Date of Award

Spring 5-2012

Document Type


Primary Advisor

Dr. Tim Sensing

Secondary Advisor

Dr. Vic McCracken

Committee Reader

Dr. Jeff Childers


After several years of transition, the Carbondale Church of Christ is in the early stages of becoming a spiritual growth-focused community. However, the emerging growth community appears to reflect the prevailing cultural assumptions that growth is a personal, private, and an individual task. To shape this emergent growth culture, this project initiated a group of congregational opinion leaders, organized in pairs, into the practice of growth-focused relationships involving healthy accountability. The initiation involved a theological orientation followed by a four-week healthy accountability praxis.

The theological framework of the project involved three main aspects. First, the project used the body image of Romans 12 to establish the Christian community, not the individual, as the telos of the fully realized human ontology. Second, using Alasdair MacIntyre’s definition of a practice, I argued that the means of growth needed to be reflective of the desired ends of spiritual growth. Thus as a practice, spiritual growth activities must involve relationships since the ultimate telos is a relational community. It is inconsistent with the goal of realizing an interdependent and interrelated body ontology to pursue Christian spiritual growth via isolated individually focused means. Finally, community virtues derived from Romans 12 provided practical guides for practicing growth-focused relationships in a virtuous manner.

Data for the qualitative research came from three different sources: researcher, insiders, and an outside expert. Abductive analysis of the three sources indicates that the participants were initiated into a new community practice that resulted in personal growth, strengthening of relationships, and the practice of virtues. Additional discoveries included significant insights concerning the participants’ motives and goals for growth, their interest in relationships, and the importance of training and structures associated with new practices in a congregational setting. In total, the project successfully initiated a group of influential members of the Carbondale Church of Christ into the practice of growth-focused relationships involving healthy accountability.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.



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