Category Archives: Announcements

“Being There Even When You Are Not: ‘Presence’ in Distance Preaching.”

Listening to sermons through digital media is not new. However, the pandemic pressed many preachers into a medium in unexpected ways. The need for immediate solutions did not allow time for preachers to reflect on what was happening theologically. This paper explores theological presence. The question of how one creates connection and presence when no one is even in the same room, city, or country is not new. The rhetorical concern of being “present while absent” shows up in the writings of ancient rhetoricians, opening the door for theological conversation. Recognizing there are ways to employ rhetorical techniques for non-virtuous ends, the pandemic also revealed that some virtuous attempts failed the ecclesial need to build relationships online. Digital platforms and social media give churches and ministers opportunities to hold space for developing relationships and witnessing the Gospel.

See the full article — “Being There Even When You Are Not: ‘Presence’ in Distance Preaching.” Religions 202314(3), 347;

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Qualitative Research, second edition

The second edition of Qualitative Research is now available at Amazon.

Qualitative Research, Second Edition: A Multi-Methods Approach to Projects for Doctor of Ministry Dissertations
Qualitative Research, Second Edition: A…
The second edition of Qualitative Research responds to the growing need in Doctor of Ministry programs for a textbook that guides students in Participatory Action Research, prospectus, and dissertation that…

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New Edition Coming Soon

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.

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New Baptist Studies Center

In spring 2020, Abilene Christian University formed a Baptist Studies Center in response to the closure of a local seminary of a neighboring school. The invitation to Baptist students to continue their seminary training and welcoming Dr. Myles Werntz to direct the center was significant given ACU’s affiliation with Churches of Christ. In this conversation, the participants reflect on the formation of the center and the ecumenical spirit of Christian unity it implies. This is the first dialogue of the Nesti Center for Faith & Culture Ecumenical and Interfaith Sub-Committee, which seeks to make God’s ongoing, loving encounter with humanity known through meaningful ecumenical and interfaith efforts.
Participants: Dr. Ben Pickett Executive Minister at West Houston Church of Christ Adjunct Professor at Abilene Christian University Nesti CFC Sub-Committee Member
Dr. Tim Sensing Associate Dean and Professor of Preaching Graduate School of Theology Abilene Christian University
Dr. Myles Werntz Director of Baptist Studies Associate Professor of Theology Abilene Christian University
Helpful Links:

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Baptist Studies Center

June 13, 2020

Abilene Christian University (ACU) announces the opening of The Baptist Studies Center as part of the Graduate School of Theology (GST). Dr. Myles Werntz, presently the T. B. Maston Chair of Christian Ethics and Practical Theology at Logsdon School of Theology, will be named the first Director of the Baptist Studies Center. Dr. Werntz has nearly ten years of experience teaching in Baptist seminaries, as well as long-standing relationships with Baptist organizations and churches regionally and nationally. He is a tenured Associate Professor at Hardin-Simmons University (HSU) and the author and editor of five books in theology and ethics. In addition to courses in Baptist theology, ethics, and ecclesiology, he will serve as an Associate Professor in the GST and will teach general classes in theology and ethics.

The Baptist Studies Center will offer a certificate in Baptist Studies that includes two courses—Baptist History, and Baptist Theology and Polity. Additionally, the Center will provide vocational discernment and mentoring to Baptist students. Working closely with Baptist ministry partners, the Center will also facilitate field education placements.

The GST is deeply grateful for this opportunity to partner with and serve west Texas Baptist churches that have a longstanding relationship with a regional seminary. The mission of the GST is to equip men and women for effective missional leadership for ministry in all its forms and to provide strong academic foundations for theological inquiry. The Baptist Studies Center will both participate in the GST’s mission and complement its services for the advancement of the Kingdom of God. Given the well-established cordial relationship between ACU’s Graduate School of Theology and HSU’s Logsdon School of Theology, the opening of the new Center can provide a natural transition for current Logsdon students looking for a regional seminary in west Texas after its closing.

Here are two links to the story:

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The Living Pulpit

The Living Pulpit: Sermons that Illustrate Preaching in the Stone-Campbell Movement 1968-2018 Paperback – April 10, 2018

Fifty years of preaching excellence in one volume.

The Living Pulpit collects sermons from representative preachers in the Stone-Campbell Movement–pastors affiliated with the Churches of Christ, the Christian Churches/Churches of Christ, and the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)–over the past 50 years. The fourth volume in a series that began in 1868, this collection of sermons from 40 ministers, reviewed by a diverse team of scholars, captures the theological themes and changing approaches to preaching across the Movement’s three streams. Emerging from an era of mutual suspicion, the three streams have developed a better understanding, shared mutuality and respect for each stream’s unique qualities, and cooperated in many venues, qualities reflected in this collection. The Living Pulpit2018 helps preachers and scholars recognize where preaching has been–and why it has been there–in each stream, and where preaching appears to be going in a new mission field for Christianity and the Unity Movement.  See it on Amazon here.

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New Publication


The article that I blogged about a few years back is finally published. You can read it here.


Ethnographic data from the lived experiences of teenagers participating in the weekly observance of the Eucharist provided rich data for an application of Bakhtinian approaches to discourse in order to inform current practice. Bakhtin’s understanding of dialogism and heteroglossia asserts that all discourse communities are located in historical situations that involve complex interactions. Each utterance takes meaning from its “actual social life.” Bakhtin gives priority to utterances that occur in context and focuses on the intentional negotiation of meaning and interpretation between author and reader, or, in this case, researcher, participant, and community. The research provides opportunity for teenagers to “answer with their lives” the meaning of the Eucharist.

KEYWORD: Eucharist. Bakhtin. Dialogism. Heteroglossia.

“The Eucharist in an Unarticulated World.” In Bakhtin and the Eucharist. Edited by Angelo Cardita, Institute for Bakhtin Studies. INTERAÇÕES: Cultura e Comunidade 10.18 (Ago./Set. 2015): 140-161. (See ).

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New Page

I’ve added a new page to the homileticalsensings web site entitled Homiletics. The page is located in the right sidebar. The new page has links to three unpublished essays on my preliminary understandings of preaching. The two essays “A Turn Toward the Listener” contain a brief history of preaching’s concern about the listener, my definition of preaching, and a preliminary pragmatic homiletic. Through the next several years, I intend to expand these essays into a homiletical textbook. … I’ve also updated the practical theology bibliography and added an OT Resources for Preaching link. Both files are found under the page Resources.

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