Date of Graduation

Spring 2013


Master of Arts in Religious Studies


Religious Studies

Committee Chair

John Schmalzbauer


Evangelicalism, church transformation, Oneness Pentecostalism, non-denominational churches, religious culture, ethnography, Missouri Ozarks

Subject Categories



The Courageous Church (TCC) in Springfield, Missouri, and its pastor, Tyler Padgitt, exemplify a form of Protestant Evangelical Christianity not bound by denominational borderlines. The need for relevancy is urgently articulated by many church leaders and members in this particular vein of Christianity. They believe that the church should be a place that meets people where they are in life, instead of requiring them to move from the secular to the sacred arena, though TCC maintains clear boundaries between the sacred and outside world. The focal point of this thesis is the story of a church changed—drastically changed—in a short period of time. A church once affiliated with the United Pentecostal Church Alliance, and now identified as non-denominational, TCC began its ongoing transformation in 2005, moving from a Oneness Pentecostal to a Trinitarian belief structure. Reaching a crescendo in October 2012 with a reintroduction to the church's surrounding community in the Ozarks, the newly named church emphasizes relationship building and focuses on spreading a grace-filled gospel. For attendees, TCC is unlike any other Evangelical church in their community. To find out how and why the church changed its belief structure and outward appearance, I conducted interviews with members and others connected to the church, analyzed past and recent church documents, and consulted scholarship exploring the world of Oneness Pentecostalism, recent Evangelical church culture, and churches in similar identity transition. I discovered that TCC's transition, carried out under the same leadership, represents another type of church identity transition for scholars to consider in the ongoing discussion of how religious communities reinvent their identity and culture.


© Katherine Ashley Graul

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