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The goal of this project was to help Zionsville Presbyterian Church understand the difference between technical and adaptive challenges. As the American church declines, congregations must not simply improve what they are already doing, but examine the way forward to a flourishing future, which depends on knowledge they have not yet acquired. Understanding the adaptive way forward requires shared leadership, an acknowledgement that new, shared learning will have to occur, dealing with loss and developing new hearts and minds. The way forward will be discovered through experimentation, reflection on what has been learned, then continued experimentation and reflection.
To help ZPC with adaptive learning, a pilot group experimented with how to love their literal neighbors. Throughout history, God’s people have been sent into their communities and the world. ZPC must learn anew what this means for them. The experiment was based on propinquity, a sociological term for the direct correlation between where people are physically and the number and depth of their relationships. The pilot group spent two hours a week, for two months, in their front yards to see how this impacted their neighborly relationships.
The pilot group discovered that the culture around them had changed and that the number of neighbors who were outside were fewer than anticipated. They also learned that being present and not actively engaged in anything was seen as odd and made others uncomfortable. However, they met neighbors for the first time, learned what their neighbors were enduring and grew in their understanding of Scripture. Through a second round of experiments, participants opened their homes to neighbors and discovered that this was an impactful way to engage more deeply with their neighbors. The process led to a group of people whose hearts and minds were changed.
Doctor of Ministry
Zionsville Presbyterian Church (ZPC), Christian leadership, Neighborliness, Evangelistic work, MIssions, MIssion of the Church, Practical Theology
Missions and World Christianity | Practical Theology
Material is subject to copyright.
Deck, Jeremy, "Won’t You Be My Neighbor: Cultivating a Church to Discover How to Love Its Literal Neighbor" (2020). Doctor of Ministry Projects. 399.