Category Archives: Book Excerpts

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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The Function of Sermons

I am currently writing a text A Turn towards the Listener. The following is an excerpt from the section entitled, “Changing the Function of the Function.”

In homiletics, the terms “aim,” “purpose,” and “function” are often been used to describe what the preacher intends the sermon “to do.” Preachers intend that sermons accomplish certain ends; realize particular consequences. Preachers intend to persuade hearers to become and consequently to act. The most oft used definition of a function statement comes from Tom Long, Witness of Preaching. Quoting David Kelsey: “Part of what it means to call a text ‘Christian scripture,’ is that it functions to shape persons’ identities so decisively as to transform them … when it is used in the context of the common life of Christian community.”[1] Advocating that biblical texts say things that do things, and the sermon is to say and do those things too. Content and intention are bound together (focus and function), and no expression of proclamation is complete without them. Long writes, “A function statement is a description of what the preacher hopes the sermon will create or cause to happen for the hearers. Sermons make demands upon the hearers, which is another way of saying that they provoke change in the hearers. … The function statement names the hoped-for change.” [2] Function statements raise the question of how the preacher’s words will be taken up, acted on, or become embedded in the practices of the congregation.

For a pragmatic sermon, let me propose that all function statements only use behavioral or affective verbs. I’m not against cognitive acts. Let’s assume that what we are doing makes sense. We are using clear and meaningful language. Let’s assume that our words communicate content in clear and logical ways that increase congregational understanding. Let’s assume that our words will “remind,” “clarify,” “teach,” “analyze,” “enlighten,” “illuminate,” “investigate,” “examine,” and a host of other words that are appropriate for thinking people. And for Peirce, understanding a concept is the same as belief that will lead to practice. After the congregation understands, then what? Select a strong verb that reflects the answer to the question, “So what?”

Affective and behavioral functions go beyond feelings and reactions and become a way of being for people. Let’s use active verbs like “affirm,” “exhort,” “warn,” “challenge,” “encourage,” “delight,” “inspire,” “support,” “promote,” “hearten,” “stir,” “motivate,” “arouse,” “provoke,” “aggravate,” and a host of other words that prompt the hoped for change in people’s lives. Only then does the message have “meaning” in a peircian sense. Subsequently, the function of sermons will be judged by their transformative effect “over time” in the life cycle of a church.

People can have bad habits that they sustain for a surprisingly long time. These habits are funded by “inadequate definitions, misleading theories, and other bad interpretations.”[3] Since bad habits die hard, our function statements must activate intentional and concrete practices. If our aim is to “fix” belief so that people are prepared to act, then our functions must be effective and affective from the outset and our teaching must become proclamation.

[1] In: Thomas Long, The Witness of Preaching (Westminster John Knox, 1989), 106.

[2] Ibid., 108-109.

[3] Lyne, 87.



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