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“What’s next for us?” asked an elder at Session meeting of Grosse Ile Presbyterian Church, Grosse Ile, Michigan. Instead of engaging in a typical long-range, or strategic planning process, the Session of Grosse Ile Presbyterian Church followed the five steps of practical theological as outlined by Mark Lau Branson and the Missional Change Process as described by Alan Roxburgh. The goal was for Session to identify adaptive challenges and begin to experiment in ways to address them.

Dwelling in the Word, engaging in intentional encounters with neighbors, and reflecting and discussing the process led the Session to many new insights, but the Session did not clearly identify the adaptive challenges it must address. This failure is the function of diminished understanding of God. The Session’s concept of God was abstract, disembodied, and lacked an awareness of the Holy Spirit, “God on the ground.”

This doctoral project is presented in three parts. Part One describes the theology of Presbyterian eldership, and it focuses particularly on a shortcoming in this theology, which is that elders may fulfill their duties and responsibilities without leaving church property. Part Two follows the Session through the five-step Missional Change Process, detailing the conversations that surrounded the process. Part Three draws the conclusion that Session does not have a capacity to discern the disruptive aspects of the Holy Spirit, and it begins to develop an outline of the theology of “God on the ground.”

Content Reader: Alan Roxburgh, DMin

Degree Name

Doctor of Ministry (DMin)

First Advisor

Roxburgh, Alan J.

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Grosse Ile Presbyterian Church (Grosse Ile, Mich.); Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.); Elders (Church officers); Spiritual formation; Missional church movement


Missions and World Christianity


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April 2018

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