Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Ministry (DMin)

First Advisor

Michael Reid Trice

Second Advisor

Sharon H. Callahan

Third Advisor

Ruth Fletcher


This project was conceived and executed as a survey of congregational leaders in the Northwest Regional Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), to create a grounded theory related to the connection between ecclesiological beliefs and adaptive change. The study’s findings are based on data collected using a Delphi process that began with a short series of open-ended questions. Participants were asked to identity the nature and mission of the Church and to imagine their congregation in five years. Congregational pastors, elders, and board members provided data which was synthesized into common ecclesiological themes and possibilities for adaptive change. An Audience Review of Findings provided triangulation of the data, additional insights into the data, and recommendations for the application of the study within congregations.

The theological foundation of the study includes the traditional Four Marks of the Church identified in the Nicaean creed: one, holy, catholic and apostolic—as well as the unique ecclesiology of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)—unity, liberty, mission, and resistance. The role of the Spirit in adaptive change provides an additional theological lens for the grounded theory that emerges from the data.

Findings reveal the strength of Disciples’ ecclesiology in meeting adaptive challenges and the need for robust study of both Disciples’ and traditional ecclesiology.

A connection between ecclesiological belief and adaptive change within the congregation emerged from the data, revealing the benefit of internal consensus. Finally, the study recommends three ways to enhance ecclesiological understanding within the congregation: the importance of support for adaptive change, complimentary theories and tools for congregational leaders.