Thesis Title

This-worldly explanations for otherworldly growth: vitality in an Ozarks megachurch

Date of Graduation

Fall 2008

Degree

Master of Arts in Religious Studies

Department

Religious Studies

Committee Chair

John Schmalzbauer

Keywords

megachurch, pentecostalism, assembly of god, congregations, ozarks, church growth

Subject Categories

Religion

Abstract

James River Assembly, a Pentecostal megachurch in the Missouri Ozarks, grew from forty-two people in 1991 to over nine thousand in 2008. What led to such growth? Using ethnographic research methods such as interviews and twenty months of field observations, this study uses the story of James River Assembly to enter into the debate on congregational vitality. Three reasons emerge for the growth and strength of the church: excitement and optimism, an apocalyptic worldview, and a clear sense of identity embraced as a worthy pursuit by members. Each chapter presents theories of vitality that are useful for understanding growth at James River Assembly. In the end, this study demonstrates the complexity and often paradoxical nature of American Religion.

Copyright

© Joseph Lee Dutko

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Dissertation/Thesis

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