Introduction

Park Place Bar - West Side, WV, 1.West Side Speaks is a qualitative formal research project – or more adequately stated – an enlightenment ethnography – that seeks to learn about the people and neighborhood of the West Side.  It is also a tool used to stimulate initial conversations and develop new relationships.

The research project is vital for the following reasons:

  • It serves as an “enlightenment tool” allowing the concerns, thoughts, and ideas of those within the neighborhood to be shared with outsiders. Enlightening outsiders to the people and culture of the neighborhood should be helpful in breaking down ethnic and cultural barriers. It should also lead to higher understanding, less judgmentalism, more empathy, and better information in regard to public policies and action that may be taken to improve the neighborhood and the lives of those within it.  Salvation is not only for individuals, it is for cultures.  Each needs redeemed.[1] 
  • It serves as a gateway into the neighborhood for learning about the people and culture. The research project requires that the initial catalyst gain an insider’s (emic) view of the people and neighborhood.  It allows the researcher to enter the neighborhood as a “nonjudgmental and objective learner.  “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.”[2]
  • It serves as a gateway into the neighborhood for developing friendships which is essential for evangelism and fostering a movement for Christ.

The research project stimulates curiosity and conversation, which in turn, has the potential to lead to deeper and more meaningful friendships.  Catalyze, Inc. counts conversions more than conversions – knowing that conversations are the building blocks of conversion.

“Whom you would change, you must first love.”  Martin Luther King Jr.[3]

It is not manipulative to build a friendship with the goal of sharing Christ:  it is loving – as long as we stay committed to our friends whether they respond to our appeal or not.[4]

An outsider coming into the neighborhood may be effective as an initial catalyst, but cannot effectively grow and sustain a Jesus movement without the cooperation of those within the neighborhood.   Friendships must be developed, trust earned, and nonbelievers transformed into passionate followers of Christ for a Jesus movement to be successful.

To truly redeem and transform the neighborhood the movement can only occur from within through “indigenization” – ensuring local believers take responsibility for the spread of the gospel[5].  Which means that those people that live and work within the neighborhood must be the catalyzing force behind multiplying and reproducing small groups.

Every believer is an agent of the King (Christ) and has the potential for world transformation.[6]

Following this introduction is the first research project completed – Park Place Bar & The West Side Neighborhood: A Mini-Ethnography & Pilot Study.  The more in-depth ethnography is currently underway and results will be published in the future.  However, the format, research categories, and procedures are the same as the pilot study.  To protect privacy, most of the names have been changed.

1Neil Cole,  Church3.0  (San Francisco, CA:  Jossey-Bass, 2010) 25

2Neil Cole, Organic Leadership:  Leading Naturally Right Where You Are (Grand Rapids, MI:  BakerBooks, 2009). [Kindle Edition].  Retrieved from Amazon.com.  Location 2739

3Harold Myra and Marshall Shelley,  The Leadership Secrets of Billy Graham (Grand Rapids, MI:  Zondervan, 2005)  p. 315

4Rick Richardson, Evangelism Outside of the Box:  New Ways To Help People Experience The Good News  (Downers Grove, IL:  InterVarsity Press, 2000)  p. 27

5Steve Addison,  Movements That Change The World  (Downers Grove, IL:  Intervarsity Press,  2011) 116

6Alan Hirsch and Deborah Hirsch,  Untamed  (Grand Rapids, MI:  Brazos Press,  2010) 136