Title

A roadmap for growing and developing the immigrant church : a case study of the African Christian Community Church of Richmond, Virginia.

Date of Award

5-1-2014

Document Type

Dissertation

School

Drew Theological School

Degree Name

Doctor of Ministry

Abstract

What expresses the faith of a congregation is not numerical data but rather stories that the numbers only grossly approximate. A congregation's story creates a framework through which the church can define its existence and purpose in the world. When a church fails to enact the stories that embody its identity, it eventually develops blurry vision and risks being evaluated by its nascent identity, numerical value, and programs. Dan McAdams puts it simply, "If you want to know me, then you must know my story, for my story defines who I am. And if I want to know myself, to gain insight into the meaning of my life, then I, too, must come to know my own story." Stories have transforming powers and can shape a congregation's identity and vocation. This thesis illustrates how the congregation of the African Christian Community Church (ACCC) of Richmond, Virginia was transformed from a state of confusion over what constitutes church growth and development to a posture of greater clarity by utilizing Mark Branson's Appreciative Inquiry and Congregational Change (AI). AI is a research paradigm that leads a congregation toward changing its conversation through stories and memories that are life-giving. The ACCC is comprised of Liberian immigrants whose lives were devastated by many years of civil war. Members of the congregation have internalized memories of the pain and suffering they incurred during the Liberian Civil War. Despite their negative experiences, members of the church have leaned to celebrate those stories of their lives. They bring vitality and hope. In the words of C. S. Lewis, "God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pain: it is His megaphone to arouse a deaf world."