"Entrepreneurs of the Church World": Investigating Intersections between Enterprise Discourse and the Occupational Identity of Church Planters
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This dissertation addresses enterprise discourse as a sociocultural umbrella that intersects with occupational practice and identity across sectors in the United States. Specifically, this project focuses on the ways in which enterprise influences contemporary religious workers – namely, evangelical Christian church planters – to more or less adopt the norms of entrepreneurship as they construct and enact occupational identities in their communities. Within this focus, this project responds to three problematics: first, overly static ways of knowing religion as an organizing force due to scholarship that too comfortably clings to the Protestant Ethic as a catch-all narrative; second, the limited scope with which scholars think of who an entrepreneur is, as well as what constitutes entrepreneurial forms of work; and third, the role of intersectionality and embodied social identities in struggles over normativity in religious work and entrepreneurship. To explore these problematics, this dissertation adopts an organizational communication approach that understands occupational identities as discursive constructions. Guided by a commitment to social constructionism, this project is guided by three research questions: 1) How do church planters and texts about church planter identities explain and perform church planting as work? 2) How do church planters and texts about church planter identities employ religious and/or economic discourses to make claims about and construct a figurative practitioner? 3) How do assumptions about difference intersect with and participate in the occupational identity work of church planters, and in the creation of texts about church planter identities? To answer these questions, I combine textual analysis with ethnographic methods, including participant observation, shadowing, and interviewing. Analysis of the data results in several key findings. First, as an everyday job, church planting entails a complex mix of mundane and ministry tasks, including meeting work, prayer, and production work. Second, as church planters take on these tasks in an enterprise culture, they construct and enact competing entrepreneurial and religious occupational identity images that variously endorse and resist each other. I conclude the dissertation by theorizing the occupational ecosystem as a way of making sense of complex occupational identities like church planter, and present related practical implications for church plant practitioners.
Ziemer, Jordan Allen (2016). "Entrepreneurs of the Church World": Investigating Intersections between Enterprise Discourse and the Occupational Identity of Church Planters. Doctoral dissertation, Texas A & M University. Available electronically from