«Reestablishing roots and learning to fly: Kazakh church planting between contextualization and globalization. by Dean Frederick Sieberhagen submitted ...»
The Grounded Theory process of analysis allows the data to reveal theory. So the theory is grounded in the data itself. Based on the data, constant comparative analysis then allows the categories within the theory to be validated and expanded on by insights from other sources.
It is all very well for an expatriate church planter to develop a thesis statement, however I prefer the Grounded Theory approach so that by means of interviewing the Kazakhs pastors themselves the resultant theory can come from their experiences of church planting, grounded in the interview data.
I realize that as a participant in Kazakh church planting there will still be a challenge in avoiding my own bias and I will need to reflect on this throughout. As the author/ researcher I am an evangelical and have been involved as an expatriate church planter amongst the Kazakhs since 1999, working with other expatriate church planters as well as local church planters, within the evangelical church planting context. Our goal has been to use a Biblical blueprint for church with the basic concept that it is a community of believers (those who have committed themselves to Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior). The post soviet period has seen a variety of church planting methods where we have tried to discover as much as possible about who the Kazakhs are and where they have come from with the goal of starting churches that within this context are as Kazakh as possible. At the same time church planting is being challenged by the way Kazakhs are being impacted by globalization and how it is producing change at all levels.
There are many potential sources of data such as missionary reports and interviews;
however this study seeks to prioritize the views of the Kazakh pastors themselves. Many of the missionaries have come and gone and will continue to do so, but the Kazakh pastors are proving to be the consistent influence by which the Kazakh church is being established. As a result this study places a high value on their ideas and opinions.
Chapter 1: Research Methodology and introducing the concepts of Contextualization, Globalization, and Church Planting
1.1 Research Methodology A qualitative approach is often mentioned when speaking of research in the social sciences.
In comparing quantitative with qualitative research, Denzin and Lincoln (2000: 8) describe qualitative as placing an emphasis on “the qualities of entities and on processes and meanings that are not experimentally examined or measured in terms of quantity, amount, intensity, or frequency”. As a result the qualitative researcher is concerned with issues such as value, meaning, assumptions, processes and interpretation. Quantitative research by contrast emphasizes “the measurement and analysis of causal relationships between variables, not processes” (: 8). Mouton and Marais attempt to move qualitative social science research towards the quantitative realm in their description “social sciences research is a collaborative human activity in which social reality is studied objectively with the aim of gaining a valid understanding of it” (1990: 7). Their primary disctinction between the two is where they see quantitative research in the social sciences as highly formalized, with stricter controls and clear definitions; as opposed to the less formalized, less defined, and more philosophical approach of qualitative research.
Creswell (1994: 4) explains how quantitative research often uses terms such as positivist, experimental, and empirical. These refer to researching an independent, objective reality where the researcher maintains their distance and removes as much bias as possible.
Whatever values and assumptions the researcher may bring do not play a part in the research, and therefore personal involvement does not form part of the research. Creswell explains how quantitative methodology uses “a deductive form of logic wherein theories and hypotheses are tested in cause-and-effect order”(:7). Quantitative research methods can be summarized by terms such as experiment and survey. 4 Qualitative research prefers terms such as constructivist, interpretative, and postpositivist (: 4). Reality is not separate and objective but rather constructed by those involved in the research environment. So there may be more than one reality in a given situation and the researcher tries to be true to each of these. The researcher is not separated from the study but rather “admits the value-laden nature of the study”(: 6), taking into account their own values and biases. A qualitative approach favors inductive logic so that data and categories are allowed to emerge from the research environment rather then being imposed by the researcher. Examples of qualitative research methods include case studies, ethnographies, phenomenology, and grounded theory.
The need for a literature review to form part of qualitative research is an important consideration. In this study the empirical approach of interviewing of ten pastors in their natural setting provides the base data upon which grounded theory is applied. Why then the
need for outside literature? Creswell explains three important reasons (: 20):
1. There are likely to be other studies which relate to the current one, and the results
2. The study can be related to a broader frame of reference to do with the topic.
3. The study can find its place and importance within it the broader framework.
In the case of grounded theory care must be taken that the literature review does not impose itself on the study and so diminish the empirical effect of the interview data. In this study it is used as a separate chapter at the beginning, as well as in the theory and reflections chapters (four and five) as a way to inductively compare and contrast.
Creswell (1994: 10-11) defines both true (random design) and quasi (nonrandom design) experiments. He also explains surveys using structured questionnaires and interviews.
1.2 Grounded Theory In examining what is meant by grounded theory for this study we need to begin with a discussion of the role of theology in empirical research. This introduces the idea of practical theology and its emphasis on the here and now, an approach that seeks to address the needs and questions of today’s people (Hermans 2004: 3). It is all very well for the researcher to hold to certain theological ideas which inform church planting practice, but are they “tested in order to make the results verifiable, repeatable, and generalizable” (: 4). If theology is to have empirical validity then it must enter the public domain and join in the debate on issues facing society.
Van Der Ven speaks of an empirical cycle as theology interacts with real life (: 23).
Firstly, the researcher must become personally involved in the research context as theology (theory) develops. The researcher then brings in readings from theological literature that connect closely with the research context, and out of this flows a theological research question which aims to transform religious practice. A conceptualization phase then follows to produce a model that is both theoretical and practical. There then follows a testing phase where empirical data is gathered and analysed in terms of the research questions, and finally in the theological evaluation phase consideration is given as to how practices can be transformed, and to how valid the theological framework is. The idea is to maintain a detailed and complex relationship between theology and practice.
Van Der Ven speaks of the four tasks of practical theology (Osmer 2004: 149):
1. The descriptive-empirical task. In this study it asks the question: what is the Kazakh church planting that is going on? It strives for a full and accurate
2. The interpretive task. Its function is to ask the question: why is this going on? It looks for explanations as to patterns of behavior, attitudes, and ideas.
3. The normative task seeks to provide “theological and ethical norms that can guide and reform some form of contemporary religious praxis” (: 151). It asks the
As theology gives consideration to the need to be practical then it is able to become “actionguiding” and thereby play a valid role in empirical research. Grounded theory seeks to keep theology practical by embedding it in the real and natural data of a research context before the imposition of a hypothesis. Research in the Social Sciences most commonly involves the postulating of a theory and then a gathering and analysis of the research data as it interacts with the theory, so that the theory’s validity can be established. Grounded Theory takes a different approach where research does not begin with a defined hypothesis to be validated, but rather a research problem that leads directly to the gathering of data out of which theory flows. Barney Glaser and Anselm Strauss define Grounded Theory as “the discovery of theory from data – systematically obtained and analyzed in social research” (1999: 1). The starting point is the research data out of which theory then flows as the data is analyzed, with the idea that because the data is real, it validates the theory. The argument then is made that because the theory is so closely linked to the data it has lasting significance. It may be modified or reformulated with insights from new data, but it cannot be replaced because it is grounded in the original data itself.
Some epistemological assumptions then of the grounded theory approach are:
its validity has emerged from actual empirical data.
2. It approaches reality as closely as possible by gathering primary data from its natural setting through inductive inquiry rather than imposing a thesis framework. Mouton and Marais (1990: 15) explain how research in the social sciences involves so many complex variables that complete certainty is not possible, but rather the goal is research that approximates reality as much as possible. Grounded theory then argues that be means of constant comparison, the data and resultant theory are able to maintain a high degree of validity.
3. Glaser and Strauss (2009: 24) explain how as a result of theory being grounded in the data, is both valid and reliable in explaining and predicting situations with related data. In other words the findings are able to be generalized to other research situations that are similar in nature.
4. An integral part of generating theory from the data is the use of comparative analysis (:21). This helps to validate the facts arising from
comparison also helps to establish how generally applicable a specific fact might be and consequently how generally applicable the resultant theory may be. The theory can also continue to live on as it is modified by the discovery of new facts as they are assimilated into the theory and then generalized for additional application. Theory then is not a perfectly completed task but a process that continues to develop as new data is revealed, thereby keeping the theory up to date and relevant.
As part of applying grounded theory to this study the primary method of data collection is by means of a semi-structured interview of ten Kazakh pastors. Establishing rapport with the interviewees to facilitate open and detailed discussion can be a challenge to how ‘rich’ the data will be. In this study the interviewees (pastors) are known to the interviewer outside of the research and some are close friends and ministry colleagues. Part of the data’s richness relates to its usefulness and a challenge in the interviews is to avoid the interviewees sharing what they think the interviewer wants to hear for the sake of relationship.
Gathering relevant interview data that will be useful for analysis is a basic step in grounded theory. Charmaz contends that such data must be ‘detailed, focused and full’ (2006:14). The choice of the most appropriate method for gathering this kind of data must be decided on and it is here that grounded theory offers flexibility and avoids trying to be prescriptive. The method and even combination of methods will be driven by the research problem as well as adjustments that need to be made as the data is gathered and theory begins to emerge. This type of qualitative research unavoidably involves the researcher as a participant and thereby the assumptions they bring to the gathering of data. Charmaz proposes that it is the researcher’s obligation to reflect on how they are involved and what influence they have on the process (:15).
The research problem in this study has to do with effective methods of church planting within a Kazakh context. As a church planter within this context, and at the same time the researcher, the interviewer has had to reflect on how they are influenced by their own experiences and pre-conceived ideas, by which they run the risk of overly directing the interviews and so bias the data that is gathered. The interviewer has had to be open to the pastors providing them with new data that had not been anticipated and then allowing this to create new discussion in succeeding interviews.
Some of the open-ended questions used in the interviews were generated using what Herbert Blumer calls sensitizing concepts (cited in Charmaz 2006:16). The idea is that as a participant, the interviewer begins with some general concepts and interests which they use to develop certain kinds of questions to do with the topic. These help to provide a place to start and a guide to keep the interview discussion relevant to the topic.
Other questions arose from what Glaser and Strauss call ‘anecdotal comparison’ (1999:67). Here in addition to the researcher’s own knowledge and experiences, they also reflect on relevant literature and the experiences of others. This also provides a means of saturating a particular category of data for better comparison.