This dissertation deals with the transformational nature of narrative as it relates to a case study of my life. The study uses narrative as a way of doing theology that leads to missional transformation of persons, neighborhoods, and cities.
Life history is used in this paper to demonstrate the transforming power of the gospel as it overcomes class, race, and, gender discrimination. The narrative methodology is central to the dissertation because the study does not so much discuss missional transformation through narrative as model it through methodology. The narrative methodology integrates the relationship between process and content, and
unfolds my interactive hermeneutical quest while living, working, and worshipping in the African American community for over twenty-five years. I will summarize the theological framework that has guided me in my quest over the years. I have chosen to look at the evolution of my life and work over the last three decades rather than a single research experience. This choice sacrifices detailed examination of the factors shaping specific research activities for a broader look at the evolution of research concerns and approaches over a substantial period. I am presently more interested in understanding my own development over time and its potential impact on mission in general than I am in analyzing particular events.
The paper is organized historically and takes the reader on a journey of my personal development as a Christian. Chapter Two provides a brief description of early experiences in my life and finding new life in Christ at the age of seventeen. The narrative will describe my life as a Christian and my understanding of God and mission. This section shows my changing missional worldview as I founded three urban ministries in Dallas, Texas. Next, I describe my experiences since starting my doctoral studies at Northwest Graduate School of Ministry, the attempt to organize African American leaders around the issue of reparations, and the founding of a new ministry called Imani Bridges. I will discuss some observations about my own evolution and its more general implications for mission. Using Bosch’s classic work, Transforming Mission, as a framework, I will look at theological and missiological approaches to mission and identify possible deficiencies that have hindered the mission of the Church. Lastly, I will make a recommendation for a possible mission paradigm for the twenty-first
Readers who would like to relate major themes in my work to this history may find a preview helpful. I believe my work has been shaped by five central themes, that have emerged over the years: (1) transformational incarnational Christianity and God’s mission in the world; (2) a holistic concern for the poor and needy; (3) social justice and equality, particularly with respect to improving relations and understanding between unequally powerful groups; (4) an interest in bringing multiple levels of analysis to bear on understanding social dynamics and problems; and (5) a commitment to working at the interfaces among different groups, organizations, and culture.
Four key considerations have significantly influenced my life applications: (1) the Bible as God’s revealed source of truth; (2) the Church or Body of Christ and its role in the world; (3) the context in which I live; and (4) history and tradition. These affect my worldview and provide a basis for an interactive hermeneutical quest as I explain, interpret, and make meaning of my life. In addition to my personal case study, I use interviews, questionnaires, documents, and participant observation to explain social phenomena and build a case for a new mission paradigm.