A Biblical Church Growth Model?
Posted by Job on October 12, 2008
The church growth movement is exceedingly controversial, and not without cause. Some of the better known members of this movement are associated with false doctrines and movements, and many of them have simply added church growth practice to their already man – centered or charismatic ideologies. Because of this, a lot of people take the church growth movement to be inherently man – centered or charismatic.
The main problem is that the church growth movement is not a doctrine, practice, or movement associated with the historic or traditional church. However, we must consider the reasons for this. From the time of Constantinism until very recently, Christianity – Catholicism and Protestantism – was dominated by “Christendom.” That is, in typical countries there were state churches where all citizens “joined” by being born in a country and baptized in its church, usually as an infant. In more recent times in nations like America without a state church tradition, the huge majority of the population was nonetheless Christian. So the only place where “church growth” was a concern was in third world mission fields.
Now, we are what it is called the “post Christian era”, which is actually the “post – Christendom era.” This is one where the state churches are curious anachronisms to which less than 2% of the population of a country is a member of, and even the tiny percentages that have actually been baptized into them rarely attend. Further, in nations like America where state churches never existed but generally Christian cultures did, church attendance is declining, especially among people under 40. Therefore, the west – America and Europe – has become a mission field.
So while the church growth movement has issues, Christians have to recognize that our environment in which we run our churches and evangelize has changed. No longer can we presume most of our neighbors to be Christian. We cannot even presume most of our neighbors to respect, support, be interested in, or have any working knowledge of Christianity. That is why so many of the broad attacks on Christians and the Bible from people like Bill Maher, Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins and Dan Brown are so popular. It is also why the behavior of corrupt well known ministers as well as of leaders of the religious right are so harmful.
One manifestation of this is how so many people seem to honestly believe that Christians who believe in the great tribulation and the imminent return of Jesus Christ want to provoke war in the Middle East so that the rapture will occur more quickly. So many people honestly believe that such thoughts motivated George W. Bush to attack Iraq that it isn’t funny. Another more recent one is the common charge that evangelicals are hypocrites for supporting female political leaders i.e. Sarah Palin and not female ecclesiastical leaders, which betrays a lack of not only basic Bible knowledge but a total lack of familiarity with contemporary church culture, where women hold plenty of nonpastoral positions of responsibility (how many private Christian schools would fold TOMORROW were it not for female administrators?).
So rather than reject the church growth movement because there is no long history of church practice or doctrine for it the good people of Latvia didn’t need to practice church growth when everyone born in that region was baptized into the state eastern Orthodox church, we need to investigate whether a bible based God honoring method of growing churches that can be replicated in various churches and settings can be produced. I hope that the link below represents a contribution to what can be a useful field of Christian study and practice.