained 63 line items asking students to rate some aspect of their spiritual life by indicating whether each statement is 1 very untrue of me, 2 mostly untrue of me, 3 more untrue than true of me, 4 more true than untrue of me, 5 mostly true of me, or 6 very true of me.  On these line items, 5 mostly true of me was taken to indicate that a characteristic was habitual in a student’s life.  Across these 63 line items, students chose 5 mostly true of me or 6 very true of me for 90% of all the ratings (24,284 responses out of 26,958).  The average was 5.56 (SD = 0.325), suggesting a high level of spirituality.

Another section asked students about the frequency with which they participated in activities usually associated with spirituality (once a month or less, less than once each week, once each week, two or more times a week, once a day, and more than once a day).  Seventy percent testified to having private devotional prayer once a day or more than once a day, and that number rose to 91% if those who claimed two or more times a week were included.  Sixty percent testified to having devotional Bible reading once a day or more than once a day, and the number rose to 88% if those who claimed two or more times a week were included.  Other spiritual activities also received favorable ratings.  On a less positive note, over 50% indicated they participated once a month or less in witnessing to someone who is unsaved or in fasting and prayer.  Students are participating in many of the disciplines usually associated with spiritual growth—room for improvement, but also reason for celebration.

Participants were asked to rate how selected Bible college experiences have contributed to their spiritual growth, on a scale from 1 no impact through 6 very strong impact.  The average for all the activities was 4.84 (SD = 0.280), with school revivals and special meetings rating 5.34 (SD = 0.886) and the means for other activities ranging down to 4.29 for dormitory life (SD = 1.336).  Students testified that the Bible college experiences are delivering 4 some impact or 5 strong impact to their spiritual growth.

Another section asked students about the campus atmosphere on a scale from 1 very untrue through 6 very true.  Fully 85% of all the ratings were 5 mostly true or 6 very true.  The average was 5.30  (SD = 0.337).  Students indicated that the campus atmosphere is contributing to their spiritual growth.

The data represent the general student population of the five colleges because the respondents comprised 79% of the convenience sample (those who would be in chapel on that day) and 56% of the total enrollment of the five colleges.  Ninety-four percent of the respondents were full-time students, but the total enrollment of those colleges would include many part-time students, distance learners, and students enrolled in modular courses.

For Dr. Cooley's complete dissertation, click here to order (UMI Publication Number 3449525).

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