Skip to content

The Next Faithful Step

CF565: Empowering the People of God

Scott Cormode, Fuller Theological Seminary


This course begins with a research finding.  Most pastors are not equipped to talk theologically about the issues that are most important to lay people.  The purpose of this course is to teach students how to empower the People of God to make theological sense of the issues that they encounter in their daily lives.  For example, the course will deal with issues like family, work, money, politics, and health.  The emphasis will be on the formative responsibilities of Christian leaders to prepare God's people for faithful action.

Cultivated Instincts

Another way to state the purpose of the course is this.  Every Christian leader has to develop certain ways of instinctively seeing and interpreting the world--like a driver who instinctively checks her mirrors before changing lanes.  The best way to cultivate those instincts is through practice--especially practice that divides the actions into parts.  Have you ever seen someone just learning to drive?  That will be you at first in this class.


The specific goals of the course are:

  1. To teach students to understand biblical and theological ideas
  2. To teach students to explain those biblical and theological ideas
  3. To teach students to use those biblical and theological ideas to interpret daily life, which requires:
    • Students to identify the issues from daily life that demand interpreting
    • Students to construct a response that makes spiritual sense of those issues.

Spiritual Formation Goals

Fuller Seminary has established four spiritual formation goals. This course is designed to meet each of those goals.

Course Format

The class on Wednesdays from 11:30-2:30 Pacific time. Attendance is mandatory; absences will hurt your grades. Indeed, students missing more than two days will not pass.

Weekly Assignments

You will be expected to complete the day's reading before the day of class. You should take notes and reflect on the reading; simply reading the words is not enough. Each week you will write a 700-word response to a case study.

It is important that you pay attention to your writing style on these papers. I am NOT looking for off-the-top-of-your-head reflections. Please think through what you have to say, then pick a theme for the paper, and then stick to that theme throughout the paper. People sometimes hear me refer to these assignments as "reflection papers" and think that it is enough to jot down random and disconnected thoughts prompted by the reading. You will want to write something more coherent than that. As you can see, you will probably have to write a rough draft of the paper in order to figure out what you want to say and then go back and re-write it so that the ideas flow properly. (As to grammar, see "Scott's Four Rules for Writing")

I will ask you to fill in this grading sheet and append it to your papers.  In other words, you will fill in a sheet "grading" your own paper.  It will ask you to use the "Four Rules of Writing" to evaluate your papers.  If, in filling out the grading sheet, you discover that you have not followed the rules, please go back and re-write the paper until you do. The point of the grading sheet is to give you a way to learn from your mistakes while you can do something about them.

NOTE: The process of writing the paper requires you to go back and forth between writing and evaluating your own work.  You will likely have to write multiple rough drafts and then perhaps to re-write your work after you have used the grading sheet.  That means this is NOT the kind of assignment you can start on late the night before it is due.

Please email your papers to your TA by 2am on Tuesday morning the day before class.  Our covenant with you is that if you get the papers to us on time, then we will have them back to you as class starts the next day.  We will then use your papers as part of the discussion that day in class.

Communication To Students

If I need to communicate to the class, I will send an email to the class list as posted in Portico.  Please make sure the right email address is listed for you in Portico.  NOTE: I will NOT be keeping track of the email addresses you use to send me papers.  It's your responsibility.

Interviews Paper

In the sixth week of the quarter, you will turn in an interview that you have done with a lay person in a congregation.  I will provide a questionnaire that you can use as a baseline for your interviews.  Along with the assignment, you will turn in two short (between 250-500 words each) reflections on the interview.

  • Competing Commitments:
    In the first reflection, you will answer the following: What are the central theological issues this person faces in her/his work life (whether they know it or not)?  Note: these issues will usually be framed in terms of competing theological commitments.
  • Role Conflict:
    In the second reflection, you will answer the following: Name the various roles and identities that this person discussed and describe how they are in conflict with each other (Note: you may well have to probe to get enough information to answer this question)

Scott's Four Rules For Writing

Students often ask about style and format for writing.  I will admit upfront that I don't really care much about grammar.  I care, instead, about communication--about how well you make your point.  So, here are the four rules I use to evaluate good writing.  I ask you to have one main point and stick to it.  Here's the kind of writing that will keep you from wandering off your point:

  1. Every sentence should have one but only one main verb.
  2. Every paragraph should have one but only one main idea
    --preferably summarized in the first sentence of the paragraph
  3. Every paper should have one but only one main point.
  4. Every paragraph should support the main idea of the paper.


It is important to me to be available to students.  I am in my office most days during the quarter.  If the light is on, feel free to knock.  Usually I can accommodate you right there.  If it is more convenient for you to make an appointment, call me (626.304.3773) or send me email ( so we can set something up. My office is located on the first floor of Slessor Hall.

Final Portfolio

Save all your papers--even and especially the ones with the TA's comments.  At the end of the quarter, you will turn in a portfolio that has four sections:

  • Your weekly papers
  • Re-written versions of three of your weekly papers.  The assumption behind this assignment is that you will things in this class that will make your papers better.
  • The interviews project (i.e. the interview and your reflections on it).
  • A one-page response paper addressing one of the theological issues present in your interview


  • Mark L. Branson and Juan F. Martinez, Churches, Cultures & Leadership (IVP Academic, 2010)
  • Christopher Scharen, Faith as a Way of Life (Eerdmans, 2008)