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Organizational transformation is unavoidable yet necessary for institutional health. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) is at a crossroads today as it is coming to grips with this reality. The issue the ELCA will face in the coming decade concerns how it will be transformed to respond to the missio dei.

In this dissertation I will address this issue first by exploring the cultural landscape the ELCA occupies. By analyzing current religious trends from the Pew Research Center, self-reported numbers from the ELCA, and cultural commentaries from contemporary thinkers, I will argue the ELCA is in an unprecedented situation where it needs to be transformed.

Looking for a contemporary example from which the ELCA might be able to learn, I will argue the missional church movement is one area that offers the ELCA valuable insights. After a literary review, I will argue that an ecclesiology structured around the identity of being sent is the direction in which ELCA congregations should look to be transformed. This kind of transformation can be learned from Murray Bowen’s concept of self-differentiation. At the heart of this section is the conviction that personal transformation leads to corporate transformation.

Following this exploration of self-differentiation for cultural transformation, I will then apply these insights to ministry practices. I will present three tools that pastors and leaders can use to increase their self-differentiated leadership capacity, grow in understanding of where God has worked in the past and is currently leading, and help make sense of the current cultural situation.

In the conclusion, I will propose an ecclesiology for the future of the ELCA. I will assert that even though organizational transformation is difficult, it is the key to helping congregations breath life back into the ELCA as it seeks to join in the missio dei.

Degree Name

Doctor of Ministry (DMin)

First Advisor

Schmit, Clayton Jr.

Document Type





ELCA, Ecclesiology, Missional


Christian Denominations and Sects | Christianity

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