Article: “Beyond Church Growth: Kingdom Expansion”

Below is a link to an article written in 2006 by Ken Hemphill. It discusses the positive and negative aspects of the Church Growth Movement. I find the list quite accurate and seems to be as relevant today as it was when it was written. The Church Growth Movement started as a Missiological activity by Missiologist Donald MacGavran. As such, much of the problems with the movement as it exists today (such as focus on style over substance, and methods that promote transfer growth over evangelism or ‘kingdom growth’) are quite alien to the original idea. However, some of the problems were there from the start, with the seeds of pragmatism and (perhaps) overreliance on statistics being among them. From my perspective, perhaps its biggest problem— and this cannot be blamed on MacGavran— is the impression often promoted that church growth is about knowing little tricks for formats that if they work in one place, must work in other places.

Anyway, feel free to read the article below:

Growing Your Church in Four Dimensions

Delos Miles Church Growth

According to the North American Society for Church Growth:   Church growth is that discipline which investigates the nature, expansion, planting, multiplication, function, and health of Christian churches as they relate to the effective implementation of God’s commission to “make disciples of all peoples”

I taught a class in “Principles of Church Growth and Multiplication” here at Philippine Baptist Theological Seminary (PBTS). The title of the course is actually a bit… not really deceiving… but open to confusion. The course is centered on the Church Growth Movement, CGM, founded by Donald MacGavran. However, ‘Church Growth” as the term is used by CGM is different from the way it is used in the course title. “Church Growth and (Church) Multiplication” is redundant, since Church Multiplication is a form of church growth. Does this matter? Not really. However, things can get confusing when one says that he wants church growth, since others may not be sure what that means. 110524

One of my students was doing a book critique on “Church Growth: A Mighty River” by Delos Miles. Although a somewhat old book (1981) it had a nice way of looking at church growth in four different dimensions:

  1.  Internal Church Growth. This is church growth that does not demonstrate itself in numbers. It involves the growing of the local church in faith and grace, in spiritual fruit and spiritual disciplines. It is the church moving towards “healthiness,” becoming closer to what God intended.
  2. Expansion Church Growth.  This is church growth of the local church through conversion. People are led to Christ and join that local church.
  3. Extension Church Growth. This is the local church planting daughter churches.
  4. Bridging Church Growth.  This is classic Kingdom expansion through missional church planting.

Miles separates Extension and Bridging based on people group and geography. If it is local and to the same people group, it is Extension. If it is distant or cross-cultural, it is bridging.

These four do not describe all of the ways a church can grow. The most popular way to grow is through transfer growth (pulling people away from competing churches). But of course, if a local church grows through another local church shrinking, there is no real church growth. Additionally, the designations presume that multicultural local churches don’t exist. (Sadly, they are rare, even today.)

Valid or real church growth assumes expansion of the Kingdom of God. Kingdom of God essentially means the reign or rulership of God, so

     #1 expands the obedience of God’s children to His rulership.

     #2, 3, and 4  expands the number of God’s children

Another way of looking at this:

     #1 and 2  involves growth within a local church

     #3 and 4  involves growth through multiplication of local churches

Or yet another way:

     #1, 2, and 3 involves intracultural growth of the church

     #4 involves intercultural growth of the church

For me, however, I like to divide local church’s ministry into “Member Care.” “Local Church Growth,” and “Missions.”  With those in mind, one gets:

     #1 (Internal growth) is an aspect of Member Care

     #2 (Expansion growth) is a component of Local Church Growth

     #3 and #4 (Extension and Bridging) are aspects of Missions.

I don’t like to separate missions based on culture. In my mind, whenever a church reaches out beyond itself to expand the Kingdom of God, without the explicit goal of increasing its own local numbers, that is missions. But that is just me. Other ways are at least as valid, and I see the value of dividing missions in terms of Extension and Bridging.

Ultimately, I believe a healthy church grows in all four dimensions: Internal, Expansion, Extension, and Bridging.

Materials for EV-362 Students

Here are some resources for my EV-362 (Principles of Church Growth and Church Planting) students. I normally, put presentation materials in my Slideshare Account or on However, some of this material was written by others so I did not want to put them there giving the idea that they were created by me.

Syllabus (Munson)

Church Growth History  (Culbertson)

Church Growth History (Russell)

Rapid Rural Assessment (Munson)

RRA/Ethnography (Munson)

NCD Overview  (NCD Canada)

Church DNA (Chandler)

COMDEV for Churchplanting (Gabaldon)

CPM Overview (Russell)

CPM 10 Universals  (Russell)

CPM Cases   (Russell)

Cultivating Innovation  (Chandler)

Diffusion Strategies for Change (Chandler)

Pillars of a Master Plan (Chandler)

Bonsai Theory of Church Growth (Munson)

“Bonsai Church” Quote

“The growth of the church is both natural and supernatural. The church was designed by God to grow naturally, but all church growth is a supernatural miracle. In truth, the church will experience growth if we remove artificial and often selfish barriers we have used to keep our church artificially small– to keep it a bonsai church.

… The bonsai church may be cute, but it’s not practical. It is ornamental rather than fruit-bearing. It is a distortion of God’s original plan.”

       -Ken Hemphill, “Bonsai Theory of Church. Grow Your Church to Its Natural God-Given Size.”, pp. 106-107.

55 year old Sequoia sempervirens (California R...
55 year old Sequoia sempervirens (California Redwood or Coast Redwood) “Informal Upright” style bonsai tree from Brooklyn Botanic Garden, in New York City. Copyright 2007 Jeffrey O. Gustafson, released to Commons under the GFDL and CC-BY-SA-3.0. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Dissertations and the Quest for Boredom

I don’t really know why dissertations are so soo sooo boring. It seems to me that most dissertations (I have read enough to have an opinion… but not enough to be an expert) fit into one of two categories:

A.  Take an interesting topic and make it boring.

B.  Take a boring topic and make it intolerable.

I am not convinced that it has to be that way. “Boring” is created… it doesn’t just happen. The common format of dissertations as well as the style does often promote this quality known as boring. After all, books that have to survive and thrive based on their ability to attract interest NEVER utilize the styles and structures of classic dissertations.

It is argued that the structure demonstrates academic competence and rigor. It is a hurdle that must be overcome. It is not about the researcher… it is about the academic institution. Unique creativity is not the point.

But, maybe it should be the point. A couple of decades ago I took a class in college called “Modernist Literature.” I liked writings of Vladimir Nabokov. The rest was pretty unreadable. But I remember reading an article from a Modernist author who noted her difficulty (with some level of humor) in writing narrative. The work in becoming a modernist writer appeared to negate the ability to write narratively. But which is the true causation? Did some people write modernist literature and so forgot how to write narratively? Or did som lack the ability to tell a story, so they become modernist writers? Maybe boring writers write dissertations and then require dissertations to be structured in the same boring way. It’s a bit of a chicken and the egg quest.

But there are exceptions. Some schools expect the output of their doctoral research to be publishable. To me this is a welcome change. I am not seeking research to be become simple and sloppy. Rather, it would be nice to see good research with good creativity. After all, good research would be good to be known.

My Master’s Thesis, The Effect of Temperature and Physical Aging on Glass-Reinforced Polymer Matrix Pultruded Composites, was BORING. Yet it had some findings that could be quite interesting… even useful, to those who work with GRPs. But we will never know… because it is too boring to read. I can’t even talk myself into reading it.

My Doctoral Dissertation, Strategic Use of Medical Mission Events in Long-term Local Church Outreach: A Consultant-style Framework for Medical Mission Practitioners in the Ilocos Region, Philippines, is also boring. But its findings are even more potentially beneficiai (for those in church or missions work). But, again, I couldn’t talk myself into reading it, and could hardly ask anyone else to. For this one, I did rewrite it into a form that could be potentially read by others. I was too lazy to go through the entire process to the point where it is truly publishable. However, I gutted it and rewrote it to the point that it could be put up on for those who might want to peruse it. I also made various blogposts and journal-style articles from it. But it is kind of a shame that one has to.

Every now and then an interesting dissertation comes along where the boredom was not injected into it. I am teaching a class on Church Growth and Church Multiplication at seminary here in the Philippines. One of my main resources is a dissertation.  It is “Post-McGavran Church Growth: Divergent Streams of Development” by James D. Tucker, Jr. Actually, I don’t the writer. But I was given a copy of the dissertation by my Missions Professor a few years ago. Despite the less than inspiring title, I find it both interesting and readable. It takes the highly complicated field of church growth and develops a model to describe its growth and changes in an understandable way. I found it quite useful to both understand the church growth movement, and to teach others.

It looks at the history of the church growth movement, and then into various “schools.” In this case the writer describes five major currents at the time of writing as:

  • Third Wave Church Growth Movement
  • McGavran Church Growth with American Focus
  • American Popular Church Growth
  • McGavran Church Growth with a Global Focus
  • American Neoorthodox Church Growth

Obviously, to make it more publishable, it would be nice to have more interesting titles for the groups, and to have images. I also liked how my former professor, Dr. Dan Russell (now a professor with Liberty University online), took that information and put it  into a form that is more “organic” for students to understand and remember. Still, it took a complicated topic and made it more clear.

That is something that any dissertation SHOULD do. I find it a shame that so much sloppy stuff is well-developed for regular readers, while good quality work has not been made accessible. There is something seriously wrong with this.


Church Ministry Symbiosis

Dormition Cathedral, Moscow
Dormition Cathedral, Moscow (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I like to describe churches as having three basic ministries.  These are:

1.  Community Care. Care and development of people within the church family.

2.  Church Growth.  Activities that would expand the local church family (outside of biological growth I suppose)

3.  Missions. Activities that focus on expanding the kingdom of God without necessarily expanding the local church family.

Ideally, these should work together symbiotically. Community care should train people to be involved in church growth and missions. Likewise, community care should make the church family a desirable place to be a part of. Church growth should increase the community and the ability to care for itself, and the pool to draw from for missions work. Missions trains church members for community care and church growth and gives added purpose for the church.

Sadly, they often do not function symbiotically. Sometimes they are at war with each other.

1.  Community Care can become the end function of the church. Budgets and manpower are utilized to have great facilities and activities for its members. Resources set up for outreach (either church growth or missions) are deprioritized and reduced.

2.  Church Growth can become the primary focus. Members are not taken care of. They may also not be trained for fear that they might leave the church and minister elsewhere. Budgets are centralized on bringing more people in and preventing them from leaving. Missions is seen as pointless since it does not directly benefit the size of the church.

3.  While less common, missions can be the central focus. Activities are focused on distant ministries and the church members don’t minister locally, but just pool resources for other people to serve God.

For the ministries of the church to be effective, there must be intentionality in having these work together. Many in Missions and in Church Ministry complain about how few churches are truly “on fire” for ministry or fail to be involved effectively in missions. In fact, however, many church leaders create this environment. They focus on “church leadership,” “church growth,” “closing the back door of the church,” and this develops a certain… well… ecclesiastical selfishness. The members see little value in focusing on God’s Kingdom when everything they are taught focuses on their own little fiefdom.

What would be the best way to get the ministries of the church to work together for the good of the church family, the local community, and world… all three of which are to be important parts of God’s Kindom??

Quotes from George C. Hunter III on Evangelism and Church Growth

I haven’t read the book The Apostolic Congregation by George G. Hunter III. Happily, I have a friend who did. Here are some good quotes from it. If you want to see other good quotes from the book, go to Dan’s Bookshelf.

George Hunter III

“Today, worldwide, wherever most of the ministry that matters is assigned to the clergy, Christianity stagnates or declines. Today, worldwide, wherever most of the ministry that matters is entrusted to laity, the church grows and is sometimes a contagious, unstoppable movement in all but impossible circumstances – such as the church’s growth in China in the last thirty years.” p. 32

“Contrary to Protestant folk wisdom, the faith does not spread mainly through mass evangelism or media evangelism; it spreads mainly along the social networks of living Christians, especially to the social connections of transformed Christians and new Christians.”  p. 80