Date of Award

2-2019

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Ministry (DMin)

Department

Seminary

First Advisor

Diane Zemke, PhD

Second Advisor

Antipas Harris, DMin

Abstract

The 21st century American church sits in the crux of a paradigm shift. The shift is driven by the decline in community and the need to evolve in the manner and methods used to maintain fellowship with believers who are seeking community. The loss of community presents both a challenge and an opportunity. One way in which we, as the church, can expand our connection with one another is through incorporating communities of practice. Communities of practice consist of three main components: domain (shared interest), community, and practice. The conceptual framework of communities of practice can foster community and discipleship within American church communities because it extends into online media.

Online communities of practice can be used to facilitate connection and the practice of meaningful community without the limitations of time and place. Section 1 addresses the problem of declining community faced by American church leaders and the importance of community in the life of the church. Section 2 evaluates the history, the establishment of, and the existing issues with current practices used by the local church (Sunday school, Bible study, and small/home groups) to foster community among members and those on the margins. Section 3 argues for online communities of practice in conjunction with a circle of praxis as a new solution that allows for community to be rediscovered and supports faithful discipleship. In addition, I argue that the theological framework of koinonia and the conceptual framework of online communities of practice collectively are a practical model for rediscovering community in the American church context in the 21st century. Sections 4 and 5 provide information on a web-based resource that will support ministry leaders to establish communities of practice within their church context. Section 6 focuses on areas for further research.

Included in

Christianity Commons

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