The second edition of Qualitative Research is now available at Amazon.
Author Archives: Tim Sensing
The second edition of Qualitative Research is now available from Cascade.
Preaching in Season Podcast
In this episode, homiletics professor Dr. Tim Sensing leads us to consider how to preach the first chapter of Galatians.
On Pentecost Sunday I preached at the Linary Church of Christ in Crossville, TN. Below is the link to the sermon.
Recently, I posted that an article on research was published by the Journal of Christian Ministry. A companion piece was also published by Discernment. I am posting both articles here.
“What in the World is Research?” Discernment: Theology and the Practice of Ministry 8.1 (2022). https://digitalcommons.acu.edu/discernment/vol8/iss1/1
“When Research is not Research.” Journal of Christian Ministry 11 (Spring 2022). https://journal.dmineducation.org/2022/03/08/2022-when-research-is-not-research/
Sixth Sunday in Lent: Palm Sunday
Today is Palm Sunday remembering Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. Read Text Luke 19:28-40—Imagine with me the choir singing the two songs that frame Jesus’ ministry. You enter the cathedral, you walk down the middle aisle, and in the choir loft, the chancel, on my left you have Heaven singing— on my right, you have the earth respond.
|Luke 2:14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace among those whom he favors!
|Luke 19:38 “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord!
Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest heaven!”
|The Heavens say, “Peace on Earth”||The earth echoes back, “Peace in Heaven”|
|The chorus of angels sing, “Peace on Earth”||The choir responds, “Peace in Heaven”|
|As the antiphonal chorus resounds all around us, we hear Psalm 118:1-2; 19-29 ringing in our ears. Can you hear it?|
Palm Sunday celebrates Jesus arriving in Jerusalem. This is the moment the second choir begins singing.
This past week Laura and I have been entertaining our 5- and 3-year-old grandchildren. Our three-year-old granddaughter, Emily, is enchanted by the movie Encanto. I went to iTunes to buy the soundtrack which has several tracks that have no words. The score is mostly made up of background music. Emily asks, “I want Family Madrigal, ” whenever one of those tracks plays.” Or “We Don’t Talk about Bruno.” Whomever Bruno is.
- Imagine again with me that we are on the road with Jesus to Jerusalem. Jesus began this journey to Jerusalem in 9:51. All along the road, on the way to Jerusalem, can you hear the choir singing, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth, peace among those whom he favors!”?
- The story of Jesus on the road even begins with the Sons of Thunder wanting to call down lightning down on the Samaritans. Can you hear the choir singing in the background?
- Do we hear the background music as the parable of the persistent widow or Good Samaritan is told?
- Do we hear the background music when Jesus meets the rich man, the ten lepers, Zacchaeus, or the blind beggar?
The triumphal entry lives for just an instant. Palm Sunday will soon turn to Easter Sunday. Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem will lead Jesus to the temple and the cross—The longest week in the Christian Year. All four Gospels spend more time on this one week than any other aspect of Jesus’ ministry.
- The last week begins in Matthew 21.
- For Mark, it begins at chapter 11
- John starts the story even earlier at 12:1.
- And here, the last week begins at Luke 19:28.
- And the second choir begins their song, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest heaven!”
And Pharisees say “STOP”! They demand the choir stop their singing – “Do not proclaim peace.” You see, peace is a political word.
- Are they afraid for Jesus’ own safety as in 13:31 where you have a small glimpse of compassion? Maybe.
- More likely, they were afraid of Rome, and that the disturbance in the city might call down retaliation.
And Jesus responds, “the Stones Would Cry Out if the choir is silenced!”
- Some things simply must be said. The church must always proclaim peace.
- The disciples are expressing the ultimate truth. In Jesus Christ, PEACE is proclaimed in the heavens and on the earth.
- Peace is proclaimed as humanity is reconciled back to God.
- Peace is proclaimed as the strife and fighting between peoples of every tribe, language, and nation is established.
- Peace is proclaimed when our own heart finds the peace the passes all understanding.
- Truth cannot be silenced.
- God will provide a witness of peace though every mouth be stopped.
So, the chorus keeps singing, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest heaven!”
The story takes a dramatic turn. A twist in the story occurs when we least anticipate it. Just after Jesus rebukes the Pharisees for saying “Silence the choir!” Jesus now stops the choir himself.
So, when to road finally reaches Jerusalem (Luke 19: 41-44) Jesus weeps and both choir lofts are silent. Jesus sees a Jerusalem that will not see peace. Jesus sees Jerusalem that will not recognize God’s visitation. The chorus proclaims peace, but Jesus weeps for there is no peace.
The choir sings peace, but there is no peace, and the choir has stopped singing.
- Like a boy on the playground who scrapes his knee. “Mommy, blow on it!” But she washes his knee with soap and water. “Mommy, blow on it.” And she takes the iodine and treats his wound.
- Peace, Peace, but there is no peace.
- At Jerusalem, the visitation of God is rejected.
- Jerusalem will call for Jesus’ blood.
- Therefore, Jerusalem will be besieged by enemies. There is no peace.
And Peace is hidden…
- In the midst of tensions all around, for example, pandemics and the war in eastern Europe—peace is hidden. The invasion of Ukraine is a stark reminder that fears dark realities beset us. The threats represent real opponents to peace.
- In the midst of tensions in marriages, wars within our own families, cultural wars, political wars, school board infighting, and political gridlock—peace is hidden.
- In the midst of foreclosures, mounting medical bills, unemployment, and all sorts of financial unrest—peace is hidden.
- And even here at church where we also experience a lack of peace. Church history is filled with stories where the church participated with the hiding of peace more so than the proclaiming of peace.
- But our age is not the only age. You could look at almost any age and see how fear and death have reigned. Fourteenth-century Europe, for example, experienced devastating famines, waves of pillaging mercenaries, peasant revolts, religious turmoil and a plague that wiped out as much as half the population in four years. The evidence suggests that all this resulted in mass convulsions of anxiety, a period of psychic torment in which, as one historian has put it, “the more one knew, the less sense the world made.”
- Fears and anxieties press all around us. As an author once described America, “we are in the midst of a full-blown panic attack.” National Institute for Mental Health reports— nearly 20 percent of Americans experience an anxiety disorder each year; over 30 percent experienced an anxiety disorder over the course of their lifetimes.
- Generalized anxiety disorder, per the DSM-5 list of symptoms, includes the rise to both restlessness and fatigue; both lapsed concentration and profound tension of the muscles. In this conflicted state, the mind and body team up to deprive the sufferer of sleep and induce irritability.
- Peace is hidden!
- Jesus rides on a colt, not a horse that is 16 hands high bred for battle, but a colt that had never been ridden before. Even though peace is hidden, Jesus rides a colt through it all. 
Listen. Do you hear the choir? It is reaching a crescendo in Luke’s story. “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest heaven!”
Palm Sunday is a day when the songs are about peace on earth and peace in heaven. BUT Palm Sunday ALSO remembers the day when Jesus weeps over Jerusalem because he finds no peace.
Lent is a season of waiting.
- Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday is the longest week of the Christian Year.
- Palm Sunday is the beginning of Holy Week.
- Early in the week there are several encounters in Jerusalem and the temple where Jesus’ authority is questioned. Jesus cleanses the Temple, witnesses the widow’s mite, and is questioned about taxes.
- Luke’s winding road through Jerusalem takes us to an Upper Room on Thursday. We recall the Last Supper and the Washing of Feet. Thursday is a long day. Jesus prays on the Mount of Olives, Jesus is betrayed and arrested, Peter denies Jesus. He is betrayed and arrested. He experiences two trials and is sentenced to death.
- But the longest night of the Christian Year is Friday.
- Afterwards, you have the long night of silence of Saturday. I cannot imagine the choirs singing.
Will there be peace on earth? Will there be peace in heaven? Will the choirs ever sing again? We will have to wait until next Sunday. But until then, we come to the table.
Until next Sunday, may the peace of God be with you all.
 Some thoughts and insights about the phrase “Age of Anxiety” come from the web, for example, https://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/01/14/its-still-the-age-of-anxiety-or-is-it/ and https://newrepublic.com/article/153153/age-anxiety
 “Halfway down the Mount of Olives, there is a small chapel in the shape of a teardrop. It is called Dominus Flevit (Latin for “the Lord weeps”) It is the traditional location where Jesus wept over the city. Pilgrims gather there to share the Eucharist as they move toward Jerusalem. As they view a city still divided, with people of different faiths squabbling over the same real estate, they pass the bread to the words, “this is my body, broken for you.” Then they share the cup of wine, saying, “this is the new covenant in my blood, shed for the forgiveness of sins.” It is a moment to recall the great cost of reconciliation, as God sent Jesus into the world to [bring peace]. Sometimes we are clueless when it comes to peace. However, for those who continue to share the body and blood of Christ, it is common to say, “the peace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.” How does each of us respond? With the words, “And also with you.” William G. Carter, “Luke 19:28-40,” Feasting on the Word, Year C, Vol 2, pg. 156.
My article “When Research Is Not Research” was published this spring in the Journal of Christian Ministry. The topics of Internal Review Boards and technical definitions relating to the US Department of Education do not fit into the category of devotional or inspiring literature. Yet, the protection of persons and special populations is a serious and virtuous pursuit that requires oversight. See my recent publication at https://journal.dmineducation.org/2022/03/08/2022-when-research-is-not-research/ as I explore how some of the terminologies related to research are confusing.
Also, stay tuned as another article on research and the second edition of Qualitative Research will soon be published.
Now that I have children living in the metroplex, I realize how different Fort Worth is different from Dallas. Both are part of the metroplex but are very different places. Different places mean different contexts.
Churches have context. Albany is not Anson and is not Clyde. Churches just down the road from each other can differ significantly.
- Our churches
- Some are thriving
- Some are tired
- Some enjoy their common fellowship
- Some are bickering all the time
- I knew a church in a small town with five distinct factions. On my first Sunday to visit, I was informed that this would be the last Sunday for about twenty members who were leaving. What do you preach when a church is about ready to split again?
- Churches have a context.
- Our churches
The Galatian churches had a context
- And while their faith began full of hope, Paul was fearful that some Jewish missionaries messing with the very heart of the Gospel would pervert their faith.
- Three pillars of practice exemplified that preamble: Jewish Christians equated dietary laws (Gal. 2:11–14), circumcision (Gal. 5:6; 6:15), and Jewish holidays (Gal 4:9–10) as boundary markers for their identity. These three practices were identity markers that Jewish Christians embraced. And these practices were not wrong for Jewish Christians; but very wrong for Gentile believers.
- It is like a multivitamin, merely a supplement, but yet lacking the power to cure a disease.
- I read an article about how taking too much Vitamin D is harmful. I looked at the various supplements I was taking. Whoa! I was taking way too much. Sometimes adding more is harmful. Adding to the Gospel is harmful, Paul says.
- Gospel + // A bundle like TV + Internet + Phone = new contract. And suddenly, I’m trapped again for two more years). The objection Paul has is that bundling the Gospel with Jewish practices is not essential for Gentile Christians.
- And such bundling had social implications. In Galatia, as in Rome, those implications were ethnic. In Corinth, those implications were socio-economic. Social implications can play themselves out in a wide variety of ways in how people relate to others who are not part of their group.
- Brad Braxton states it this way about the Galatians, “[The Gentiles] could not enjoy the blessings of God’s covenant unless they abandoned their ethnic identity and assumed another. If Gentile believers adopted another ethnic identity, they would deny that God saved them as Gentiles.” 
So, what does Paul preach to churches like those found in Galatia?
Galatians 1:1-5 —What is the Gospel?
- The gospel is not of human construction. It comes from God (1:1, 3-4).
- Grace is embodied and made effective by the self-giving of Jesus on the cross (1:4). Jesus’ death atones for our sins and releases us from the oppressive power of “the present evil age.”
- The self-giving of Jesus is in accordance with the will of God (1:4). Therefore, we have “grace and peace” that comes from God (1:3). Therefore, the death of Jesus is an act of God.
- God is our Father (1:1). We are God’s children and members of God’s family. Rooted in God as your Father (1:1, 3, 4). 3xs
- God raised Jesus from the dead. God has power over death and delivers us from the grip of death.
- A message that was revealed by Jesus. You see, the message, the messenger, and the origin of the message are bound tightly together.
- God breaks into this age in order to usher in a new age (1:4).
- In order to “set us free.”
- What you believe affects what you do.
So, Paul offers a doxology (the only time in a Pauline introduction). If Galatians is read in church and functions like a sermon, will the hearers say the “Amen” at the end of verse 5?
The Gospel is all about Jesus
- Who chose to come to earth, born a human in a manger.
- Who chose to associate with tax collectors, sinners, Samaritans, Syrophoenicians—the poorest of the poor, outcasts, and folks who were unclean.
- Each story you read in Matt, Mark, and Luke; each turn in the road; each city he entered; each conversation he had; was in obedient faithfulness to God.
- And that faithfulness took him to the cross.
- Paul summarizes this story in Gal 1:1-4; and concludes with doxology 1:5.
- And if we look elsewhere in Gal, Paul says it in compact ways with memorable statements.
- 2:16 Knowing that one is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, …
- 20 I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.
- “Faith of Jesus Christ” (2:16a, 20; 3:3, 5, 22) and by the effectiveness of the message.
- “Faith in Jesus Christ” (2:16b; 3:26)
And this is the Gospel!
No matter what the context. No matter what is going on right now in a church. No matter what the issues, you are saved because of the faithfulness of Jesus. You are part of God’s covenant family because of the faithfulness of Jesus. You are here! You belong! Look around this room…everyone here belongs because of the faithfulness of Jesus. And look around your neighborhood, this community, this county, and State. No one is excluded from the Gospel. No one is excluded from the waters. No one is excluded from the Table.
This is the Gospel (2:16).
 Braxton, “Galatians,” 334.
I was questioned recently about my assertion in a Sunday morning class that “God always saves by grace.” This statement troubles some people because they have heard that the only way for Israelites to be saved was by obeying the whole Law. However, the door into a covenant relationship with God (salvation) for a Jew is not the Law but circumcision. I paraphrased in the class John Ziesler who summarizes what all current Pauline scholarship now affirms, “However, there is no authority in Jewish texts that taught God’s approval was to be earned, nor that salvation was by human merit. Salvation is always divine grace and well understood in Jesus’ day even by the Pharisees.”
To support my view, I asked the class a few weeks back to recall when we studied Deuteronomy. One of the key passages in that study was,
Deut 30:11 Surely, this commandment that I am commanding you today is not too hard for you, nor is it too far away. 12 It is not in heaven, that you should say, “Who will go up to heaven for us, and get it for us so that we may hear it and observe it?” 13 Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, “Who will cross to the other side of the sea for us, and get it for us so that we may hear it and observe it?” 14 No, the word is very near to you; it is in your mouth and in your heart for you to observe. (NRSV)
Deuteronomy teaches that the Law was doable. And more importantly in this conservation is that the Law was given to people already saved. The Law was not an entrance requirement but a guide (an articulation of a way of life) given to people already in God’s family (already in covenant relationship with God). One of the hallmark texts articulating the doctrine of salvation for Israelites is,
Exodus 19:3 And Moses went up unto God, and the Lord called unto him out of the mountain, saying, Thus shalt thou say to the house of Jacob, and tell the children of Israel; 4 Ye have seen what I did unto the Egyptians, and how I bare you on eagles’ wings, and brought you unto myself. 5 Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine: 6 And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation. These are the words which thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel. (KJV)
Salvation is prior to commandment. In essence Exodus 19 teaches, “Because you are saved, you obey.” The Ten Commandments in the next chapter begin the same way. Prior to any of the commandments, there is a statement of grace. Rescue by God precedes commandment.
Exodus 20:1 And God spake all these words, saying, 2 I am the Lord thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.
After the statement of grace, the Ten Commandments are given. Exodus 20:3 “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.”
Paul knows these doctrines when he writes Galatians. He not only accepts these doctrinal understandings, he also affirms them. How is a person saved? Paul insists you are saved by faith. He reminds his readers that Abraham was saved by faith (Gen 12) prior to circumcision (Gen 17).
So, what is the issue in Galatians?
- The Jewish Missionaries taught, “To be saved as a Gentile, you are going to have to become a Jew. In order to enter into a covenant relationship with God, you are going to need circumcision. In order to control your flesh, you are going to have to submit to the Law. In order to stay in a relationship with God, you need to follow Jewish customs including food laws and special days.” Paul summarizes their teachings with the catchphrase “works of the Law” or “Law.” Paul does not oppose the Law for Jewish Christians. Paul opposes the idea that Gentile Christians must first submit to the Law before the cross has value.
- Paul taught, “You are saved by the faithfulness of Jesus who died on the cross for you.” Re-read Gal 1:1-4 and Paul’s summary of the Gospel. Once you are saved by God, love is the fulfillment of the Law. Once you are saved by God, the Spirit helps us control the flesh. In order to stay in a relationship with God, you must keep in step with the Spirit.
 John Ziesler, The Epistle to the Galatians (London: Epworth Press, 1992), xv.
A new edition of Qualitative Research is coming soon. Wipf & Stock has agreed to publish a second edition. Due to the wonderful sales, Wipf & Stock will be moving the book to its Cascade imprint.
Preface to the Second Edition
The appeal of the first edition surprised me. It not only filled a lacuna in the literature, but it also met a need in Doctor of Ministry programs across North America. However, I do not like second editions because so much of the material is the same. I wonder, “Was this a way to get me to buy a second book?” While much of this book is the same, it is expanded, revised, and nuanced. The book is different because I am not the same. The idea of a second edition sprouted from the many scattered seeds of feedback from students and colleagues from other institutions. Emails and phone calls from students using the book spotlighted places the book needed clarification.
So, what is different? The second edition has the same chapters and structure as the first. Various tools like questionnaires are basically the same (although I address some of my loquaciousness). Yet beneath the surface, there are significant enhancements that include expanded topics, citations, and updated resources. Not every updated edition is consulted; however, Stringer and Aragón, Action Research and the various Sage publications receive thorough re-evaluations. New resources are also consulted in the social sciences and theological disciplines using ethnography and ecclesiology. I also give attention to the change in IRB protocols necessary because of revised Department of Education (DOE) requirements in 2018.
The second edition also has a new subtitle. As an academic dean and member of the Academic Officer’s Advisory Committee for the Chief Academic Officers Society (CAOS), I keenly watched the development of the Standards as they related to the DMin degree. I appreciated 99 percent of what was adopted. However, that 1 percent pertained to the culminating DMin project. In the first edition, I chose not to use the word “dissertation” but continued to embrace the word “thesis.” The change in the Standards has prompted my conversion. In the early pages of the “Introduction,” I address the adoption of the new ATS Standards in the summer of 2020 and how those changes affect the DMin degree.
Additionally, the first edition was written to meet the needs of ACU DMin students as the primary audience. While I used gender inclusive and ecclesially diverse language, all my examples were from white males from one denominational setting. The acceptance of the book across North America exacerbated the short-sightedness of my examples. While the second edition still focuses on Christian local congregations, I include a more diverse range of denominations and intercultural options. However, my own contextuality as a white male professor at a denominational seminary who works primarily with pastors still delimits the generalizable possibilities. But that is the essence of being a contextual theologian. I still live and work in West Texas. I welcome other religious leaders, chaplains, social workers, and community organizations (para-church, NGOs, volunteer agencies) to discover connections with the practices articulated here. Our commitments to serving communities of virtue generate common ground without borders.
Since the publication of Qualitative Research, I have continued to provide feedback to projects in my own classes. Often, I see the same questions in classes. I find myself sharing the same feedback in the first drafts of prospectuses. For example, the two most common needs related to identifying a problem from the student’s context that translates to a viable project, and identifying interpretive codes for analyzing the data. I see this as a shortcoming in how I orally explain sections in classes. The book did not adequately supplement my shortcomings. The connection for my failure to communicate my expectations is due to my assuming too much. The second edition addresses my vagueness, common student questions, and lack of clarity.
The second edition also provides me the opportunity to nuance my own theological commitments as a practical theologian. In 2013 I wrote, “Finding Practical Theology’s Location.” I took the opportunity to first express in print my own definition of practical theology. I organized the chapter around the twin foci of “My Theological Core Identity” and “My Theological Method.” I put a stake in the ground as a contextual theologian that considers human experience as a concrete means to investigate ecclesiology. I began with the church that exists rather than an idealized abstract version. It was a former student and now current colleague, Mason Lee, who pointed out that what I taught in class was not consistent with what I published in the chapter back then. I had fallen into a trap of describing my past understandings concurrently with my new understandings without recognizing that a switch had flipped in my own thinking. That flip of the switch is best understood in how I used the word “applied.” I understood my seminary professors teaching me that “if I get my exegesis straight,” my preaching would follow. Looking back, my MDiv training as a minister was “applied” theology. I no longer define practical theology as “applied” theology. My stake in the ground in 2013 marks that I misspoke.
I recognize that ministers still have to know how to do things. The teaching of skills (techné) remains part of the seminary’s curriculum. But I had long shifted my theological location about skill acquisition. Practical wisdom (phronesis) and the telos of ministry as seen in aretê (virtue) and eudaimonia (a flourishing life) currently hold sway in how I think about the practice of ministry. The formative activity of theology that is taking place in my life and community is always in process. Theology in process is the sanctifying work of the Spirit and incumbent upon the nature of maturing as a human. Becoming, transforming, and theosis is the essence of being a human called by God. That is the same way I see congregations and minister-researchers involved in qualitative research. The DMin is a snapshot of a particular time and place of the minister’s practice within a local congregation. Participatory Action Research mirrors the spiral nature of a theological process that continues in the individual life of the minister and the lived experience of a church. Throughout the book, I will make explicit my theological method.
The limitation of publishing risks that I put a stake in the ground again and say “this is where I now stand.” It is similar to posting a sermon online forgetting that it is not the best practice to preach the same sermon twice. No two congregational settings are the same. Before I put down a new stake, I want to remove the old one. Farewell “applied” theology. So, the stake I put in the ground now is this: “Practical theology is both theologizing about practice and practice doing theology to transform communities of practice into the image of Christ for the sake of the world.” When I think explicitly “what theology” am I doing in the field of DMin research? I am doing ecclesiology as a contextually performative theologian.