Case Study of a Discourse Community of Bethlehem Baptist Church

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One might say that language is just the way we speak to one another. But what some people do not understand in English is that language can be misleading. One may easily know how to apply grammar corrections to their papers, but they may not know how to use language properly. Using language properly can lead to the proper facilitation of peoples’ values, beliefs, and attitudes. According to James Paul Gee, “language is not important and surely not grammar, but the saying-doing-being-valuing-believing combination is how we label a discourse” (278). That specific combination is labeled as a discourse, as Gee states that discourse is an identity kit that appropriates how we act, talk and maybe write (278). John Swales defined the phrase, ‘discourse community,’ as groups that have objectives or purposes, and use certain resources to accomplish those specific objectives.

I had the opportunity to study a discourse community, which holds the name of Bethlehem Baptist Church, located on Looney Ave, pastored by Orelius Clyde Collins Jr. I have been apart of this community since I was 5 years old. I have enjoyed being apart of it because Christ looked at the needs of the people, and then begun to preach out the good deeds. There is a caste system or an order of rank that occurs in the church. One may think that defining a position of power a church can be dangerous because it allows for one person to communicate their ideas and teachings in one form. I always thought that there are so many positions in a church, that there would be no way for supreme power to exist. The pastor’s father, Collins Sr, was the senior pastor who is considered to be “man with the plan”. He is at the top and has the ultimate authority to run the church. Collins is about 5’6 who is aged at about fifty-eight. He has a mix of grey and dark hair as his age is starting to increase. Sadly Collins Sr passed away, so Collins Jr took his position when that time came. The positions below him are the deacons, who are trusted with a position of authority and oversight. The deacons are responsible for preparing the service of the senior pastor’s, by revising and overlooking his lesson plan, which is spoken to the church members. The amount of time I have spent in this church has allowed me to come up with six characteristics from my discourse community, which are culture, worship, spirituality, focus, communication, and relationships.

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First, the common goal of a church is to influence the community through faith, so that every person will collectively have a better outlook on life, thus making the world a better place. That easily can be said about any church. As a local discourse community, Bethlehem Baptist Church wants to be seen as a place of fellowship, which takes part in helping some of the most troubled people, by saving them from their darkest sins. The church has a higher, more encompassing call that brings out the best in a person. The culture that my church presents, has changed the lives of many that I have seen come and leave my church. Hundreds of people gather to one place to learn a deeper understanding as to why they are here and what purpose they serve on this Earth. That is a powerful force!

In addition, the culture of Bethlehem Baptist Church is based on religious beliefs such as believing in spirits, honoring sacred grounds, taking communion, and praying to God. All of these practices performed in this church bring the members closer to their spirituality. Also, there are other actions that are performed, such as opening and closing prayers, sharing circles, and outdoor ceremonies, which show our spirituality in action. We stand behind the religion of Christianity, and we believe that the divinity of God is in all of us, and those who attend the church look for a sense of spiritual development towards God. There are some kinds of excessive worship that may take place in some churches like holiday services, singing, or prayer. But in this church, some ways of worship take the form of baptism and church service. Baptism is when water is passed onto the forehead of a person, or where one is dunked underwater, which stands for purification in Christianity. Those who want to take the next step onto a path of purity and a life filled with God participate in this form of worship. As for the service, some members take part in Sunday School and worship service, along with Bible study on Tuesdays, and prayer service on Wednesdays. The purpose of these groups is to provide another outlook of worship but to also open our services towards anyone in need or people looking for a new church home. This is where relationships are usually formed in this church, as service allows us to connect more with each other because many opportunities are presented for people to meet and connect through worshipping God.

As new relationships are formed at the church, a form of communication that we take part in, whether it is involving members or non-members is through our website streamed services or by in-person attendance in the services. Our website may be more welcoming to non-members because the website provides background information about the church. The website also provides the opportunity for non-members to sign up as a new member of the church, by filling out a very detailed application. Also, another form of communication that our church implemented, is the creation of T-shirts with the church name on them. The church will sometimes hold events where members have to go out in the community and do charity work or “recruiting” as one might say. Not only is this a form of advertising, but it also is a way to encourage those who are lost in their faith to find a new place to worship and grow. There is a chance for the kids to communicate when they are not attending church at Sunday school. As we all come together with members or non-members, our communication is centered around the Bible. If there was no Bible, the whole basis of what goes on in the church would be done away with it. Stories and rules like the ten commandments on how to live, stories about the creation of time, and stories about Adam and Eve are constantly interpreted for our benefit to provide a lesson in how we act day in and out. Topics like these would come up based on concern in the public community.

The problem that may be encountered with studying the Bible is that people may not believe in unity. We can't just toss out the Bible as a solution just to have solidarity. Be that as it may, we should have clarity where the individuals who really love Jesus Christ will love one another and attempt to cooperate. Despite the fact that our practices may contrast, Christians must cooperate and come together. The information is given to help understand the Bible and the lesson behind the story, rather than just listening to the preacher talk. Not only is the Bible a tool of communication, but prayer is to. We use the prayer group to communicate with one another to relate to a problem or blessing. In doing so, doors are opened for conversation between members and non-members.

On the other hand, I attended a Church Service this past Sunday. The lesson was about the definition of a real friend. When all else fails and no is there when the time comes, Jesus will never go away, no matter who the person is. Every time I walk inside the church, an enormous cross filled with many different colors greets me the moment I walk in. From there, the church seats the choir with the pastor in front facing the audience. It is an entirely comfortable environment. I participated in the song “Glory Hallelujah” as the congregation began. It was obvious that there was love for God based on people’s shouting, dancing, clapping, singing and I enjoyed how my Sunday morning went. Regardless if one has never been to the congregation, the church is known for leaving an impression of acceptance and harmony in the personalities of many. But after the service, I stayed back with pastor Collins Jr and asked some interview questions. He only had time to answer two questions because immediately after the service he had to go to another church for an appearance.

The first question I asked was what aspects of your identity conflict with the community’s goals, values, etc? I had to explain that the community is in reference to the church. He commented, “Well I would say my identity has been shaped to help people no matter who they are. I feel it is my job to inflict a holy, beneficial direction for someone whether I am in the church or not. So I would say there is not any conflict between myself and the goal the church has. The goal is to bring everyone together as one and who I am today complements that.” The next question I asked was who are the founders and leaders of the community? How did they become leaders? He answered, “That information can actually be found on our website for the founders. That history is way before time, so more information can be found there. When it comes to leaders, currently I see myself, my son, assistant sponsors and so on as leaders. But the way I see it, anyone in the community can be a leader in the church just by their actions no matter what position they hold. Everyone’s input matters and here, actions will speak volumes. But some do not see it that way, so a more simple response would be I would consider myself, my assistant pastor and junior pastor as the leaders. My assistant pastor handles some of my operations and fills in if I am not there, and the junior pastor who happens to be my son is up and coming in leading the church as I do. I did research on the website, and Reverend Samuel Garrett was the first pastor of Bethlehem and under him, the blueprint for the church inside and out was organized. Rev Garrett died in 1890. After his death, Reverend Samuel Garrett, Reverend A. L. Bartlett, Reverend J. R. Bibbs, and Reverend Quincy C. Billops held his position in that order. Since nineteen-ninety three, Pastor Collins has been Pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church.

In conclusion, a discourse community is basically a gathering of individuals with comparable goals and interests that speak with one another with the plan to advance these objectives. Bethlehem Baptist Church serves as a rock to people inside and outside the church who have a common goal to help not just themselves spiritually but spread the faith and achieve wisdom.

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Case Study of a Discourse Community of Bethlehem Baptist Church. (2022, July 14). Edubirdie. Retrieved June 16, 2024, from
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