The Problem with most Church Growth Paradigms II

A Brief Overview of Church Growth  

In 1955 Donald McGavran (1897-1990), a third generation career missionary, wrote The Bridges of God. His basic assumption was that God wanted His church to grow, which, of course, He does. McGavran noticed that most churches were somehow opposed to this thinking. So, he focused his life on teaching the church that God indeed wants His church to grow. He was a great visionary, and father of the modern church growth movement. He founded the distinguished School of World Mission at Fuller Seminary in 1965. He also passionately woke up a complacent American church to see the vital role of evangelism and missions, saying, “We must evangelize out to the fringes.” Which meant we should not leave anyone out, even those in the very far off and rural places of the world. In the area of church growth he asked and then applied two basic questions, which laid the basis for the church growth models: Why does the church grow in some situations, and not in others? What lessons can be learned from Scripture and contemporary experience to help churches to grow?

These are two great questions that we all must ask and seek. His questions were correct, but his error was in his methods. Instead of doing careful exegesis on Scripture, he spent most of his energies researching trends, and comparing churches to other churches. He came up with some very unbiblical ideas such as the “Homogeneous Unit Principle” which states a church is to focus on its own culture and race, and ignore the others. One of his primary followers went so far to say, “Segregation is a desired end. (Wagner)” A very arrogant and prejudicial stance. He was a great man, but he was a missionary and not a theologian, and he did not have a good working knowledge of Scripture, which we can ascertain by examining his writings.

He based his observations and theories on observed paradigms regardless of Scriptural precepts. People who came after him furthered his error by applying business principles and comparative reasoning over Scripture and what God calls us to do. We cannot always compare one church to another, because God may have a different call and purpose for them as opposed to another church (1 Cor. 2:9). Nor, can you compare human reasoning over and against Scripture; we are instead to compare our research to see if it is on par with Biblical precepts. McGavran and others would have been far more successful if they had placed the emphases on Scriptural principles and not on comparative thinking.

I am not attacking what they are trying to do, but how they are going about it!

 

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