Thursday, March 19, 2009

The Other Side of Church Growth

Bryon Mondok reviews an article by Phil Johnson, The Other Side Of Church Growth, which is a very interesting (and I would say important) read.

A very great deal of what characterizes the Western Church – and American Christianity in particular – is somewhat unique to our experience and is not in any way universal to the entire Church.  Much of what is American Christianity, for instance, does not translate well in other contexts without either ignoring those contexts entirely or imposing Americanism on them.  For instance, the triumphalism of the Word-Faith Movement does not translate well into the context of the suffering church (which is, by the way, the majority experience of the church through the world and through history).  Likewise, the seeker-sensitive movement does not translate well into other contexts where Christianity has not materially impacted and shaped the culture to the extent that it has and continues to do in America.

Church Growthism is another peculiarity of American Christianity which does not necessarily translate well into other contexts.  The Growthinista maxim that “healthy churches grow” (always with the unstated but strong undercurrent of “invariably driving their presuppositions) only works in (many but by no means all) Western contexts.  Perfectly healthy churches can, in fact, experience decline.  Not only in the large context of regions and nations, but in local contexts as well, and for a quite possibly innumerable number of factors.

The article is very much worthy of reading (even though it is published in “Christianity” Today – you know the old adage, even a stopped clock is right twice daily); I give you, however, one quote in particular:

As I was writing this book, I became very conscious of one question, which is how you measure the success of a church. I am tempted to measure it in terms of numbers, whether it's 5 percent of the population, 40 percent, or whatever. But I suppose an argument would be made by somebody from a Mennonite or Anabaptist tradition that that's not the question—that the question is not numerical success but quality of witness, that the New Testament does not guarantee worldly success or growth or megachurches.

1 comment:

Bryon Mondok said...

Mike:

Thanks for the link...

It's funny you mention the Word/Faith movement. I was amazed to find how popular it is in some African countries while persecution in other African nations knows no bounds...