CHAPTER 3 LOOKING INTO LIFE-WORLDS: A CASE STUDY ON ABLEWELL CHRISTIAN FELLOWSHIP
When one is seeking to develop a better understanding of a broad topic like the church‘s ministry of healing a comprehensive approach is required to draw out the relevant material being sought in the inductive phase. It was decided that the best way to uncover a rich and varied set of categories for further analysis would be by using a case study approach. The following chapter describes the methods used, the context and its people, and aspects of their theological praxis concerning the church‘s ministry of healing. It concludes with a section of analysis that identifies the various categories that were to be brought into dialogue with the relevant literature (chapter 4) and, that would in a selective way, form the theoretical base for quantitative testing later in the study.
CASE STUDY RESEARCH FOR BUILDING THEORIES
The approach of Kathleen M. Eisenhardt
The fact that this inductive phase of the study was employed to generate relevant theory for further testing later in the cycle made an impact on the methodology that was selected. It was decided that an approach that offered a structure for building theory would be most suitable and to this end the work of Kathleen M. Eisenhardt (2006:297-323) was selected with consideration given to the specific concerns of Robert Yin (2003) on validity and reliability.
Eisenhardt sees case studies as research strategies that focus on understanding the dynamics present within single settings (2006:300). She recognises the importance of the work of Glaser and Strauss (1967) on grounded theory, Robert Yin (1989) on designing case studies and Miles and Huberman (1984) on analysing qualitative data. She does identify, however, a lack of clarity that surrounds building theory from cases especially concerning the central inductive process and the role of literature (2006:297). Eisenhardt (2006:298) continues by offering a ‗roadmap‘ design that isolates a step-by-step approach to constructing theory.
This roadmap was considered suitable for use within the empirical-theological cycle because it mirrors, and also blends together, several sub-phases of Van der Ven‘s approach. Eisenhardt‘s initial step demands the definition of a research question and the identification of any a priori constructs. This ensures that the process is focused and gives better grounding to any construct measures. It is noted, however, that one should not have already developed hypotheses at this stage because that would limit the theoretical flexibility.
Her next stage looks at selection of cases for study. A theoretical approach to selection is advocated from a specified population. By specifying the population one constrains extraneous variation and enhances external validity. A theoretical selection focuses the study onto those sites most likely to replicate or extend theory.
The roadmap continues by looking at, how instruments are crafted, and the various protocols that are used. She suggests that multiple data collection methods are used as this will strengthen the grounding of theory by offering triangulation of the evidence. She also recommends using both qualitative and quantitative approaches to obtain a synergistic view of evidence. It is also advised that multiple investigators are used as this will allow for divergent perspectives and will strengthen the grounding of any theory.
The next step sees the study enter the field. Data collection should be flexible and opportunistic with plenty of overlap between collection and analysis. The flexible approach means emergent themes will not be missed, whilst the overlapping of collection and analysis allows for faster analysis, and also enables adjustments to be made, if required, as themes develop.
Eisenhardt‘s process then moves onto data analysis which should be divided between within-case and cross-case approaches. By looking within the case a familiarity is formed with the data, whilst a cross-case approach forces the investigator/s to look beyond their initial impressions and to see through multiple lenses.
After this analysis comes the shaping of the hypotheses. This should be attempted through iterative tabulation of the evidence for each construct, replication across cases and a search of the evidence for the ‗why‘ behind the relationships. The iterative tabulation is seen to sharpen construct definition, validity and measurability, the replication confirms and sharpens the theory, whilst the search for the reason ‗why‘ behind relationships builds the internal validity.
These hypotheses must then be compared with both conflicting and similar literature. By viewing conflicting literature one builds internal validity and raises the theoretical level, whilst similar literature helps sharpen generalisability. This improves the construct definition and also raises the theoretical level.
The roadmap ends with the step of reaching closure. This is seen to be when one reaches, if possible, a point of theoretical saturation where the marginal improvements possible do not justify the effort expended.
Approaching the Ablewell Christian Fellowship Case study
As has been mentioned earlier the roadmap suggested above does fit in well with Van der Ven‘s empirical-theological inductive phase. A research problem focused on the theological praxis of ‗The Group‘ AOG churches in KwaZulu-Natal, related to the church‘s ministry of healing, had been identified (chapter 1). A variety of a priori constructs had already been formulated through background reading and attendance for a number of months at a ‗Group‘ AOG congregation in KwaZulu-Natal.
Ablewell Christian Fellowship was selected for a number of reasons. I had been able to develop relationships and an understanding through attending the congregation since November 2006. This immersion in the setting did definitely facilitate the research process as it progressed. The nature of the rural context (see section 3.3.2 for a more developed description) meant that it was the only satisfactory option available in the locality; the nearest similar ‗Group‘ AOG congregation was over an hour away and was set in an urban location. This isolation of the researcher did have an effect on how the inductive phase of the research made progress.
Within the single case selected a wide variety of data collection methods were used. Participant observation in a range of settings was undertaken with an overt approach. Documentary analysis of the church‘s monthly bulletin, notice boards, meeting minutes, past sermons, and literature that was deemed important by congregants was undertaken. Oral history interviews were conducted to develop a better understanding of the history of the church. A semiotic analysis was conducted of the church and its foundations. The context was analysed using a phenomenological ethnographic approach, and its impact on the ‗life-world‘ of the church was noted. Finally, semi-structured interviews were undertaken to develop a rich tapestry of the varied theological praxis related to the church‘s ministry of healing. I noted that only qualitative approaches were used, but decided that the wide range used would prove to be sufficient for the task of developing hypotheses that would be quantitatively assessed later on in the research process. The use of only a single investigator was simply justified by the fact that no research team was available, or realistically affordable, within the research budget for a project of this type. These variances from Eisenhardt‘s approach were noted and taken into account in the overall analysis.
Data collection was overlapped and coincided with analysis, and was also flexible and opportunistic. The analysis was thorough within-case, but there was no cross-case pattern matching due to a number of factors. As noted earlier, the other possible assembly for study was over an hour away and was situated in a markedly different social setting; an urban suburb as opposed to a small rural town. The time that would be spent travelling and observing this urban assembly was not considered feasible for a researcher with a young family and commitments at Ablewell Christian Fellowship. Finally, the expense of the extra travel could not be covered in the research budget that was available.
The constructs were iteratively tabulated and the evidence was searched for possible reasons behind relationships. This was mixed with an in depth review of the literature (chapter 4). The case study was finally concluded when it was deemed that no significant advances were being made.
It can be seen, therefore, that this case study did attempt to follow the roadmap of Eisenhardt, but was limited by availability of a suitable cross-case example, time, budget, and family/church-related responsibilities. The implications of these limitations were potentially important for the study, so, it was deemed necessary at this stage to expand on the issue of validity and reliability by drawing on the work of Robert Yin (2003).
Validity and Reliability in the case study design of Robert Yin
Although many of the ideas of Yin have already been incorporated into Eisenhardt‘s roadmap some more specific pointers as to possible problem areas in this study were considered useful at this stage.
Yin (2003:84) concentrates on four criteria for judging case study designs. The first is construct validity where Yin proposes the use of multiple sources of evidence, the establishment of a clear chain of evidence and a review of the draft report by key informants. His second area is that of internal validity where the problem of accuracy of inference is identified and solved by pattern-matching and explanation building. The third issue is that of external validity and has to do with the generalisation of the findings: Is theory replicated? His final issue is that of reliability where Yin (2003:45) suggests the production of organised documentation in a case study database. Done correctly, this would allow an auditor to repeat the study and obtain the same results.
If we now turn our attention to the design of this particular study the areas of strength and weakness are clear. The construct validity was good with a wide range of data collection methods used. A chain of evidence was recorded and all interviewees had the opportunity to comment on their transcripts. I believe the internal validity was adequate with the weakness of a lack of multiple investigators and no similar case material for pattern-matching, balanced, to an extent, by an in depth analysis of conflicting literature and a thorough search of the evidence for reasons behind the construct relationships. The external validity was an area of concern with no way of ascertaining how the theory obtained could be generalised. It must be remembered, however, that this inductive phase was followed by a testing phase in Van der Ven‘s cycle. So, although the exploratory findings of the case study may not be compared to a similar study, for reasons already outlined, any other ‗possible‘ case that could have been selected was quantitatively surveyed as part of phase four of the empirical-theological cycle. The reliability has been deemed to be good because a detailed case study database has been maintained in both handwritten and electronic formats and has been, and still is, available for consultation. So, while it can be seen that issues have arisen, especially concerning the external validity of the process, the researcher has deemed it an adequate design for the purposes of completing an inductive phase when considered in the whole research framework of the empirical-theological process.
Obtaining ethical clearance
It was noted that before this inductive phase could commence full ethical clearance had to be obtained from the University of South Africa‘s ethical review council. This process was split into two phases. Firstly, a proposal outlining the qualitative methods to be utilised in the case study was submitted for review. This proposal included, amongst other things, any interview schedules that were to be used, inclusion or exclusion criteria and withdrawal or discontinuation criteria. The consideration given to these ethical concerns can be seen in the construction of the interview schedules used in the case study (Appendix A and Appendix B). It was a notable concern of this original proposal that all names to be used in the study, both for the research participants and the research location, were pseudonyms thereby offering anonymity for those participating in the research.
The second phase of the ethical review process came at a later stage in the research process and was related to the construction and content of the survey instrument. This quantitative instrument was, again, developed in line with University of South Africa ethical guidelines and was submitted for review prior to the instrument being distributed to the sample congregations.
A VIEW OF ABLEWELL CHRISTIAN FELLOWSHIP
An overview of the methods used
I noted Van der Ven‘s hermeneutical requirement to be aware of one‘s own prejudices in the process of perception. Everything that was attempted below was, therefore, done through the senses of the researcher, described below. I am a white, British male who would fall into Cassidy‘s (2005:28) Christian category of Evangelical Liberalism,2 but who was originally converted in a Reformed Evangelical setting. I see the Bible as authoritative in that it is the best guideline available to comprehend God‘s truth, but do not see it as the infallible ‗Word of God‘. I rather see the ‗Word of God‘ running through the biblical record; what Nürnberger (2004:36-38) describes as a ‗below-the-text‘ interpretation of Scripture. I have a scientific background and modernist worldview assumptions previously dominated my thinking. These have gradually been superseded by some more postmodern assumptions that cause me to be wary of what can be viewed as authoritarian absolutes; hence, the desire to use ‗worldview assumptions‘ as opposed to the more fixed absolute term ‗worldview‘.
The self description summarised above clearly formed a part of the first form of perception used: phenomenological description. The approach of Heimbrock (2004:63) was used to ―get in touch with the field of everyday life‖ from an ethnographic perspective. This description was developed between April 2007 and May 2009 as I lived amongst the research community. My sensual perception, experiences, feelings and interpretations of the general atmosphere around the research area all played a part in building up an understanding of the rural community in which Ablewell Christian Fellowship was situated. This also enabled me to fulfil Van der Ven‘s hermeneutic requirement of understanding the local context in which the study took place. Notes were made when possible throughout this period and were incorporated in the research database material.
Another long-term research activity was participant observation. This was carried out over a thirteen-month period where I practically observed and experienced the Sunday worship on 1 It should be noted that I do not try to see myself as an ‗objective researcher‘. I recognise the subjective nature of this study and use personal pronouns where appropriate.fifteen occasions. It should be noted that I was actively participating in parts of the ministry (children‘s work) on other Sundays during this period of time, but this was considered separate from the ‗adult‘ ministry I was studying and did not directly3 form part my overall study. This need to participate in the life-world of Ablewell was part of the hermeneutical requirement in the empirical study. The first participant observation had been in April 2008 and the last was in May 2009. During this period I also attended several prayer meetings although detailed notes were only made on one occasion, and that was after the meeting had closed. On arrival at the Sunday services I would meet, and have conversation with, a number of the congregation. I would then settle myself into space on the edge of the sound desk where my initial impressions would be written down. These could include such things as the numbers present, observations on changes to the building and what was sensed to be the general atmosphere. I would participate in the time of worship, but would be making mental notes of feelings, actions and the general response of the congregation. A number of these mental notes involved a ‗hermeneutics of suspicion‘ that involved the way certain statements were expressed. These are evident in the analysis sections later in this chapter. Detailed notes would be taken of the sermon and in some cases, where it was deemed necessary, documentary copies of the sermons were requested from the pastor. More mental notes were made during the time of fellowship and conversation post-service and these were entered into the field notebook at the first suitable opportunity. All material from the field notes was entered into the computerised research database when convenient.
It was noted in chapter 2 that an important part of Cartledge‘s approach to Pentecostal/charismatic perception involved the study of symbolism. A number of my observations were, therefore, related to semiotic analysis. This semiotic approach involved studying the religious ‗signs‘ and their provision of meaning (Van der Ven 1996:104). This study follows the Peircian tradition, rather than the Saussurian, because attention needed to be provided to both linguistic and non-linguistic signs (Van der Ven 1996:105). Peirce (1991:5) defines a sign as ―something which stands to somebody for something in some respect or capacity‖. Van der Ven sees these four aspects discerned as the sign (the first ‗something‘), the denotatum (the second ‗something‘), the interpreter (present in ‗somebody‘), and the code (in some respect or capacity). The sign is ‗something‘ that stands for ‗something‘; that ‗something‘ being the denotatum – the signified reality (Van der Ven 1996:106). The denotatum can be concrete or abstract, material or spiritual; it can exist or not exist; it can be from the past, present, or the future. The interpreter is ‗somebody‘ who observes the sign and forms an interpretant; an equivalent sign located in their own mind. The code is the set of rules and institutionalised habits that lie within the cultural tradition of which the interpreter is part. Van der Ven (1996:107) identifies these four aspects within ecclesial studies. Signs are social phenomena in the church and these refer to God‘s salvation (denotatum) to those (interpreters) who see them as signs (interpretants) based on the ground of their religious traditions.
Three types of signs are distinguished within the Peircian tradition of semiotics. These are iconical, indexical and symbolic signs (Peirce 1991:19-24; Van der Ven 1996:108-110). Iconical signs are similar to the reality to which they refer: an arrow with a person walking signifies an exit. Indexical signs are characterised by their proximity to the signified reality: smoke signifies the existence of a fire. Symbolic signs refer to reality on the basis of agreement, but not on the basis of intrinsic connection: a word like grace is given religious significance on the grounds of the traditional consensus that led to the formation of creeds and doctrine. One may also have combinations of the above in composite signs: the green man sign at pedestrian crossings combines iconical, indexical and symbolic signs in both linguistic and non-linguistic forms.
The semiotic analysis of Ablewell Christian Fellowship raised a number of interesting features. These signs, and their significance for this particular study, are noted later on in this chapter (Section 3.3.7).
The researcher‘s observations were supplemented by the analysis of a number of documents that were available for study. These included thirteen copies of the monthly bulletin, meeting minutes dating back to the planting of the church in 1982, the current Ablewell Constitution, material posted on the church notice boards, three copies of detailed sermon notes from the pastor that the researcher deemed important in the context of the research, five copies of ‗Prepare the Way‘ magazine that was readily available and read by a number of the congregation, a book called Exodus II (Lightle, et al, 1983) that was identified by the pastor as an important book in the formation of his own beliefs and, finally, some material downloaded from the website of Randy Shupe, who was another important theological influence on the pastor. All the above were analysed and the salient features were noted.
Oral History Interviews4
It was discovered at an early stage in the documentary analysis of the meeting minutes that there were significant gaps in the record; there were only ten entries from 1982 to 1992. It was felt that this would not offer an accurate picture of the historical background of the church, so, individuals, who had been prominent in the church for a number of years, were approached for their personal historical accounts. All the individuals approached were open and accommodating with their time and insight. Their individual stories could have been obtained through ‗life history‘ or ‗oral history‘ interviewing (Bryman 2001:316). Life history interviews encourage the interviewees to look back over their whole life and are usually combined with the study of personal documents like diaries. Oral history interviews are more specific as they use questions that focus on particular events or periods in the past. Bearing in mind the specific nature of the gaps in the meeting records it was decided that the oral history approach, with its more focused approach on particular time periods and events, was more suitable for this particular research task. One has to note that this research used a ‗conventional approach‘ to oral history interviewing where the aim is the improvement of academic knowledge (Ntsimane 2006:7-8). This is in contrast to the Sinomlando Centre‘s5 creative use of oral history methodology to preserve family voices to aid the resilience of individuals involved in the Memory Box Programme (cf. Denis 2001, Ntsimane 2006, for examples of this approach).
CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION
1.2 THE THEOLOGICAL PROBLEM: LIMITED KNOWLEDGE OF PENTECOSTAL HEALING PRAXIS
1.3 A PRACTICAL THEOLOGICAL PERSPECTIVE
1.4 THEOLOGICAL GOAL
1.5 Chapter outline
CHAPTER 2 AN EMPIRICAL APPROACH FOR PENTECOSTAL STUDIES
2.2 THE EMPIRICAL APPROACH OF J.A. VAN DER VEN
2.3 THE PENTECOSTAL/CHARISMATIC DEVELOPMENTS OF M.J. CARTLEDGE
CHAPTER 3 LOOKING INTO LIFE-WORLDS: A CASE STUDY ON ABLEWELL CHRISTIAN FELLOWSHIP
3.2 CASE STUDY RESEARCH FOR BUILDING THEORIES
3.3 A VIEW OF ABLEWELL CHRISTIAN FELLOWSHIP
3.4 CATEGORISING THE DATA
CHAPTER 4 THEOLOGICAL REFLECTION
4.2 TRINITY: THE SOURCE OF THE CHURCH‟S MINISTRY OF HEALING?
4.3 INCARNATION: A MODEL TO FOLLOW?
4.4 COMMISSION: DID JESUS CALL HIS CHURCH TO A MINISTRY OF HEALING?
4.5 INTERPRETATION: BIBLE, EXPERIENCE AND WORLDVIEW?
4.9 CONCLUSION TO THEOLOGICAL REFLECTION
CHAPTER 5 CATEGORIES, CONCEPTS AND OPERATIONALISATION: CONSTRUCTING THE QUESTIONNAIRE
5.1 INTRODUCTION: FORMULATING THE THEOLOGICAL QUESTION
5.2 RESEARCH DESIGN
5.3 CATEGORIES TO CONCEPTS
5.4 THEOLOGICAL MODEL AND HYPOTHESES
5.5 THEOLOGICAL OPERATIONALISATION
CHAPTER 6 THE CHURCH‟S MINISTRY OF HEALING SURVEY ON „THE GROUP‟ ASSEMBLIES OF GOD IN KWAZULU-NATAL
6.2 PREPARING THE SURVEY
6.3 PREPARING THE DATA SET
6.4 EMPIRICAL-THEOLOGICAL DATA ANALYSIS
CHAPTER 7 THEOLOGICAL INTERPRETATION AND REFLECTION
7.2 THEOLOGICAL INTERPRETATION
7.3 THEOLOGICAL REFLECTIONS
7.4 CHAPTER CONCLUSION
CHAPTER 8 CONCLUSION
8.1 INTRODUCTION: OVERVIEW OF THE EMPIRICAL-THEOLOGICAL CYCLE
8.2 METHODOLOGICAL EVALUATION (15)
8.3 POSSIBLE AVENUES OF FUTURE RESEARCH
GET THE COMPLETE PROJECT
PATHWAYS TO HEALING: AN EMPIRICAL-THEOLOGICAL STUDY OF THE HEALING PRAXIS OF „THE GROUP‟ ASSEMBLIES OF GOD IN KWAZULU-NATAL, SOUTH AFRICA