A Model for the Growth of the Evangelical Churches in Canada

Doctoral Thesis / Dissertation, 2010

277 Pages


Table of Contents:

Chapter 1: Canadian Evangelical Churches in Decline
1.1 The Problem: The Evangelical Churches in Canada are in Decline
1.2 ResearchMethodology
1.3 Hypothesis: To be tested, developed and critiqued by the Basis Theory, Meta­Theory and Praxis Theory in the next three chapters

Chapter 2: The Lockean Delphi Survey
2.1 Introduction
2.2 The Delphi Method of Research
2.2.1 Introduction: Qualitative Research of a Large and Complex Issue
2.3 Movement from mechanical to holographic images
2.4 The History of the Delphi
2.5 Definition of Delphi
2.6 The Various Types ofDelphi Survey
2.7 The use ofthe Delphi Method in this research paper
2.8 The Church as a Complex Adaptive System
2.9 First Delphi Iteration: The Formative Questionnaire
2.9.1 Vocational Profile
2.9.2 Academic Profile
2.9.3 DenominationalProfile
2.9.4 Age Range Profile
2.9.5 Theological Profile
2.9.6 Length of Current Ministry Profile
2.10 Results of the First Iteration of the Delphi Survey
2.10.1 Question: I believe the Evangelical Church in Canada is facing the following challenges to its health at this time:
2.10.2 Question: The Evangelical Church needs to address the following areas of church life if it hopes to thrive and impact the Canadian population with the Gospel:...
2.10.3 Question: I think that the Canadian Evangelical Church has been affected by the following cultural or macro-environmental trends:
2.10.4 Question: I believe that the type of leadership needed to bring health and growth to Evangelical Churches across Canada is leadership that is characterized by:..
2.10.5 Analysis of the responses to the first iteration of the Delphi
2.11 The Second Iteration ofDelphi
2.11.1 Declining Biblical Literacy:
2.11.2 Individualized Spirituality:
2.11.3 Lack of Strategic Planning:
2.11.4 Lack of Equipped Leaders
2.12 Summary, Synthesis and Analysis of the Responses to the Second Iteration of the Delphi

Chapter 3: Towards a Literature Review
3.1 Introduction: The Literature Review as a Part of the "Interpretive” Process...
3.2 The Structure of this Literature Review
3.2.1 A Review of the Sociology Literature that relates to the current Canadian context with special reference to the Evangelical Church
3.2.2 A Review of Modern Ecclesiological Reflections together with Missional and Emergent Ecclesiological Literature
3.2.3 Literature that Relates Pneumatology and Missional Community
3.2.4 A Review of the Literature that Relates to Christology and North American Culture
3.2.5 A Review of the Literature Concerning Leadership and Church Leadership Styles within North America
3.2.6 A Review of the Literature Concerning Discipleship within the North American Church Context
3.2.7 Spirituality within the Canadian context
3.2.8 A Review of the Literature Concerning Systems Theory

Chapter 4: The Missional Community of God
4.1 Introduction: The Why and How of a Biblical Theological, Normative (Basis Theory), Approach
4.2 Biblical Theology: Definitions and Methodologies
4.2.1 Definitions Mead Childs Alexander, Rosner, Carson & Goldsworthy
4.3 Biblical Theological Methodologies
4.3.1 A BriefOverview
4.3.2 Approaches to Biblical Theology Content Approaches Shape Approaches
4.3.3 The Diachronic and Synchronic Approaches to Biblical Theology The Synchronic Approach to Biblical Theology (Goldsworthy, 2010) The Diachronic Approach to Biblical Theology (Goldsworthy, 2010)
4.4 The Missional Community of God in the Old Testament: A Diachronic Biblical Theology
4.4.1 Genesis: The Origins of the Missional Community Genesis 1-11 and the Creation/Fall/ Blessing Motif Genesis 12-50 God’s Missional Community Emerges Summary of Missional Community within the Genesis Material The Contribution of Genesis to the Diachronic Development of Missional Community
4.4.2 Exodus: The Missional Community forged into a Holy Priesthood The Missional Community as a Holy Priesthood The Contribution of Exodus to the Diachronic Development of Missional Community
4.4.3 Leviticus: Living as a Holy People for the Sake of Mission Leviticus Contribution to the Concept of Missional Community
4.4.4 Numbers: The Missional Community Must Move Forward by Faith The Promises to Abraham and the Book of Numbers Kadesh Barnea and the Internal Threat of Faithlessness to the Missional Community (Numbers 13-14) Balak and Balaam: External Threats to the Missional Community Numbers Contribution to the Concept of Missional Community
4.4.5 Deuteronomy: The Missional Community Called to Loving Obedience, but Destined to Fail! Deuteronomy and the Predicted Failure of the Missional Community The Contribution of Deuteronomy to the Diachronic Development of Missional Community
4.4.6 Post-Pentateuch Diachronic Development ofthe Missional Community
4.4.7 Israel's Effectiveness as Missional Community in the Old Testament The Contribution of the post-Pentateuch Material to the Diachronic Development of Missional Community
4.5 The Missional Community of God in the New Testament: The Culmination of the Diachronic Biblical Theological Approach
4.5.1 The Missional Community in the Gospels The Missional Community in Matthew The Missional Community in the Gospel of Mark The Missional Community in Luke’s Gospel The Missional Community in John’s Gospel
4.5.2 The Missional Community in Acts
4.5.3 The Missional Community in the Pauline Epistles
4.5.4 The Missional Community in Hebrews
4.5.5 The Missional Community in James
4.5.6 The Missional Community in the Catholic Epistles
4.5.7 The Missional Community in the Johanine Epistles
4.5.8 The Missional Community in the Book of Revelation
4.5.9 Concluding Remarks on the Diachronic Biblical Theology of Missional Community

Chapter 5: Towards a Model for the Growth of the Evangelical Church in Canada
5.1 An Explanation of the Model
5.1.1 The Church as Complex Adaptive System Liminality and the Missional Church as a Complex Adaptive System Communitas and the Missional Church as a Complex Adaptive System Emergence and the Canadian Evangelical Church as a Complex Adaptive System.. Mission and the Canadian Evangelical Church as a Complex Adaptive System
5.2 An Application of the Model

Chapter 6: Areas for Further Research
6.1 The Spiritual Landscape of Canada
6.2 Effective Evangelistic Methods and Effective Evangelistic Churches
6.3 Worship Philosophyand Worship Styles
6.4 ThePlaceofSmallGroups
6.5 The Effectiveness of Preaching and the Need for Preaching
6.6 Peacemaking and Peace within the Local Churches
6.7 Governance Models within Canadian Evangelical Churches
6.8 Time Usage and Time Strain within the Modern Canadian Landscape
6.9 Strategic Disciple-making within the Evangelical churches in Canada
6.10 Developing Systems Sensitive Leadership
6.11 Planting Missional Churches within Canada

7.1 The Word "Church”
7.2 The Church in the Gospels
7.3 The Church in the Acts of the Apostles
7.3.1 The Purpose of Evangelism (outreach)
7.3.2 The Three Dimensional Purpose of the Church - The Glory of God through Exaltation (worship), Evangelism (outreach) & Edification (discipleship and biblical teaching)
7.3.3 The Purpose ofExaltation (worship)
7.3.4 The Purpose of Edification (strengthening believers in their faith)
7.4 The Church in the Pauline and General Epistles
7.4.1 The Church is Local and Universal
7.4.2 Metaphors for the Church

Chapter 8: Appendix 2: Full Results from Lockean Delphi Survey
8.1 Firstiteration
8.2 Second iteration

Chapter 9: Appendix 3: Results for Teen Interest in Church in Canada

Chapter 10: Appendix 4 Unchurched Perspectives on Church in Canada

Chapter 11: Appendix 5 Survey of Canadian Church Pastors


Chapter 1: Canadian Evangelical Churches in Decline

1.1 The Problem: The Evangelical Churches in Canada are in Decline

Alain de Botton made the following incisive observation: “In writing a problem down or airing it in conversation we let its essential aspects emerge. And by knowing its character, we remove, if not the problem itself, then its secondary, aggravating characteristics: confusion, displacement, surprise.” (Dunleavy 2003: 1) The most eminent sociology researcher concerning the church in Canada, Reginald Bibby, asserts (Bibby, 2004:32) that the church in Canada is in decline. Since the 1960’s, the evangelical church in Canada has been in decline (Grenville, A. & Posterski, D. 2004). The New York Times (Krauss, 2003) in a front page article, December 2003, highlights the difference between Canada and America by highlighting the fact that 80% of Canadians agree that “you don’t need to go to church in order to be a good Christian” whereas only roughly 50% of Americans would agree with that statement. Even more recent data (Bricker, D. & Wright, J. 2005:80) highlights this concept that Canadian faith has become privatized, and states that whilst 84 % of Canadians believe in God, 81% of Canadians agree that you do not need to go to church to be a good Christian. In the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 16 and verse 18, Jesus declares, “I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it” (Bible 1984). Also, in the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 28 verses 19 and 20 there occurs the Great Commission, in which the risen Christ commands His disciples to go into the entire world and to make disciples from among all the nations (Bible 1984). The implementation and consequent outcome of these verses does not seem to be a visible reality in the 21st century Canadian context. From the preceding material it would appear that the Evangelical church in Canada is in decline. This decline is a problem that warrants careful research with a view to possible models or choices that can assist the Canadian Evangelical church to fulfill the Great Commission of Matthew 28:19-20.[1]

There are many possible reasons for the decline in church attendance in Canada but three key reasons are cited by researchers in the field of Canadian Evangelical Christianity (Grenville, A. & Posterski, D. 2004).

1. After 1960, Canada “became a nation of believers, but not belongers. . . Today, Canadians do not go to church because they don’t think they need to.”
2. Many Canadians see all religions as equally true and good. For this reason, belief has moved from the realm of the exclusivity and necessity of Christianity to a concept of a moral and privatized spirituality.
3. Many Canadians believe that religion is not essential for guidance in their daily life.

In addition to the statistics given above is the telling statement given by Outreach Canada (2001): “Research shows 65% of churches have plateaued in their numerical growth. Churches are faced with many challenges. Canada's social structure has changed, and churches need to adapt to meet the needs of their communities. Many areas of our cities have no evangelical churches and the programs that do exist have not kept pace with the modern world. As a result, a generation of young people has grown up largely without church ties. It is apparent that there is a lack of robust health among Canadian evangelical churches”. Consider, in Table 1:1, the following results of research conducted by Outreach Canada (2001).

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Table 1:1 Outreach Canada Research into the state of the Canadian Evangelical Church

In contrast, to the decline in Evangelical churches in Canada in the period 1961 - 2001 (Statistics Canada) there has been a marked increase in Eastern non-Christian religions. In 1961, Eastern Non-Christian religions comprised 0.1% of the Canadian Population. In 2001, they comprised 5%. For the same period, those claiming to have no religion jumped from 1% to 16% (Outreach Canada, 2001). This increase in non-Christian religions has a two-fold effect. Firstly, it poses a spiritual alternative to those who are seeking (Emberly 2002). Secondly it strengthens the notion of pluralism and many paths to God (Bricker & Wright 2005: 78-86), since many Canadians build close and meaningful relationships with immigrant people and through that process come to see the religious perspectives of those immigrant people as both meaningful and sincere.

The Research Question: “What church model within the context of Canada in the 21st century will bring about the health and missional effectiveness of the Evangelical church in Canada?”

Within the field of Practical Theology there are many different (Lotter 2004: 3-7) research methods that one might utilize in a bid to respond to the research question as cited above. The research methodology that attempts to answer the research question for this thesis is outlined in the section below.

1.2 Research Methodology

This thesis is a practical theological interpretation (Osmer, 2008:5). In order to facilitate an effective Qualitative Practical Theological method of research, the newer model of Osmer, (2009: 7) is employed. The Practical Theological method of Osmer is helpful in a post­modern context because his goal is to assist the researcher in “coming to terms with intellectual pluralism, the reality of multiple and, often, competing paradigms within a single field.” (Osmer, 2010: 2). Osmer reminds us that the challenges confronting Practical Theology today must either be accommodated by existing paradigms or they must elicit new paradigms (Osmer, 2010: 3). This is helpful to the modern Practical Theological researcher who may need to develop new approaches to the research process, and new approaches to praxis as a result of the research, to assure the veracity of the outcomes. One of the “new” approaches within this research paper is the use of a Delphi method in chapter 2. The Delphi method was utilized in this thesis because of the scarcity (Hiemstra, 2010) of extant literature on Church growth or Church decline within the Canadian context. The use of the Delphi method in chapter 2 of this thesis falls in line with part 1 of

Osmers (2010: 3) Model titled: “Descriptive-empirical: What is going on? Gathering information to better understand particular episodes, situations or contexts”.

The research method utilized for this thesis closely approximates the model developed by Osmer (2010: 7) because it assumes that Practical Theology, like other fields today, is highly pluralistic. Osmers hermeneutic is closely followed throughout this thesis as the guiding framework for the research and thus follows the four tasks of Osmer’s (2010: 3; 2008: 4) hermeneutical spiral. This hermeneutical spiral comprises (Osmer, 2010: 3; 2008: 4-175) the following four tasks, each of which is attended to in this thesis, as follows:

1. Descriptive-empirical: What is going on? Gathering information to better understand particular episodes, situations, or contexts. (Chapter 1 of this thesis - “The Decline of the Evangelical Church in Canada.”)
2. Interpretive: Why is this going on? Entering into a dialogue with the social sciences to interpret and explain why certain actions and patterns are taking place. (Chapter 2 of this thesis - “The Delphi Survey,” and chapter 3 of this thesis, “Towards a Literature Review.”)
3. Normative: What ought to be going on? Raising normative questions from the perspectives of theology, ethics and other fields. (Chapter 4 of this thesis - “The Missional Community of God.”)
4. Pragmatic: How might we respond? Forming an action plan and undertaking specific responses that seek to shape the episode, situation, or context in desirable directions. (Chapter 5 of this thesis - “Shaping a Missional Community in a Secular Context” and chapter 6, “Further Areas for Research.”)

These four tasks, that form Osmer’s (2010: 3) hermeneutical spiral, are represented in Diagram 1:1 (Osmer, 2010: 7) on the following page. In this chapter we focus on the second of the four tasks, namely the “Interpretive,” (Osmer 2010: 3) in which we try to answer the question: “Why is this going on?” The practical theological endeavor is strengthened (Lotter, 2004: 4-6) when it progresses through this interpretive phase, because it is able to glean from other researchers and practitioners across a number of disciplines (Osmer, 2008: 79-128) concerning each researcher’s perspective on why certain actions and patterns are taking place. At the outset of this thesis the research direction focused on a church growth paradigm (McGavran & Wagner, 1990), but this direction began to change

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Diagram 1:1 Osmer’s (2010: 7) Hermeneutical Spiral

when the four dynamic tensions (Engle & McIntosh 2004) related to the church growth perspective emerged. These four dynamic tensions serve to alert the reader to the potential pitfalls of the church growth methodology as follows:

Dynamic Tension #1: Is there a distinction between “the growth of the church ” and “church growth?” (Engle et al 2004: 88). This may appear as mere semantics, but the distinction is important. “Church growth”, sees the church as a functional entity that serves a primarily instrumental purpose (McGavran & Wagner, 1990: 31-40). This leads to a focus upon the function described by the noun, “growth”. “This can end up subverting the character of the church by turning it into a malleable tool that is intended primarily to accomplish a particular function.” (Engle et al 2004: 88). The “growth of the church” on the other hand, speaks to the work of the Spirit in creating the church to bear witness to the redemptive reign of God in Christ. (Engle et al 2004:89). The Missio Dei (Bosch 2006) informs this ecclesiology, in which the church exists in the world as a witness to the redemptive power of the Gospel (Guder 1998). If the church focuses on “Church Growth” at the expense of the integration of all of the richness that is the church, into the life of the church, the missional dynamic of God’s Spirit community, the Body of Christ may, by virtue of this truncated focus, be lost (Stetzer & Putman 2006: 30).

Dynamic Tension #2: Is there a dissonance between the pragmatism of “Church Growth” and the “Theology of Church” (Ecclesiology)? Theoreticians and practitioners of church growth seek to under gird their propositions and praxis with biblical theological moorings. Yet, there is a disjuncture that surfaces in the literature on the topic of church growth as stated by Gailyn Van Rheenen in his critique of the growth of the church (“GOC” or Gospel and Our Culture) vs. Church Growth ideals: “The contrast between the two movements is stark. The beginning point for the Church Growth movement is anthropocentric. The focus is on strategy development and cultural analysis, with biblical passages appropriated to give validity to the perspectives. The GOC movement, on the other hand, begins theologically with the perspectives of the mission and kingdom of God.” (Engle et al 2004: 114).

Dynamic Tension #3: Is there dissonance between Church Health and Church Growth? Olson calls the reader to move beyond the concept of church growth (2002: 5). He proposes that churches move from modernity to post-modernity, from church growth and its modernity driven methodologies to post-modernity and an emphasis on health and being (2002: 44). Olson expresses a tension between Church Growth and Church Health (2002: 45). Wes Roberts and Glenn Marshall express this tension between Church Growth and Church Health when they state: "There’s something far more important than the size of your church. You know this. But it bears repeating that it should be the goal of your church - regardless of size - to be an authentic witness for Jesus Christ and the Gospel of his kingdom. Sadly, that goal often gets lost in the frantic push to grow.” (2002: 33). The literature review, later in this proposal, will further highlight this tension with an overview of the distinctly “Church Health” and distinctly “Church Growth” materials.

Dynamic Tension #4: Are Church Growth proponents weighted towards praxis, whilst Church Growth detractors are weighted towards theological reflection? Gailyn Van Rheenen presents this tension in his presentation of a Reformist view of Church Growth (Engle et al 2004: 169). A sound model of the growth of the church will incorporate a plethora of multi-faceted disciplines, strengthened by their complementarity and mutual critique. This dynamic tension highlights the need to incorporate the elements of praxis and theology to derive a sound model of the growth of the Church. The elements of praxis (church growth) emerge from Sociology and Anthropology built on a solid theological foundation. The elements of theological reflection on the growth of the church find expression through Systematic Theology and inductive Biblical study. This particular dynamic tension, praxis vs. theory, permeates all of Practical Theology (Heitink 1999:148) and is a key part of a sound research methodology in Practical Theology. These four dynamic tensions form the backdrop to the research question of this thesis, formulated as follows:

1.3 Hypothesis: To be tested, developed and critiqued in the next three chapters

At this point it seems prudent to introduce a hypothesis that will align the research process in the following pages. This hypothesis is based upon the preceding material presented in this chapter and will be further developed and critiqued in the following chapters. This hypothesis serves as a guide for the research process and is an “educated hypothesis” based upon the research undertaken to formulate chapter 1 namely:

1. On-line surveys of three (Appendix 3, 4, & 5) distinct groups of Canadians namely:
a. The “un-churched”,
b. Teenagers and,
c. Evangelical pastors.
2. A review of the current (2000 - 2009) literature on Church growth, Church health and Missional Church.
3. A review of the statistical evidence that the church in Canada is in decline. Hypothesis: The Evangelical church in Canada is in decline because it has lost sight of the missional, pilgrim nature of the church and instead of calling people to discipleship (followership) of the resurrected Christ it may have inadvertently become a chaplain to a society at odds with the claims of the risen Christ. In replacing the missional nature of the church with a chaplaincy role the church may have inadvertently sacrificed the missional focus given by the Risen Christ for a focus driven by a Western Canadian society that does not grasp that their greatest need is for a redemptive relationship with the Risen Christ through His Word, His People and His Spirit.

Explanation: This hypothesis is built upon the thesis of modern missional writers (Frost 2007; Hirsch 2006; Stetzer & Putman 2006; Stetzer 2006; Johnson 1995; Hedlund 1991) that the church is missional in nature - that is, that the church has been sent into the world by the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. This missional nature of the church is tested and developed in chapter 4, when we review the biblical material on the nature and purpose of the church. This “missional nature” of the church concept will also be discussed and contextualized in chapter 2, with the submissions from the panel of Canadian experts who complete the Delphi survey on the growth and health of the church. This hypothesis also presumes that the church has moved from a pilgrim people in the world, to a chaplaincy role of the world. In this chaplaincy role the living organism of “church” becomes confused with the static institution of Christendom (Frost 2007: 4) and thus a modified Constantinianism (Latourette 2003: 91-93) has become the undoing of the vibrancy, health and effectiveness of the Canadian Evangelical church. As Guder, (1998: 77-78) points out, the chaplaincy role of the church in the Christendom era meant that the churches saw themselves in a privileged relationship to society and as offering service to that society as needed. The chaplaincy metaphor portrays the church as available to society to provide services to that society whenever members of society might request one or more of the services that the churches had to offer. In contrast (Guder, 1998: 110-112) the missional church sees itself, not as providing services, but as sent by God to call people into redemptive relationship with God and then with His people. Littel (2007: xviii) presents the same contrast of the chaplaincy versus the missional role of the Evangelical church in America. In spite of the differences and similarities between the USA and Canada, it seems that a return to the missional nature of the church will bring the health and growth of the Evangelical church in both of those countries. A paradigm shift that will need to occur in the life of Canadian (and we posit USA) Evangelicalism is an understanding that they will not have influence through political and social pressure, but rather the influence of Evangelicalism will return to pre- Constantinian (New Testament) modes of discipleship (Hull 2004; 2003; 2002) and pilgrimage. Health and growth will thus need to be measured not in terms of Social influence, church size or church budget, but in terms of effective discipleship (Frost 2007: 125-129) as manifested in transformed (Romans 12:1-3), Christ-like (Anyabwile 2008: 89) living. For churches to regain health, and with this health, to regain missional effectiveness - they will need to relinquish the role of chaplain to the world and instead become salt and light to the world through real and authentic discipleship and incarnational living. The concept of a missional church, and the health of the missional church, is developed more fully in the following chapters. For the sake of this chapter - we have established the current malaise facing the Evangelical Church in Canada and, based upon the research to date, we have presented a hypothesis of how this malaise might be addressed within the Evangelical Church of Canada to move towards health and effectiveness.

In an attempt to engage the research question above and the resultant hypothesis, a sequence of four developmentally integrated chapters emerges as follows:

Chapter 1. This first chapter outlining the decline of the Evangelical Church in Canada and an hypothesis concerning how the Evangelical church in Canada might move to a missional focus in a bid to address this decline. The research method utilizing Osmer’s (2010, 2008) hermeneutical spiral is also detailed for the reader.

Chapter 2 & Chapter 3. These two chapters, through the use (Osmer, 2008: 79-128) of the thoughtfulness (Osmer, 2008: 82-83) of current practitioners reflected in their responses to the Delphi survey, and theoretical interpretation (Osmer, 2008: 83-84) reflected in the literature review seek to understand why the Evangelical Church in Canada is in decline. In chapter 2, through use of the Delphi (Skulmoski, Hartman & Krahn 2007; Linstone & Turoff 2002) method of research, further data is collected and collated. In the Delphi method of research a panel of experts is surveyed in a series of iterative syntheses. Each expert anonymously submits their responses to the survey and these responses are collated and the results are sent out anonymously to the experts with a view to a second survey built upon their first responses. The second survey allows the expert respondents to modify their first submissions based upon the material that comes to light from the responses of the other experts. Two or three iterations should prove sufficient to surface data that is indicative of where the experts feel the Evangelical Church within Canada should position itself for effectiveness, health and consequent growth, and their perceptions of why the Evangelical church is currently in decline. This Meta-theoretical research of the second and third chapters serves as a backdrop to the fourth chapter in which the diachronic, biblical theological research (Osmer, 2008:4) seeks to determine “good practice”. Chapter 4 seeks to answer (Osmer, 2010: 3) the question, “What ought to be going on?”

Chapter 4. In chapter 4, this “normative” or “Basis Theory” will serve as a correlative and critique to chapters 2 & 3 of this thesis, as well as informing the model that is forged in chapter 5 of this thesis. Osmer (2008: 4) describes this “Basis Theory” phase as:

“Using theological concepts to interpret particular episodes, situation or contexts, constructing ethical norms to guide our responses and learning from “good practice.”

The goal of chapter 4 is that through the use of a Biblical Theological methodology (Mead, 2007: 121-167), a theological concept of a missional (Hirsch, 2007: 284-285) community will emerge. That is to say, how does God express and accomplish His mission through a redemptive community such as His chosen people, Israel (Kaiser, 2009: 84-97) or His Church (Kaiser, 2008: 343-366; Martens, 2007: 224)? Chapter 4, utilizing a Biblical Theological methodology (Mead, 2007: 121-167), develops the normative material concerning missional (Hirsch, 2007: 284-285) community, the people of God on mission for God (Hafemann & House, 2007: 20-21). The term missional refers (Hirsch, 2007: 284) to a community “whose primary commitment is to the missionary calling of the people of God”. There are many (Mead, 2007: 124) different Biblical Theological methodologies. The variety in approaches to Biblical Theology arises, as Mead (2007: 123) points out, because: “we enter into conversation with the text from different perspectives”. Will the basis theoretical material point us to a renewed focus on God’s purposes for the church in the world, and particularly in the post-modern (Kysar & Webb 2006; Wells 2005; Stetzer 2003; Dockery 1998), multi-cultural Canadian context?

Chapter 5 attempts to present a model, the “praxis” that might best serve the Canadian Evangelical churches to strengthen their capacity to grow, and to have a missional focus in 21st century Canada. The Praxis-theoretical material that emerges from chapters 2, 3, & 4 is coalesced to “determine strategies of action that will influence situations in ways that are desirable and entering into a reflective conversation with the ‘talk back’ emerging when they are enacted.” (Osmer, 2008: 4). Time prohibits the field-testing of the model that is presented in Chapter 5. However, such testing could occur as part of a post-doctoral research project.

Chapter 6. The final chapter of this thesis incorporates areas for further research that have emerged through the development of this thesis. There are certain to be a number of areas that warrant much deeper analysis and more thorough investigation, but due to their size and nature, fall outside of the scope of this thesis.

Chapter 2: The Lockean Delphi Survey

2.1 Introduction

The Literature survey of chapter 3 outlined the sparseness of current (1998-2009) Canadian literature on the Growth of the Evangelical church in Canada. In an attempt to offset this deficit in the literature, a Delphi Survey was designed and deployed amongst Canadian church ministry experts, as defined (Skumolski, Hartman & Krahn 2007: 4) by the Delphi criteria. The purpose of this Delphi survey was to garner current Canadian practitioners perspectives on the state of the Evangelical Church in Canada. The Delphi Method, itself, is explained in more detail in the next section. The goal of this chapter is to lead the reader through the iterative stages of the Delphi process in which “experts” are surveyed in a series of refined iterations with regard to what they each perceive to be the reasons for the decline of the Evangelical church in Canada.

2.2 The Delphi Method of Research

2.2.1 Introduction: Qualitative Research of a Large and Complex Issue

Why is the Evangelical Church in Canada in decline? To answer this question, one cannot simply look for linear causation (Lincoln & Guba 1985: 54) since the Canadian Evangelical Church is a complex organism comprised of many smaller, complex organisms known as “local churches”. To create even further complexity each local church organism is in turn comprised of a network of believers and adherents, each with their own needs, perspectives, struggles and complex set of realities that affect the local church of which they form a part. Two important aspects of complex adaptive systems, and complexity theory, emerge (Lucas, 2006) for the post-Christendom - post-modern church of the 21st century. First, linear prediction has given way to a non-linear world and this means we cannot control the environment in such a way that we will produce expected outcomes. Second, in a complex adaptive system, “Diverse and integrated approaches to the problem are crucial. In many cases single approaches to the problem may lead to counter-productive results.” (Heghazi et al, 2009). The linear approaches/solutions (Kaizer, 2006; Borden, 2003) of modernist Christianity or Christendom do not take into account the complexity (Senge, 2006: 68-91) of both the church as an organism and the environment in which the church now finds itself. This ties in well with the methodological framework laid out in Chapter 1 and Osmer’s (2010: 3) concept of “Descriptive-empirical: What is going on? Gathering information to better understand particular episodes, situations, or contexts.” With an awareness of this complexity the research process employs a Qualitative study that probes the mechanisms of mutual causality (Lincoln & Guba, 1985: 54). Also, due to the potential interconnectedness of macro environmental factors that are exerting pressure on the Canadian Evangelical Church, it may be helpful to approach the research process with a holographic image (Lincoln & Guba, 1985: 52) concept rather than seeking a mechanical image concept. The holographic image conception of the research process is particularly germane to the Delphi method and so it is explained in more detail in the next section.

2.3 Movement from mechanical to holographic images

This notion, first propounded by Swartz & Ogilvie, and developed and expanded by Lincoln and Guba (1985: 52-53), and used more recently by Oden (2006b, 283) to describe the nature of the body of Christ, the catholic church, is extremely helpful when attempting to understand an expansive concept (the Evangelical Church in Canada) that is also by nature highly complex. The core tenet (Oden, 2006b: 283; Lincoln & Guba, 1985: 53) of this aspect of Naturalistic Inquiry is that it supports the concept of an iterative survey of experts to gain a perspective piece of the whole - since one can never hope to review the expansive whole which is almost infinite in its complexity of contributing and mutually affecting factors and outcomes. In regard to the challenge of researching such complexity within the Practical Theological field Osmer states:

“Moreover, the expansion of global telecommunication, migration, law, and capitalism have eroded local traditions, evoked fundamentalist reactions, and made encounters with cultural “others” a part of our everyday life. If reflective practice in the context of modernity could still assume fading Christendom, it can no longer do so today. Church leaders cannot even assume that a program working well in one congregation will work in a similar congregation in another part of their own country. Indeed, they cannot even assume that a program that is appealing to middle-aged and older adults will appeal to youth and young adults who belong to the same congregation . . . If reflective practice was important in the context of modernity, it has become doubly so in a post-Christendom, postmodern, globalizing world. In this context, the practical theological paradigm of reflective practice has a great deal of plausibility”.

This extended quote reinforces the need to understand in a broad sweep sort of fashion what is perceived to be going on within the Canadian Evangelical context. No one church or even group of churches can be singled out since in the current milieu of post-modern, post-positivist complexity, a large sampling is needed with a view to some macro-trends that emerge that may have broader applicability to the Canadian Evangelical Church as a monolith and by extension to the Canadian Evangelical churches that form a part of that monolith.

For this reason a holographic (Oden, 2006b: 283) rather than a mechanical image approach is immensely helpful (Lincoln & Guba, 1985: 53) because:

“It turns out that holographs have an unusual property. If a normal recording or a normal film were damaged in some way-for instance, through the loss of some portion of the whole-then that same portion of the whole would be lost. But holographs have the property that, even if large portions of the recorded interference patterns are lost, the remaining pieces, no matter how tiny, will all have complete information and will be able to reproduce the original image in its entirety (and in three dimensions!). Every piece of a system has complete information about the whole, . . .”

This concept of the power of holography to contain all the aspects of the whole in a small piece is a powerful metaphor that is extremely helpful in framing the research process as it relates to the Delphi method of inquiry. This is true, because as explained in more detail below, the Delphi method surveys experts in a series of iterative refinements to obtain consensus on a complex issue under review, a holographic snapshot as it were of the larger, more complex whole. It seems that, year’s later, with greater research and further scientific development of holographic technology, this holographic metaphor very plausible (Bowen, 2009; Jain & Sharma, 2005). In essence, since we are not able to gain a true reading on the causes for the decline of the Evangelical church from a merely quantitative study (statistics do not speak to causation - only actuation), and the mutual causations are varied, widespread and complex, we need a different research method and research model. Models that can take a snapshot of the whole and through that snapshot portray the whole. This is, in essence, the holographic metaphor as expressed in the Delphi method of research. The Delphi takes a snapshot through an analysis and synthesis of a cycle of iterative questionnaires that build consensus and move the experts to a common conclusion. This movement is neither contrived, nor forced, but is a natural outflow of the impact of the anonymous responses of one expert upon another until there is a nub of consensus, or data satisfaction. The Delphi does not render quantitative facts about the topic under research. The Delphi does render the combined submissions or perspectives of the experts who are interacting with the topic of research in meaningful and substantive ways and thus have a grasp or sense of the topic that is both helpful and enlightening. To further clarify the Delphi research method employed in this thesis the following section details the history of the Delphi, the ways in which Delphi can and has been used and how it is used in this particular thesis.

2.4 The History of the Delphi

The foundation of the temple at Delphi and its oracle took place before recorded history. For a thousand years of recorded history the Greeks and other peoples, sometimes as private individuals sometimes as ambassadors, came to Delphi to consult the prophetess, who was called Pythia. Her words were taken to reveal the rules of the Gods. (Cuhls, 2009). It was not until the Rand military study that the term Delphi was coined by Norman Dalkey (cf. Skumolski, Hartman & Krahn 2007: 2; Linstone & Turoff 2002: 10). Please note figure 4:1 The Genealogical tree of Delphi (Cuhls, 2009). The original Delphi method was developed in the 1950’s by the Rand Corporation’s Norman Dalkey (Skumolski, Hartman & Krahn 2007: 2; Linstone & Turoff 2002: 10). As Skumolski, Hartman and Krahn (2007: 2) point out, the goal of the original Delphi project was:

“...to solicit expert opinion to the selection, from the point of view of a Soviet strategic planner, of an optimal U.S. industrial target system and to the estimation of the number of A-bombs required to reduce the munitions output by a prescribed amount,”.

Put more simply, (Linstone & Turoff 2002: 10) the goal or objective of the original study was “to obtain the most reliable consensus of opinion of a group of experts . by a series of intensive questionnaires interspersed with controlled opinion feedback”. This first Delphi was undertaken because there were many subjective elements involved in the research process, the cost of any alternative form of research would have been to expansive and expensive and there was no extant accurate information or data concerning the topic under research (Linstone & Turoff 2002: 10). After this initial defense application of the Delphi technique a philosophical paper on the Lockean type Delphi created impetus for a number of individuals to begin experimentation with Delphi in non-defense areas (Linstone & Turoff 2002: 11).

illustration not visible in this excerpt

Figure 2-1 Genealogical tree of Delphi

Concerning the expansion of Delphi, Cuhls, (2009) states:

Shortly after the Rand study of the 1950’s and further individual studies through the 1960’s, the development and broader application of the Delphi method was taken over by Japan. Although the first large Delphi study in Japan did not correctly describe the oil price shock and was conducted and published just before that happened, the Japanese Delphi process continues every five years. It is regarded as an update of data concerning the future. With the resurrection of foresight in general and the possibilities to filter all these ‘options’ of different actors, the Delphi technique was taken out of the toolbox and implemented in Europe in a different manner than in the early years. In the new wave of large-scale government foresight in Europe, Dutch and German government agencies and similar bodies were among the first, with France and the United Kingdom joining in quickly.

2.5 Definition of Delphi

There are a number of definitions that pertain to the Delphi method. Each definition suggests a different insight into the Delphi method and so, rather than simply rendering one definition, a few are given. Linstone and Turoff (2002: 3) define Delphi as “a method for structuring a group communication process so that the process is effective in allowing a group of individuals, as a whole, to deal with a complex problem.” Delphi certainly seems to be a helpful tool of choice in dealing with complexity (cf. the notes on the History of Delphi in the previous section in which Delphi is used by national governments for futuristic forecasting - this type of forecasting on a national and international level certainly qualifies as complexity!) Skumolski, Hartman & Krahn (2007: 1) define the Delphi method as “an iterative process to collect and distill the anonymous judgments of experts using a series of data collection and analysis techniques interspersed with feedback.” They further go on to clarify the strength and focus of the Delphi method as a research process that “is well suited ... when there is incomplete knowledge about a problem or phenomenon; however it is not a method for all types of IS research questions”. Much in line with the previous two definitions but expanding further upon them is the definition rendered by Hsu and Sandford (2007: 1):

“The Delphi technique is a widely used and accepted method for gathering data from respondents within their domain of expertise. The technique is designed as a group communication process which aims to achieve a convergence of opinion on a real- world issue.”

These are each fine and helpful definitions, Hsu and Sandford’s is possibly the simplest way of defining Delphi as a research tool. I personally prefer Skumolski, Hartman & Krahn’s (2007: 1) definition because that definition highlights the strength of Delphi for the collection of data “when there is incomplete knowledge about a problem or phenomenon,” such as exists with the complex issue of the decline of Evangelical churches in Canada. It seems that the reasons for the decline of the Evangelical churches are not altogether clear, and as yet, not well researched. Skulmoski, Hartman and Krahn’s definition support the use of the Delphi survey within the current Canadian context since the experts who complete the Delphi survey will be grappling with the reasons for the decline and the possible ways forward out of the decline, until there is convergence of opinion.

2.6 The Various Types of Delphi Survey

There are five (Linston & Turoff, 2002: 18-34) different types of Delphi methodologies. Each different type of Delphi method encompasses a different philosophical mode or system. The five different Delphi methodologies’ or Inquiring System’s are listed below together with the characteristic question each of these Inquiring Systems would ask to accept the research propositions as valid or true:

1. The Leibnizian: “How can one independently of any empirical or personal considerations give a purely rational justification of the proposed proposition or assertion? Can one build or demonstrate a rational model which underlies the proposition or assertion? How was the result deduced; is it precise, certain”
2. The Lockean: “Since for me data are always prior to the development of formal theory, how can one independently of any formal model justify the assertion by means of some objective data or the consensus of some group of expert judges that bears on the subject mater of the assertions? What are the supporting “statistics”? What is the ‘probability’ that one is right? Are the assertions a good ‘estimate’ of the true empirical state of affairs?”
3. The Kantian: “Since data and theory (models) always exist side by side, does there exist some combination of data or expert judgment plus underlying theoretical justification for the data that would justify the propositions? What alternative sets of propositions exist and which best satisfy my objectives and offer the strongest combination of data plus model?”
4. The Hegelian (Dialectical): “Since every set ofpropositions is a reflection of a more general theory or plan about the nature of the world as a whole system, i.e., a world-view, does there exists some sharply differing world-view that would permit the serious consideration of a completely opposite set of propositions? Why is the opposing view not true or more desirable? Further, does this conflict between the plan and the counterplan allow a third plan or world-view to emerge that is a creative synthesis of the original plan and counterplan?
5. The Singerian: “Have we taken a broad enough perspective of the basic problem? Have we from the very beginning asked the right question? Have we focused on the right objectives? To what extent are the questions and model of each inquirer a reflection of the unique personality of each inquirer as much as they are felt to be a ‘natural’ characteristic or property of the ‘real’ world?”

The Delphi methodology that is used in this thesis is the Lockean Inquiring System (Linstone & Turoff, 2002: 20-22). The Lockean Inquiring System, as described below by Linstone and Turoff, is chosen because it presents the following core components that contribute to researching the complex question of the decline of the Evangelical Church in Canada and possible models to address this decline:

i. Truth is experiential, i.e. the truth content of a system (or communication) is associated entirely with its empirical content. A model of a system is an empirical model and the truth of the model is measured in terms of our ability (a) to reduce every complex proposition down to its simple empirical referents (i.e., simple observations) and (b) to ensure the validity of each of the simple referents by means of the widespread, freely obtained agreement between different human observers.

ii. A corollary to (i) is that the truth of the model does not rest upon any theoretical considerations, i.e., upon the prior assumption of any theory (this is the equivalent of Locke’s tabula rasa). The only general propositions, which are accepted, are those that can be justified through “direct observation” or have already been so justified previously through direct observation.

“In brief, Lockean IS (Inquiring Systems) are the epitome of experimental, consensual systems. On any problem they will build an empirical, inductive representation of it. They start from a set of elementary empirical judgements (“raw data,” observations, sensations) and from these build up a network of ever expanding, increasingly more general networks of factual propositions. A typical Lockean point of view is the assertion that one doesn’t need any theory in order to collect data first, only to analyze it subsequently.” (Linstone & Turoff, 2002: 20).

The Lockean IS (Inquiring System) presented the best Delphi method for this research project because of the sparseness of the extant literature on the growth or the decline of Evangelical churches in Canada. The questions, especially in the first iteration, were developed somewhat from a tabula rasa approach. That is why the reader will observe such questions as: “I believe the Evangelical church in Canada is facing the following challenges to its health at this time”; or “I believe that the Evangelical church in Canada would grow in size and/or effectiveness if . . . ”; and again “The Evangelical Church needs to address the following areas of church life if it hopes to thrive and impact the Canadian population with the Gospel.” These questions are indicative of the tabula rasa Lockean approach in which there is no pre-disposing theory either assumed or presented, rather, it is hoped that the data will develop the theory as the data is analyzed and synthesized into a second and third iteration. This Lockean approach for this particular research thesis has the strength of its “ability to sweep in rich sources of experiential data. In general, the sources are so rich that they literally overwhelm the current analytical capabilities of most Leibnizian (analytical) systems. The weaknesses, on the other hand, are those that beset all empirical systems. While experience is undoubtedly rich, it can also be extremely fallible and misleading.” (Linstone & Turoff, 2002: 22).

The weakness of learning from experience is well documented when it comes to systems theory (Senge, 1990: 23). The Delphi asks experts to relay their perceptions of the factors that have led to, or are currently, contributing to the decline of the Evangelical church. This could be seen as “pooled ignorance” because though immersed in the task every day and reflecting on the task both intuitively and academically, the experts are answering from the basis of their own experience or perception. At best this potential weakness can be overcome by pooling the opinions of the experts into a synthesis of commonly expressed contributory factors. If each of the experts is expressing the same answers concerning what they perceive to be the cause of the problem, then at very least we have a measure of causation - whether real or perceived. The key then lies in the capacity to reflect on and attempt to analyze the responses given - always with a systems perspective rather than a mere symptomatic perspective. As an example, one of the key concerns that has emerged in the initial survey is that of the perceived “lack” of expository preaching. One of the respondents challenged this perception as a catch all - since the respondent asserted that he in fact is preaching expositorily as are many other practitioners that he personally knows. The problem is not with the perception, or with the data - how would one survey the hundreds of thousands of Christians across Canada to determine if their particular minister is in fact preaching expository sermons, or if they even perceive the sermons to be expository? Perhaps the challenge is not in the perception or even in the accuracy of the perception - but the subtle systemic equation that underlies the perception inter alia: “We see a high level of carnality and apathy within the Canadian Evangelical churches together with a very low biblical literacy, this must be a result of a lack of expository preaching!” But is a lack of expository preaching necessarily the cause of apathy and biblical illiteracy? There are so many more factors that impact a congregant throughout the week to pressurize that individual to experience a low biblical literacy and an apathy in their own spiritual disciplines and walk with the Lord as some examples. Expository preaching is never done in a vacuum and it would seem that there are many diverse factors that contribute to the sanctification and growth of a Christian. This is where Figure 2-2, in a later section below, is helpful in graphically representing the interplay of factors that impact the life of a Christian in 21st century Canada. This brief detour illustrates some of the challenges of working with a Lockean Delphi, but even with this awareness, it is still a very helpful research tool in examining the factors that contribute to the decline of the Evangelical churches in Canada and possible models to address this decline. The balance to these possible weaknesses is the Basis Theory or normative (biblical) material of chapter 4, and the literature survey of chapter 3. When all of these elements are combined a hermeneutic can be developed to present a possible alternative praxis (Osmer, 2010: 3).

2.7 The use of the Delphi Method in this research paper

In line with the three definitions rendered in the previous section, the Delphi method is used in this thesis as a tool for gathering data from experts in the field of Evangelical church ministry in Canada. A series of on-line surveys were constructed in an iteratively developmental process whereby each successive survey distills and builds upon the previous survey. The surveys can be viewed in their entirety in Appendix 4. The synthesis of each progressive survey is rendered in the sections below. The selection of “experts” followed the criteria for experts suggested in: “The Delphi Method for Graduate Research” (Skumolski, Hartman & Krahn, 2007: 4) as follows: i.) knowledge and experience with the issues under investigation; ii) capacity and willingness to participate; iii) sufficient time to participate on the Delphi; and iv) effective communication skills. With these four criteria in mind an initial survey was developed and then sent out to Senior or Lead pastors in churches with an attendance of 100 people or more. To have a church of 100 people or more would imply that the lead pastor has some knowledge of the Evangelical church in Canada, and probably has a modicum of good communication skills - which certainly proved to be the case, as the reader will observe in Appendix 4.

The decline of the Evangelical Church in Canada may incorporate many intersecting factors, especially since the church itself is both a living organism and an organized system. As a living organism it is affected by its macro-context and its internal functions - a change to either can readily spell decline and disintegration or health and flourishing. This also means that one cannot ascribe any single causation to either the decline or the health and growth of an organism, like the Evangelical churches in Canada. In a bid to inquire into the nature of the various mutual causes for decline, the Delphi method, a form of Naturalistic Inquiry (Lincoln & Guba 1985: 14-46) is employed, since it enables the researcher to engage at a holographic level - since anything larger may be impossible to render, and is certainly beyond the scope of this thesis. Delphi is best suited to researching, at a Meta-theoretical level, the causation of decline and possible remediation for the Canadian Evangelical Church because it is “a method for structuring a group communication process so that the process is effective in allowing a group of individuals, as a whole, to deal with a complex problem.” (Linstone and Turoff, 2002: 3).

In the case of the Evangelical Church in Canada the complexity intersects at many levels. There is the complexity that arises from the Evangelical Church’s very nature as an organism (Minear, 2004: 173-220). As an organism, there are many external and internal factors that act upon the church. Those factors acting upon the church are in turn shaped or impacted by the church as a respondent, non-static, agent. This notion of the church as an organism, as a living system affects any perception of linear causality versus mutual causality (Oden, 2006a: 283; Lincoln & Guba, 1985: 54). In looking at the decline of the Evangelical Church in Canada the researcher may need to remain alert to the external (macro-environmental / societal) factors, the internal (people dynamic) factors and the interrelated concept of mutual (macro and internal) interaction. This conception of mutual interaction and mutual causation or shaping is a foundational premise of Bibby’s book, “Restless Churches” (2004). Whilst Bibby may not conceive of it as such - he has picked up on the mutual intersection of the change in society and the impact of this change (macro) on the church. Bibby is also acutely aware that the changes the macro-context (change in society) has wrought on the church is, in fact, part of the reason the church now interacts negatively with society and is thus losing ground (Bibby, 2004: 85-119). It is very helpful, when thinking through the concept of mutual causation and complexity, to engage some of the literature that defines, describes and distills the notion of complexity (Gell­Mann, 1994) - especially as complexity relates to mutual causation and complex organisms, complex adaptive systems (Gribbin, 2004: 110-144). This means that the Evangelical Church in Canada undergoes many complex aspects of mutual causation. This mutual causation process is diagramed in Figure 2.2: “The Evangelical Church as a Complex Adaptive System.”

Figure 2-2 Canadian Ev. Church as a Complex Adaptive System

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2.8 The Church as a Complex Adaptive System

It is germane at this juncture to expand on the notion of the local church as a complex adaptive system. The conception of the church as a complex adaptive system lies at the hear of the model proposed in Chapter 5 of this thesis since it is a way of viewing the Evangelical Church as comprised of many [1 Corinthians 12 and Ephesians 4:17] different and distinctive but interacting elements. As Chan [2001: 1] points out: "Complexity results from the inter-relationship, inter-action and inter-connectivity of elements within a system and between a system and its environment." If one thinks of the Christian Church in the world today, there are many different churches that comprise this global entity of the church. These churches each in turn exist in particular contexts with particular cultural variations that impact how each particular church views itself and in turn structures itself and then relates to the world and to other churches from within that structure. Within each church there is the further complexity of families and individuals, each with their own worldview and with their own particular spiritual gift or gifts. The result is that there is a complex pattern (Gell-Mann, 1994: 30) of communication and mutual interaction between the various components of the system or living organism known as the "church." In its fullest sense the church is "the community of all true believers for all time." (Grudem, 2000: 853). Grudem (2000: 855-856) argues that there is an invisible aspect to the church and a visible aspect. Grudem (2000: 856) defines the visible church in this way:

The visible church is the church as Christians on earth see it. In this sense the visible church includes all who profess faith in Christ and give evidence of that faith in their lives.

The visible church as defined by Grudem (2000: 853-858) is, by its very nature, a complex system because it comprises many different people who profess faith in Christ. Another way of understanding the visible-invisible distinction of the church is Grudem's (2000: 857) definition of the church as "Local and Universal." Grudem gives a clear definition of the Local church and the Universal church when he states:

In the New Testament the word "church" may be applied to a group of believers at any level, ranging from a very small meeting in a private home all the way to the group of all true believers in the universal church.

This definition of the local and universal church enhances our understanding of the church as a complex adaptive system, in that within a complex adaptive system apparently complex behaviors emerge "as a result of often nonlinear spatio-temporal interactions among the larger number of component systems at different levels of organization." (Chan, 2001: 1). This notion of the church as a complex adaptive system is extremely helpful when reflecting on the decline of the Evangelical church in Canada for two reasons. Firstly, according to Grudems definition of the local and universal church, the church of the Lord Jesus is much larger than the church in any single country or context. This means that even if the church in Canada declines, or even ceases to exist, the promise of the Lord Jesus in Matthew 16:17-20 still holds true. The one aspect that is hard to measure is the degree to which the interrelatedness of the components of the system will impact the global church. Health in one part of the system impacts the rest of the system, so too does un-health? At a more micro-cosmic level, each member of a local church impacts every other member of a local church in a positive or negative way, this is the nature (Chan, 2001: 1) of a complex system. According to many passages in the New Testament, such as Ephesians 4:15-16, 1 Corinthians 12, Philippians 1, the church is a complex adaptive system comprised of many distinctive elements that are interconnected and have mutual "non-linear spatio-temporal interactions." (Chan, 2001: 1). So then, as Chan (2001: 1) points out: "Complexity results from the inter-relationship, inter-action and inter-connectivity of elements within a system and between a system and its environment." The internal and external dynamics and the inter-action and inter­connectivity of these dynamics within the Canadian Evangelical church and between the Canadian Evangelical churches and their environment is well reflected in the responses to the Delphi survey that follows. It is extremely helpful to understand that the Evangelical church may be in decline because of systemic inter-relationships, both internally and with the world, externally. The tension of the impact of these inter-relationships is clearly expressed in the responses of the Delphi experts, to which we turn our attention in the sections following.

2.9 First Delphi Iteration: The Formative Questionnaire

The first questionnaire was developed to build a profile of the “experts” who would be responding and to set a baseline for the data being gathered. Since Delphi respondents do so anonymously, it is helpful to know somewhat of their background both in terms of experience in the field under review and in terms of their level of formal research into the field under review. To fulfill the requirements of a Delphi survey, all responses were submitted in an anonymous framework. That is to say, whilst the respondents are known, what is not known is which of the 8 response sets submitted actually belongs to a particular respondent. The strength of this particular Delphi is that the respondents all came from diverse age, educational, theological and denominational backgrounds. However, all have a common interest in and commitment to the Evangelical church in Canada, though diverse in background as outlined below:

2.9.1 Vocational Profile

The diversity of the respondents as reflected in their respective vocations, ages and levels of education enhanced the Delphi survey. Three of the eight respondents serve as the lead or senior pastor in their local church. Three of the eight respondents serve as a denominational leader (regional director, president) of their particular Evangelical denomination. Another three respondents shared that they each serve as an academic involved in research related to the Evangelical Church in Canada. There is an anomaly in the tally of responses since there are nine vocations listed but only eight respondents. From this anomaly we may infer that one of the respondents holds two vocational positions, i.e. lead pastor and academic, or lead pastor and denominational leader.

2.9.2 Academic Profile

The respondents to the Delphi survey were as diverse academically as they were vocationally. For instance, one of the respondents holds a non-theological Doctoral degree whilst four of the respondents hold a Masters degree in a theological discipline. Two of the respondents hold non-theological undergraduate degrees whilst three of the respondents hold undergraduate theological degrees. One respondent holds a high school certificate. Again the data presents a somewhat anomalous picture in that there are eleven educational levels represented by eight respondents. To resolve this anomaly it may be helpful to consider that of the five undergraduate degrees four of those went on to further study at a Masters level and one respondent pursued non-theological study at a doctoral level. The table below may help to clarify this anomaly further as one possible permutation of the academic profile of the respondents:

illustration not visible in this excerpt

Figure 2-3 Academic Profile of Respondents

2.9.3 Denominational Profile

The denominational diversity strengthens the integrity of the Delphi survey because the challenges to the growth of the Evangelical church are experienced across a range of denominational perspectives. This implies that there is no single practice or doctrinal persuasion that is hindering the growth of that particular denomination. Rather it would appear that the challenges being faced are germane to a broad cross section of the Evangelical church in Canada. Presbyterians, Wesleyans, Baptists and Pentecostals formed the profile of the 8 respondents to the Delphi survey.

2.9.4 Age Range Profile

It was also extremely beneficial to have a broad spectrum of ages involved in the first iteration of the survey. The youngest respondent was 38 years of age and the oldest was 69 years of age. The other ages indicated were 39, 46, 52 and 63. The diversity of age did not diminish the commonality of the expression of awareness that the Evangelical church in Canada is facing difficulty in the 21st century.

2.9.5 Theological Profile

A broad range of theological categories were given for the respondents as follows with the number of respondents to that particular theological category placed in brackets: Fundamentalist (0), Conservative (0), Traditional (2), Progressive (0), Evangelical (4), Emergent (1), Liberal (0), Reformed (1). It is also interesting to note that every respondent attached some theological label to himself or herself, even though the labels were not clearly defined. None of the respondents placed themselves at either end of the scale as either Fundamentalist/Conservative or Liberal. Again, the slight and nuanced diversity of Reformed (1) and Traditional (2) through Evangelical (4) and on through Emergent (1) serves to strengthen the integrity of the Delphi data because the respondents have a range of theological perspectives and yet, all agree, that the Canadian Evangelical church is facing real challenges to its ongoing health and strength.

2.9.6 Length of Current Ministry Profile

There was great diversity in the length of current tenure as reported by the eight respondents to the first iteration of the Delphi survey; ranging from the shortest that was two years in the current (lead/senior pastor) ministry position to the longest which is fourteen years. The range of years in their current position was as follows: two years, six years, eight years, twelve years, thirteen years, fourteen years. The length of one’s ministry tenure in a particular situation can (Brown 1993: 19-31) affect one’s outlook on the Evangelical church in Canada as a whole. To balance this statement one would have to ensure a full understanding of why a particular tenure is shorter - for instance the individual may have just started in ministry, or this may be a person’s second pastorate after twenty years in their first pastorate. What is gratifying or helpful to this particular Delphi study is that there is diversity in terms of length of current tenure, but general unanimity (as outlined below in the summary results for the first iteration).

2.10 Results of the First Iteration of the Delphi Survey

The Delphi survey, in its fullness, is a compilation of a series of at least two or more iterations. The key to the effectiveness of the Delphi is a process of obtaining the data from “expert” respondents, placing the various responses side by side, analyzing the responses and then, after attempting a synthesis of the responses, creating a new questionnaire. The new questionnaire attempts to reflect the synthesis of the responses and then attempts to refine and clarify the data rendered through a series of further questionnaires, each of which follows the same cycle of analysis, synthesis and further probing until a form of “consensus” by the experts is reached. The goal of this consensus is to gain a clearer picture on how the “experts” view the suggested challenges now facing the Evangelical church in Canada. Do the “experts” think we have a problem, are they able to identify and articulate the various components of this problem, do they suggest possible plausible solutions?


[1] Throughout this paper the term "Evangelical" refers to that group of churches that align themselves with the tenets of the Christian faith as presented in the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada statement of faith (2009).

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A Model for the Growth of the Evangelical Churches in Canada
Practical Theology
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“Research shows 65% of churches have plateaued in their numerical growth. Churches are faced with many challenges. Canada's social structure has changed, and churches need to adapt to meet the needs of their communities. Many areas of our cities have no evangelical churches and the programs that do exist have not kept pace with the modern world. As a result, a generation of young people has grown up largely without church ties. It is apparent that there is a lack of robust health among Canadian evangelical churches”.
model, growth, evangelical, churches, canada
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Robert Elkington (Author), 2010, A Model for the Growth of the Evangelical Churches in Canada, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/186935


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