Church Growth, The Theology Of The Cross, And The Theology Of Glory

Contemporary Church Worship Service - Wikipedia

By Dr. R. Scott Clark - Posted at The Heidelblog:

When I entered the evangelical world in the mid-70s there was much talk and teaching (and guilt manipulation) about personal evangelism but not much talk of church growth. A decade later, however, when I went to seminary, it was all the rage. I expected to study Scripture, to learn Hebrew (I did Greek in university), systematic theology, church history, homiletics, and pastoral theology. I was completely unaware of the so-called “church growth” movement. My earliest experience in a Reformed church was in a small German-Reformed congregation from the wrong side of the tracks. The “successful” and “influential” churches in my hometown tended to be on what was temporarily, “church row” on the east end of town. Meanwhile, my little German Reformed (RCUS) congregation moved toward the center of town where it has been ever since. There we talked about Scripture, doctrine, the Christian life, and “outreach” to the community but there was no expectation that we should become a large, influential presence in our heavily churched city.

In a couple of my pastoral theology courses, in seminary, taught by adjunct professors, we heard and read quite a bit about techniques for time management and church growth. Another of my professors warned me repeatedly about the dangers of “empire building” (about which he was quite right) but nevertheless, later, as a young pastor in a small congregation, I became quite taken with the church growth movement. I read the church growth literature and sought to implement it. We tried to “modernize” the service, we tried diaconal ministry, we tried “The Phone’s For You,” we tried Evangelism Explosion, we tried mass media (radio, a telephone answering machine with a devotional message, newsletters, and fliers), and summer youth ministry to name a few but nothing worked. I so emphasized every-member evangelism and church growth that one of my parishioners said in passing, “Pastor, you seem very interested in the people out there but you don’t seem very interested in us.”