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J. P. Conway

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The purpose of this project was to lead the existing small groups of the Acklen Church in forming ongoing partnerships with local community ministries. After surviving and rebuilding after the flood of 2010, the Acklen Church wrestled with its relationship to its neighborhood, currently in the late stages of gentrification yet within walking distance of many in poverty. Despite the abundance of churches in Nashville, community ministries and nonprofits consistently lack volunteers. For this reason, this paper argues for neighborhood partnerships, in contrast to mere episodic involvement. In the two years prior to the project, the Acklen Church developed positive momentum in a weekly relationship with Room in the Inn, organized through its small groups. Therefore, this paper argues that small groups represent a hopeful paradigm for further community partnerships.

The paper centers on a ten-week series entitled Kingdom Witness in City, conducted in the spring of 2013. The author wrote and presented a Sunday morning curriculum centering on the belief that the church is a community of kingdom exiles. Moreover, the mission of the church is to witness to the kingdom, and Christian exiles witness to the kingdom by loving the city. In developing the curriculum, the author drew inspiration from the writings of Gareth Icenogle, Everett Ferguson, Timothy Keller, Lesslie Newbigin, Ron Sider, James K.A. Smith, and Dallas Willard. On Wednesday nights, guest speakers from community ministries and non-profits presented on ministry in the city and offered avenues for partnership. On Sunday nights, small groups discussed these presentations and discerned opportunities, giftedness, and obstacles in relation to involvement. At the end of the series, the groups received opportunities to make partnership commitments.

In the spring of 2014, the author analyzed the mixed results of the series. The number of community partnerships of the Acklen Church more than doubled. However, the partnerships did not always come from the small groups. Moreover, busyness revealed itself as a formable foe to community service. In addition, the Acklen Church discovered that many of its members already participated in community partnerships yet never really shared or vocalized their involvement. Finally, the paper offers an assessment of a way forward in the Acklen Church’s quest to witness to the Kingdom in Nashville.

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Doctor of Ministry (DMin)

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Acklen Avenue Church of Christ (Nashville, Tenn.); Church group work; Small groups; Missional church movement; City missions


Missions and World Christianity


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April 2018

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