Missio Dei and the Local Church: Case Studies in Pursuit of a Missional Ecclesiology for the Presbyterian Church in America (Pca)

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This study explores the current crisis of the American church in terms of compromise through inappropriate syncretism with aspects of American culture and confusion over the social location of the church in a rapidly changing culture. It argues that the missio Dei provides the key for the church's renewal, enabling it to better understand its nature and live out its calling as a gospel-shaped missionary community sent for the sake of the world. The church's mission entails the integrated holding together of its own internal life as the embodiment of God's kingdom, anticipating the consummation; its calling to proclaim and demonstrate the presence of the kingdom in word and deed to those not yet part of it; and its work toward the renewal of the fallen powers as it seeks to be a redemptive presence in the world. To be true to its nature and faithful to its calling, the church must engage in critical contextualization for an appropriate missionary encounter with its ever-shifting culture.

The heart of the study is an evaluation of the missional praxis of three churches and their leaders on the basis of criteria derived from the missio Dei and contextualization theory using the embedded, multiple case study design advocated by Robert Yin (2009). These case studies offer numerous examples for how principles for a missional ecclesiology can be contextualized in specific local settings, while also illuminating remaining gaps between theory and practice.

The study concludes that a missional ecclesiology will result in a different self-understanding, dynamics, practices, and roles of leaders than is typically practiced in American churches. It offers two sets of recommendations. The first entails suggestions for church planters to help establish appropriate missional praxis for their churches from the very beginning. The second suggests a change process synthesized from John Kotter (1996), Bolman and Deal (2008), and Roxburgh and Romanuk (2006) to help established churches engage in adaptive change to transition to a praxis shaped by a missional ecclesiology.

Mentor: Wilbert R. Shenk

Degree Name

Doctor of Missiology (DMiss)

First Advisor

Shenk, Wilbert R.

Document Type





Presbyterian Church in America, All Souls Church (Missoula, Mont.), Harbor Presbyterian Church, Christianity and culture, Management


Missions and World Christianity


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