McGAVRAN & The Relevance of Church Growth Principles to Evangelism

by Eddie Gibbs, The ChurchMan Journal: An International Journal of Theology, Watford, England, 1995, Vol. 3, p. 232,

The term ‘church growth’ has become something of a catch-phrase in
a great deal of recent religious promotional material. In the minds of
many people it is synonymous with evangelism or e0rporate renewal.
The author, in using the term ‘church growth’, subscribes to the
following formal definition:

Church growth is that science which investigates the nature, function
and health of the Christian church as it relates specifically to the effective
implementation of God’s commission to ‘make disciples of all
nations’. Church growth is simultaneously a theological conviction, and
an applied science which strives to combine the eternal principles of
God’s Word with the best insights of contemporary social and behavioural
sciences, employing, as its initial frame of reference, the
foundational work done by Dr Donald McGavran.1

This definition makes clear that church growth does not represent a
total theology of mission, but has a specific focus on the making of
disciples and their incorporation into local churches. As such it is an
interdisciplinary study relating missiology to ecclesiology .2

A second point of clarification is to define precisely what is meant
by a ‘church-growth principle’. Donald McGavran defines it this way:
A church-growth principle is a universal truth which, when properly
interpreted and applied, contributes significantly to the growth of
churches and denominations. 3

1 This definition is given by Dr C. Peter Wagner (associate professor of church
growth, Fuller Seminary School of World Mission) in his church-growth course.
2 Orlando Costas has pointed out the danger of an ecclesiastical narrowing of the
concept of mission. He raises the questions: ‘Who is the centre of the kingdom Christ
or the church? Who is the object of the kingdom-the community or the
king? The Church and lts Mission (Tyndale House, Wheaton, m. 1914) p.135.
3 Donald A. McGavran and Winfield C. Am, Ten Steps for Church Growth (Harper
and Row, New York 1977) p.88.

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