by Bob Whitesel, D.Min., Ph.D., 10/26/15.
“Effective Evangelism” was the name that Donald McGavran hoped would be its label. And, what came to be known as the Church Growth Movement was actually started by missionaries, who were appalled how ministry in North America is conducted so haphazardly and imprecisely. They argued (among other things) that such a haphazard approach would not be tolerated by mission agencies.
Let me explain. They basically said that just as missionaries are held accountable by people back home to grow a church in the mission field, so too should those churches back home be held accountable to grow (and reach more people with the Good News). Some churches stepped up to the challenge and began to measure their growth, just the way missionaries had to. But other churches said they were focusing on “quality” rather than “quantity.” But, missionaries knew the “quality” excuse didn’t work for them in the mission field, and so they didn’t think people back home should use it to explain their lack of growth either. Missionaries were saying, “If you are going to make us measure the growth and health of our churches in the mission field or you will cut-off funding; then maybe your churches back home should live by the same standard.” Here is what one missionary said to me, “We’ve got so many church in America that haven’t won a single person to Christ in 20 years. Yet, the church leaders still beg for money and the people and the denomination pour more and more money into churches without results. That would never be tolerated in the mission field. If we didn’t grow a church by sharing the Good News with people, the mission agency would pull the plug on our mission work, ‘in the name of the churches back home who support the missionaries.’ It is time we pull the plug on a lot of American churches that aren’t fulfilling the Great Commission and stop propping up ineffective ministries in American that we would never tolerate overseas” (personal conversation, Pasadena, CA 2004).
Now, the Church Growth Movement didn’t just criticize American churches, but the movement actually spawned researchers, writers and consultants who dedicated their lives to helping the church in America grow by sharing the Good News (I’m one of those researcher/writers it spawned).
So, here are a few books that lay the groundwork for the Church Growth Movement by a life-long missionary: Dr. Donald McGavran. If you purchase a copy of the first, and maybe the second, you won’t regret it. He demonstrates how the Church Growth Movement was created by missionaries to reach North America. In many ways, missionaries has historically been better strategists and bridge-builders. We need to learn their craft in North America.
And, here you can order a definitive biography of Donald McGavran, written by researcher and writer Gary McIntosh: http://www.churchleaderinsights.com/bio
Finally, here is a downloadable white paper introduction to McGavran by McIntosh: http://www.churchgrowthnetwork.com/s/PassionofDonaldMcGavran-li0f.pdf