Category Archives: Research

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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Qualitative Research, Second Edition, 2022

The second edition of Qualitative Research is now available from Cascade.

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New Publication

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).

“When Research is not Research.” Journal of Christian Ministry 11 (Spring 2022).

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When Research Is Not Research

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 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.

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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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Preaching Bibliography 2015

Preaching Bibliography 2015

NOTE: The following bibliography has several sections. It begins with several annotated entries compiled in 1994 as a class assignment at Duke University. Afterwards, there is a list of resources, journals, and websites. Finally, I have compiled a list of books that I have read since 1994.

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iPad Research Project

Recently, a GST student James Prather and I received a grant that would enhance students using iPads while engaged in ethnography.

A pdf version of the ACU Press Release      A PDF version of the Davidson Proposal


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Growing Up with Ordained Habits

The Eucharist in an Unarticulated World

Mikhail Bakhtin’s understanding of dialogism and heteroglossia implies that all discourse communities are located in historical situations that involve complex interactions. To address what teenagers within Churches of Christ believe about the Eucharist, there exists the need to return to the naked immediacy of experience as it is felt within the utmost particularity of a specific life. Subsequently, an ethnographic journey of what teens believe and practice about the Lord’s Supper will involve other conversation partners. Seeing and participating in a weekly observance of communion gives these teens access to a larger conversation. For teens to experience “deed” (in Bakhtin’s system), they will need to mediate between their lived experiences of the Lord’s Supper and their reasoned representation of the act. The question this research asks is: are teens able to account or give meaning to the act of participating in weekly Communion? Or as Bakhtin says, “For as much as I have experienced and understood in art, I must answer with my life, so that what I have experienced and understood in art does not remain without effect in life” (Art and Answerability, 56). Can these teens “answer with their life” in the context of the act of the Eucharist?

In the book, Soul Searching, author and researcher Christian Smith wrote a detailed analysis of his findings from the National Study of Youth and Religion. In it he wrote:

In our in-depth interviews with U.S. teenagers, we also found the vast majority of them to be incredibly inarticulate about their faith, their religious beliefs and practices, and its meaning or place in their lives. We found very few teens from any religious background who are able to articulate well their religious beliefs and explain how those beliefs connect to the rest of their lives.[1]

Within any denominational setting, teens enter an ongoing conversation about the Eucharist. Churches of Christ have a deep commitment to a weekly observance of the ordinance. The following articulation of the Eucharist is summarized from Dr. Everett Ferguson’s The Church of Christ: A Biblical Ecclesiology for Today.[2] Ferguson begins the discussion of the Lord’s Supper in a subsection entitled “Activities of the Assembly,” located in chapter 4, “The Church and Her High Priest: Worship and Assembly.”[3] Ferguson is indebted to Scripture as his primary source for authority. He describes the Lord’s Supper as the central act of the weekly assemblies of the early church that occurred on the first day of the week. “The Lord’s Supper is expressive of the central realities of the Christian faith and of what the church is about” (250). He subsequently describes the Lord’s Supper under the headings of biblical words and descriptors.

  1. Thanksgiving or eucharist is the term used to express thanksgiving for salvation the congregation uses to address God.
  2. Lord’s Supper describes the meal Jesus hosts in his honor. The giving of the bread and wine is a symbol of the gift of salvation. Jesus gives the meal on behalf of the people. Lord’s Supper is the most common expression used by Ferguson.
  3. Communion or koinonia points to the sharing congregants have in Christ’s sacrifice and its benefits. Participants are identifying with his life and death. Bread and wine are tokens of Jesus’ pledge of continual fellowship with his people. The breaking of the bread signifies the sharing of the meal together indicating the congregation’s unity and mutual sharing.
  4. Memorial or anamnesis indicates a commemoration. Remembrance brings to mind the Passover Feast’s function in the minds of Jewish celebrants. The remembrance is greater than mere recalling of past events but locates by faith each person who celebrates in the act as a participant in the ongoing event. “Thus, instead of simply calling the past to mind, the past was brought into the present and its benefits made operative” (252). The memorial is thus a re-enactment or “the action portrayed and shared in the reality being enacted. In the same way, Jesus’ actions at the Last Supper enacted the giving of himself soon to occur” (253). In other words, “By repeating the actions of Jesus in breaking the bread and distributing the cup, believers participate in what he did; by the symbolism, they bring those past events into the present and make them living reality” (253). Additionally, the memorial functions by anticipating the messianic banquet by proclaiming a future event. Prolepticly, the memorial brings the future event into the present through joyful expectation.
  5. Covenant Meal connects the Lord’s Supper with the new covenant that is based on the forgiveness of sins. The Lord’s Supper is an act of renewing one’s covenant allegiance to the lordship of Jesus.
  6. Sacrifice is seen through the congregation’s prayers and thanksgivings as acceptable “thank offerings.” The Lord’s Supper reminds believers of the realities of the resurrection as a promise of the power of a sacrificial life. The church shares in the benefits of Christ’s sacrifice, but also offers its own self-sacrifice to God.
  7. Sacrament or mystery are words often associated with the Lord’s Supper in other traditions but are loosely tied to the event in the Bible. In broad ways, the words do connect with what is happening but Ferguson is reticent to incorporate a mystical experience in the proceedings.

Finally, Ferguson lists four attitudes or spiritual exercises that believers practice during their engagement with the Lord’s Supper. Primarily, these exercises relate to mental processes that lead to communal actions. The attitudes are self-examination, confession, reconciliation, rededication, and joy.

Ferguson too comes from a dialogic place in his understanding of the Lord’s Supper. To contextualize Ferguson as a representative articulation of the Eucharist within Churches of Christ, I “cross-checked” his understanding with the entry “Lord’s Supper” in the Encyclopedia of the Stone-Campbell Movement.[4] The essay substantiated Ferguson’s understanding while also supplementing it with details of the historical development of the doctrine within the larger tradition from which Churches of Christ emerged. The authors highlighted the emphasis on “every first day of the week” and the centrality of the event. Developmentally, they spoke of a consensus that centered on the centrality of both preaching and the Lord’s Supper, unfermented juice, multiple cups, communion meditations, and open communion. While practices may vary from place to place, the social location of the participants in my ethnographic research all adhere to these activities. However, the entry also detailed the lack of consensus about how people understand the Lord’s Supper. While early pioneers of the movement emphasized the memorial or “emblematic” nature of the Supper, a more sacramental or mystical understanding was also present among some leaders.

Ferguson represents this tension by acknowledging the function of anamnesis in detail, but also by his reticence to use the terminology of sacrament or mystery. Ferguson notes how Christians celebrate the presence of Christ as the celebrant and host of the meal, but avoids using mystical language. Ferguson elaborated on his understanding of what Churches of Christ believe about the Lord’s Supper by noting that memorial has been the predominant view in most churches and he emphasized anamnesis and other aspects in order to “broaden the perspective.”[5] A predominate view of memorial, but not as anamnesis, indicates a wholly rational approach to the event. Ferguson desires to broaden the perspective because of his personal convictions. He states, “As to my personal view, I believe that the eating of the bread and drinking the cup is the occasion when Christ and the Spirit impart spiritual nourishment to the believer, somewhat comparable to the way baptism is the appointed time when God acts to forgive sins.”[6]

In my experience, the unspoken difference between memorial and a more sacramental view pervades the pews. While an observer would notice little difference in the outward activities or practices of churches, the significance of the Supper’s theological import as either memorial or sacrament is unarticulated. Communion meditations may comment on these fundamental tenets of faith, but may unknowingly contradict one another from week to week. Most members, and especially teens, do not formally process these meditations as mediation between their acts and their accounts of their acts (Bakhtin: accounts + acts = “deeds”). Furthermore, my experience as a third generation member of Churches of Christ would contradict what these resources have claimed to be normative. While I do see the Supper as a central part of our liturgical practice today, I was not raised to think such. I was raised to see a “flat” view of all the liturgical practices, one not being more important than any other. Subsequently, I think many congregations hold to the notion that preaching, reading Scripture, collecting money, singing a cappella, praying, and taking the Lord’s Supper are of equal importance.

Research protocol: Various graduate student researchers will ask baptized teens who regularly attend Churches of Christ assemblies the following:

  1. Beginning: Note their age and gender. Thank them for agreeing to participate in this project and assure them that their responses will be confidential. Ask, “May I have permission to record this interview?” “What is your first name?” “How long ago was it when you were baptized?”
  2. Ask and record the following: “Reflect for me about your experiences taking communion.” If their answer is short, ask the following prompts: “Tell me about your first experience taking communion.” “Tell me about what your most recent experience taking communion.”
  3. Thank them for their help with this project.

Data Analysis:

  • Recordings will be transcribed.
  • The transcribed notes will be coded according to the themes that emerge.
  • The themes will be analyzed to see convergence and divergence intertextually, intratextually, and from the larger discourse reflected by Ferguson.
  • Silences in the teen’s discourse will be highlighted through a comparison with the larger discourse reflected by Ferguson.

Paper outline:

  1. Introduction: Statement of the question for investigation.
  2. A description of a discourse analysis based upon a Bakhtinian hermeneutical lens.
  3. The articulation of the Eucharist in Churches of Christ informed by tradition and text.
  4. Ethnographic data collected from baptized teens who are members of Churches of Christ.
  5. A Bakhtinian analysis of the discourse using the themes from part three, slippage, and silence. [A critical correlation of text, tradition, and experience.]
  6. Conclusion.


[1] Christian Smith, Soul Searching (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005) 131.

[2] Everett Ferguson, The Church of Christ: A Biblical Ecclesiology for Today (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1996) 250-257. Dr. Ferguson is a renowned church historian and professor emeritus of Abilene Christian University. The following summary of the doctrine of the Lord’s Supper believed by Churches of Christ was “member checked” and edited by Dr. Douglas Foster, professor of Church History at Abilene Christian University, and by Dr. Ferguson.

[3] Ferguson, when giving feedback about my summary of his work states, “You capitalize Supper, but I follow the NRSV in leaving it lower case. That immediately expresses a different understanding. Lord’s supper is not only the term I used most but also the term most used in churches of Christ.” Note that he also does not capitalize “churches” when referring to Churches of Christ seeing the former as a description rather than a name. Private communication, February 25, 2012.

[4] Paul M. Blowers and Byron C. Lambert, “The Lord’s Supper,” in Douglas A. Foster, Paul M. Blowers, Anthony L. Dunnavant, and D. Newell Williams (eds.), Encyclopedia of the Stone-Campbell Movement, (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2004): 489-496.

[5] Ferguson, private communication, February 25, 2012. Doug Foster emphasized the difference between a rational understanding of memorial versus a more nuanced or sacramental view by stating that Ferguson’s explanation of memorial by using the word anamnesis is an ‘”ideal” statement of remembrance that would not be present in the understanding of many people in the pews of Churches of Christ.” Doug Foster, private communication, February 26, 2012.

[6] Ibid.

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