Church Leadership Foundations, Church Growth Philosophy

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Part of the ministry resources on Church Leadership, Church Health and Renewal. It discusses perspectives that were important to the first edition of the site in 2012, and is now part of the site archive.


This is one of several Philosophies of Church Leadership and Renewal, which include Church Growth (this essay), Missional, Emergent/Evaluating emergent, and other Missionally Responsive Trajectories.

In church leadership, many materials are based on the assumptions of the church-growth perspective, usually suggesting more effective efforts to attract outsiders and help them be more receptive to the gospel. They affirm the minority status of the church and the need to be missional, but still convey hope for established churches to redefine strategies to appeal to those who may be attracted to the gospel. On a more pragmatic level, church growth does all it can to reach people while preserving a more conservative Evangelical theological orientation. Given that it tries to find relevant ways of connecting with people, adapting cultural preferences in ways that are congruent with Scripture, some refer to this as “accommodation without compromise.”

This approach peaked in the 1990s with the seeker-sensitive movement. It is strongly criticized among many missional and emergent authors. Certainly to the extent that church growth minimizes theology, is overly pragmatic, fails to truly make disciples, minimizes deep spiritual transformation, is tied to the old cultural assumptions of American Christendom, etc., the criticism is just. Yet these weaknesses are not necessarily characteristic of all who follow a church growth philosophy. Depending on the author, church growth has enduring value in helping churches remove obstacles to evangelism and become more intentional about reaching people.

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