Project Wittenberg

Evangelism and Church Growth
With Special Reference to the Church Growth Movement

A Report of the
Commission on Theology and Church Relations
of the Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod
September 1987
Part II

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Church Growth principles have been described as universal truths. That is, they are in a general way acceptable to all Christians. Examination of these missiological principles reveals that some of them are indeed Biblical principles which have been used in Christian churches, including The Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod, for many years. Others are new and have their origin in sociology, anthropology, and psychology, but they too have been found to be useful, also by numerous congregations in The Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod. Still other principles have caused some concern in Lutheran circles chiefly because they are perceived as coming into conflict with Scriptural teaching, especially with the doctrine of the means of grace.

As we attempt to evaluate Church Growth principles, two important questions need to be kept in mind: Do these missiological principles reflect a theology which is non-Scriptural to the point that their application in Lutheran congregations is unacceptable? Or, can they be modified so that they are consistent with Lutheran theological presuppositions, providing new missiological techniques acceptable to Lutheran pastors and congregations as they strive to carry out the great commission?

Lutherans are concerned not only that missiological principles themselves be in accord with Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions. They must also be used and applied to human needs in a manner that is consistent with the clear teachings of the Bible. We therefore offer the following statements as a way of assisting pastors, teachers, and congregations for a discerning evaluation and use of Church Growth principles.

    1. Missiological principles must be applied in a way that correctly distinguishes between Law and Gospel.

    a. Church Growth advocates use Law and Gospel, but they often do so in a manner not in keeping with Biblical understanding. Lutheran theology interprets the mission of the church chiefly from the viewpoint of the atoning and justifying work of Jesus Christ on the cross (Luther's "Theology of the Cross"). Many Church Growth leaders, however, tend to view it primarily from the viewpoint of the concept of the kingdom of God and obedience to the Lordship of Christ.[83] This means for them that, since Christ is the Lord of the church, Christians carry out the mission of the church principally because of Christ's command. The Scriptures indeed compel us to take the great commission seriously, but they also teach that Christians are motivated to witness for Christ not by the Law but by the Gospel. The Law is necessary because it shows us what God's will is. But the Holy Spirit, working through the Gospel of the crucified and risen Christ, is the One who gives Christians the desire and the ability to carry out Christ's command. If Lutherans use Church Growth materials, they should be aware of the dangers of falling into a legalism which depends on external pressures and threats to move Christians to be faithful stewards of the Gospel.

    b. The Lutheran Church confesses the Biblical doctrine of the total depravity of the entire human race. This implies that unconverted persons become receptive to the Gospel only after they have been brought to a realization of their lost condition by means of the Law, and the Holy Spirit works faith in them by the proclamation of the Gospel.

    Church Growth materials commonly suggest that a congregation may find it helpful to conduct "soil-testing" research to discover which communities are most receptive to the Gospel and thus offer greatest potential. Some claim that it is not uncommon to discover that whole families become receptive in times of crisis such as the death of a loved one, the birth of a child, a divorce, a period of illness, or loss of employment. As we have noted above, Church Growth theorists have developed what has come to be known as the Resistance-Receptivity Axis, which is intended to reveal where individual prospects are on a scale indicating the degree of their openness to the Gospel.

    Is such "soil-testing" research in accord with Scripture? While we may recognize that some individuals appear to be more interested in church membership than others, there is no Scriptural warrant for the claim that it is possible by systematic research to list on a graduated scale the degree to which a person may be open to the Gospel. Moreover, this becomes no more than a subjective judgment on the part of the pastor and the congregation, since it is impossible to evaluate with certainty the spiritual condition of another human being (1 Cor. 2:11). In general, it is superficial and misleading to purport to diagnose the "health" of the church independently of the divinely given means of grace, on the basis of externals such as degrees of activism, efficiency, or apparent success or failure.

    Admittedly, the Holy Spirit does at times use events in the life of unconverted people to prepare them for the Gospel. However, such crises are applications of the Law. As such they may break down the resistance of the unconverted in the sense that they cause that person to become aware of the fact that he or she has sinned against God, deserves His wrath and punishment, and asks, "What must I do to be saved?" But in the strict sense, the individual stops resisting and becomes receptive to the Gospel only at the time of conversion.

    c. As the Lutheran Church seeks to carry out the great commission in keeping with confessional doctrine, its approach will be noticeably theocentric. It is God who is working in the world through the means of grace for the salvation of the lost. He is the One who converts. While He has chosen to work conversion, through human instruments, and while their role is very important, they are still secondary.

    Although pointing to God's role in missions, Church Growth materials tend to become quite anthropocentric, focusing attention on the church's use of sociological techniques to communicate the Gospel effectively and "return the lost to the Father's house." Church Growth asks: "Is the church today using every legitimate modern technique which God has made available in an effort to meet its mission challenge?" Strong emphasis is placed on the church's role in God's plan of salvation.

    While recognizing that the use of modern techniques is not in itself contrary to the Scriptures, how does the pastor encourage the congregation to carry out its responsibilities without compromising the Biblical principle of "grace alone"? He will do so by properly applying Law and Gospel. In order to do this he may ask by way of evaluation: "What are the needs of the congregation? Have the members of the congregation in spite of their hard work, become frustrated because they see no growth in numbers?" If that is the situation, the congregation needs the assurance that God is the One who gives the increase. It needs encouragement to be faithful in carrying out the task which He has given it.

    If, however, the congregation is lax, indifferent, and content with being small, the pastor has the responsibility to apply the Law, reminding it of God's command: "You are my witnesses; make disciples of all nations." The pastor must also ask himself: "Does the congregation have its priorities straight? Am I offering it the leadership that I should? Am I interested in finding the lost in the community and does the Gospel predominate in my teaching as the means by which the congregation is inspired for greater service to Christ? Am I spending sufficient time in the preparation of sermons so that they communicate the Gospel clearly?" (Cf. Ap XV, 42)

    2. Missiological principles must be applied in a way that reflects the proper relationship between justification and sanctification.

Consistent with Lutheran theology, many Church Growth advocates regard justification and sanctification as important doctrines to be taught and applied as the church carries out its mission. However, they frequently differ from the Lutheran position in the way they relate these two doctrines to each other. Lutherans believe and teach that justification by faith is the central doctrine of the Christian faith, the doctrine on which the church stands or falls and therefore by which the church is built and preserved. The desire to seek the lost and witness for Christ are necessary fruits of justification and evidences of saving faith.

While the School of World Missions at Fuller Seminary certainly recognizes the necessity of justification, most of the materials which it produces make sanctification the point of departure. This emphasis on sanctification becomes evident, for example, when a "disciple" is defined as one who has accepted Jesus as Savior and Lord and has been incorporated into the body of Christ as a responsible member. Accordingly, a distinction is made between one who makes a decision for Christ and one who is a disciple. McGavran and Arn write: "A decision is often the first step. However, we deceive ourselves if we believe that a person who has made a decision for Christ has truly become a disciple A decision suggests a brief moment of time; a disciple suggests a life long task."[84]

Lutherans agree that far too many who confess their faith (for instance, at the time of confirmation) do not continue in that confession. They concur that a disciple of Jesus should grow in faith and in all good works. And the church certainly has the responsibility to nurture and care for the new convert until the person is incorporated into the life of the local congregation and becomes a "responsible member of the body of Christ." But to distinguish between the ordinary believer and a disciple of Christ is to mix justification and sanctification, thus causing a weak Christian to become uncertain of salvation. According to the Scriptures a believer is a disciple and enjoys all the blessings of justification the moment he or she comes to faith. The most essential element in discipleship is faith. Moreover, when the believer confesses that "Jesus is my Lord" this simply means, as Luther wrote, that Jesus is our Redeemer "who has brought us back from the devil to God, from death to life, from sin to righteousness, and now keeps us safe there. "[85] The confession that "Jesus is Lord" does not denote an advanced level of sanctification.

    3. Missiological principles must distinguish between mission methods and the means of grace.

Lutherans believe and teach that the Gospel, Holy Baptism, and Lord's Supper (as well as Holy Absolution), are the only means of grace which God has given to His church.

As means of grace they not only offer penitent sinners forgiveness. They are efficacious instruments or means through which the Holy Spirit brings sinners to faith, sanctifies and preserves them in the faith and thus builds the church.

While the School of World Missions at Fuller Seminary holds to many of the doctrines of the Reformation and regards Baptism and the Lord's Supper very highly, it does not regard them as means of grace. Rather, they are merely "ordinances" which are performed by the church because of Christ's command. The sacraments, therefore, play little or no significant role in the mission outreach of this school. This may account in part for the fact that methods, strategies, organization, research, and goals are the central concern in the process of growth in the church. The impression is thereby given that mission methods have been substituted for the means of grace and have themselves become the instruments through which God builds His church.

If Lutherans use Church Growth materials, they must realize that the means of grace and mission methods serve different functions and purposes. Only the means of grace truly build the church. Organization is clearly not a means of grace and therefore does not itself build the church or cause it to grow. To be sure, there is a sense in which it can serve the Gospel. A study of the social, psychological, and cultural needs of the unconverted can assist a congregation in better understanding how to approach them. Such a study can reveal, for example, their prejudices or biases toward the church and its message and the reasons behind these attitudes. As the congregation formulates goals and develops strategies it will need to take these factors into account. In summary, a well organized mission program is compatible with the Lutheran doctrine of the means of grace, provided the pastor emphasizes that it is the Holy Spirit who builds the church through these means.

The fact that many Church Growth advocates do not regard the sacraments as means of grace has its effect also on the worship services that are conducted. They recommend that a congregation use hymns and structure its services in a way that will conform to current cultural patterns. While Lutherans grant that God has not prescribed a specific order of worship, they recognize that the orders of worship which are used in the Lutheran church have been designed to accent the objectivity of the Gospel proclaimed in the Word and communicated in the sacraments, not the subjectivity of the hearers or their emotional response. The "divine service" is primarily God's service to us, not our service to Him. Consistent use of subjective hymns and emotional orders of worship cannot but undermine that accent. The pastor will be sensitive to the needs of unchurched visitors, but he will be just as concerned with the spiritual growth of those who are already members. This means neither slavish, ritualistic adherence at all costs to traditional orders of service, nor arbitrary substitution of "crowd-pleasers." Precise worship forms are adiaphora (neither commanded nor prohibited) indeed, but careless appeal to this principle may fall into the pitfall of acting as though worship forms can be entirely value-free. (See 10c and d, pp. 25-26.)

A concerted program of both outreach and education will focus on both the "head" and "heart" components of worship. A truly confessional church cannot but highlight the "head" (intellectual, doctrinal) components, but failure to cultivate the "heart" involvement represents a false antithesis to reaching the "whole man." Details will inevitably be somewhat colored by the surrounding culture, but it must not be forgotten that, in a sense, the church (including its cultus or worship) is always counter-cultural, too, and that such attitudes must be cultivated.

    4. Missiological principles must distinguish between the pastoral office and the priesthood of believers.

Since its beginning the Lutheran church has recognized that both the priesthood of believers and the divinely established office of the pastor are clearly revealed in Scripture. This distinction must not be blurred, nor obliterated, for confusion and unnecessary tension in the congregation will result. Lutherans teach that both the laity and the clergy have their special functions to perform in the church regarding the ministry of the Word.

The emphasis which Church Growth has placed on the role of lay persons has been a valuable contribution to the mission outreach of the church. Church Growth has reminded us that the laity also have a significant role to perform in the work of Christ's kingdom. It has stressed the importance of training the members of the church to be more able communicators of the Gospel and witnesses for Christ.

However, as Lutheran congregations use missiological principles which assume and focus on the role of the laity, they must be cautious lest they lose sight of the Biblical truth that the office of the public ministry is a divine institution.[86] This office should not be confused with "ministry" in a general sense, which belongs to all Christians. The pastor must, therefore, not become merely an organizer, a manager whose time is spent largely in coordinating the efforts of the congregation as the members witness for Christ. He will certainly be interested in mission outreach and will work diligently to enlist all the members of his congregation(s) in the various aspects of this endeavor. But he will not lose sight of the fact that he has been called to carry out distinctive functions of the pastoral office, that is, to preach the Word, to administer the sacraments, to remit and retain sins. Accordingly, he will be sensitive to the need to preserve a proper balance between reaching out to the lost and nurturing those who are in the church.

    5. Missiological principles must distinguish between the gifts of grace which God gives His church today and the special signs and wonders He gave the apostles.

It is important that The Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod maintain a clear, Scriptural position regarding spiritual gifts. On the one hand, pastors and congregations should encourage their members to receive with thanksgiving the gifts which God in His grace gives and then to use them to His glory and for the edification of His church. On the other hand, Christians should also acknowledge that God gives spiritual gifts as He wills and in accord with the needs of His church.

According to Church Growth practitioners, spiritual gifts serve a most important purpose in the mission of the church. C. Peter Wagner strongly urges Christians to recognize the gifts which God gives for their use in serving the body of Christ and especially in witnessing to the lost. He suggests five ways in which the believer can discover what specific gifts the Holy Spirit has given him.[87]

Most Church Growth advocates speak neither for nor against the spiritual gifts claimed by pentecostals, neo-pentecostals, and charismatics. When listing gifts, they usually use these categories: special gifts, speaking gifts, serving gifts, and sign gifts.

As Lutheran pastors and congregations continue to encourage the recognition and use of God's gracious gifts to His church, they must avoid the errors of pentecostalism, neo-pentecostalism, and the charismatic movement. At its 1977 and 1979 conventions The Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod cautioned against certain teachings held and taught by some individuals and groups involved in the charismatic movement as "contrary to the Holy Scriptures" and therefore "dangerous to the salvation of men to teach."[88] Similarly, the Commission on Theology and Church Relations in its 1972 document on "The Charismatic Movement and Lutheran Theology" stated: "It is noteworthy that the Scripture nowhere promises or encourages us to hope that extraordinary charismatic gifts will become the possession of the Christian church throughout the centuries. The pattern set in Scripture may actually indicate the opposite. While the gifts of the Spirit are spoken of throughout the Bible, different gifts were given at different times in history depending on the needs of the Kingdom. The church can be sure that the Spirit will grant it those blessings that it will need to build the church, but it will remember that the Lord may have other gifts in mind for His people than those He granted the Christians in apostolic times."[89]

    6. Lutherans using missiological principles must distinguish between faith in the promises of God and triumphalist claims to success through programs.

The Scripture describes the future of the church in terms of Law and Gospel. The Law reminds us that a particular church body or a local congregation may cease to exist because of error in doctrine, laxity and indifference, or even because of economic and sociological conditions.

The Gospel assures Christians that, resting on the sure promises of God, they can proclaim the Word with confidence, hope, and expectation, confident that the church will always remain (Is. 55:11; Matt. 16:18; 28:19-20). Lutheran pastors are accustomed to preaching Law and Gospel according to the needs of the congregation.

The Church Growth Movement appears to view growth primarily, if not exclusively, from a positive, success-oriented perspective. Results will accrue if one expects the church to grow, commits oneself to that end, and takes seriously the promise of Christ: "I will build my church, and the powers of hell will not prevail against it." The church is a living organism, united to Christ its head. Its members are a royal priesthood, equipped by the Holy Spirit with gifts of many different kinds for use in carrying out the great Commission. The church must and will grow, internally and externally, if this positive view is embraced!

There are aspects in this approach which may be commended. It encourages, for example, unwavering trust in the promises of God. However, the weakness of such a perspective is that it may lead to a state of euphoria in which triumphalist claims are made which do not adequately take into account that the church is composed of persons who are simul iustus et peccator (at the same time saint and sinner) (cf. 1 Cor. 1:27; 2 Cor. 12:9). Some basic questions need to be asked in response to such a tendency: "Is the work of the church really that easy? What conclusions should a congregation or church body draw if, despite the most faithful efforts, no growth appears to take place?"

As they apply Law and Gospel to the needs of God's people, Lutherans must avoid all forms of triumphalism, as well as pessimism concerning the Lord's mission. It must be recognized, first of all, that the task of making disciples of those who do not believe in Jesus Christ will never be easy. Nurturing members of a Christian congregation with the Word and sacraments to a mature faith is a challenging task. Growth is often slow. Pastors and congregational leaders must resist the temptation to manipulate others to bring about effects or results which lie in God's province alone.

On the other hand, though results may not always be dramatic, nor even evident, the faithful pastor still has reason to be confident and optimistic as he proclaims Law and Gospel. God gives the increase, when and where it pleases Him, through the hearing of the Gospel (AC V). The Lord asks only that he be faithful in carrying out the functions of his calling.

    7. Lutherans using missiological principles must evaluate the homogenous unit principle in the light of the efficaciousness of the Gospel.

The homogeneous unit principle is considered by some to be one of the Church Growth Movement's most valuable contributions to evangelism. It holds that the Gospel is most effectively communicated within cultural units, among people who have the same cultural background, and who speak the same language.

Some argue against this principle on the grounds that it appears to be racist or separatistic along cultural lines and therefore contrary to what the Scriptures teach regarding the unity of the body of Christ. Others have found it to be very useful in mission outreach, provided it is not carried to extreme. They have found that Christian relatives, friends, associates, business partners, and neighbors often prove to be valuable instruments in reaching the unconverted.

The homogeneous unit principle can indeed be useful in mission outreach, if it is not raised to the level of an absolute. Uncritical acceptance and use of the homogeneous unit principle may cause the church to lose sight of the important fact that the Gospel is the power of God for salvation, capable of reaching across cultural barriers to convert the lost. The book of Acts demonstrates how a Jew named Paul, under the direction and blessing of the Holy Spirit, could proclaim the Gospel of reconciliation successfully to a Gentile world made up of many different cultures, races, and peoples. In fact, both Jesus and Paul faced their greatest opposition from their own countrymen.

    8. Lutherans using missiological principles may find it advisable to use more familiar terminology.

Church Growth has developed an elaborate and extensive terminology which includes words such as "body evangelism," "bridging growth," "harvest principle," "kinship web," "people blindness," and "persuasion evangelism." Are all of these terms useful in Lutheran congregations? Here are a few points to be considered:

    a. Terminology is useful only to the extent that it is understood and communicates the intended message. Lutheran pastors and congregations interested in using the missiological principles of Church Growth may find it advisable to simplify the language and use terms that are more familiar to the members of the Lutheran tradition.

    b. There is always a risk involved when one church body adopts the terminology developed by another which has a different theological stance. Language can be weighted with denominational bias. Terms may mean different things to different people, depending on their frame of reference. To one person the word "Church Growth" may suggest an evangelism program that is being taught at the School of World Missions at Fuller Seminary. To another person the same word may suggest a broader concept, namely, a program of outreach and nurture with no relation whatever to Fuller. Again, one person may identify the term "spiritual gifts" in a narrower sense with speaking in tongues, prophecy, or miracles of healing. To another person the term may suggest more generally those gifts and skills which God in His grace promises to give His children so that they may serve the body of Christ.

    To avoid confusion Lutherans should seek to use terminology which avoids ambiguity. Instead of using the term "Church Growth" Lutherans may prefer the more familiar terms "evangelism" or "missions." Instead of the term "spiritual gifts" some may prefer the more literal translation "gifts of grace."

    c. While Lutherans try to avoid terminology which is weighted with non-Lutheran theology, it is also important that they do not overcompensate. As a case in point, they must not fear certain errant views of spiritual gifts present in the charismatic movement to such an extent that they not only avoid employing different terminology but also reject the view that God gives spiritual gifts of any kind to His church today."[90]


Guidelines for Evaluation

As interest in Church Growth continues, a variety of plans and programs are being offered, many of them written to reflect a particular denominational point of view. Some of these will certainly come to the attention of pastors and congregations in The Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod. How can these be evaluated? From a Lutheran perspective the key question is: "How does the author apply Law and Gospel?" More specifically, the following questions should be asked:

    a. Does the program or technique suggest approaching the unconverted first with the Gospel rather than seeking to discover whether the person has a knowledge of his or her sin and lost condition without Christ?

    b. Does the program or technique present the Gospel in a way that suggests that human beings have the ability within themselves to make a decision for Christ rather than that faith comes through the operation of the Holy Spirit?

    c. Does the program or technique, either directly or indirectly, focus attention on what is taking place within the individual rather than on what took place on the cross of Jesus Christ? Does it tend to regard the presence of certain extraordinary--or even ordinary--gifts of the Spirit as a basis for certainty of forgiveness and salvation? Does it foster the impression that faith is a good work that merits God's favor?

    d. Does this program or technique suggest that there are at least three categories of people--unrepentant sinners, believers or those who have accepted Jesus as Savior but not as Lord, and disciples or those who have accepted Christ as both Lord and Savior?

    e. Does the program or technique give the impression, either directly or indirectly, that spiritual growth is always visible to the human eye and can therefore be measured by statistics and plotted on charts and graphs?

    f. Does this program or technique create the illusion that the acceptance of the Gospel by sinners is attributable to the use of this program or technique?

    g. Does this program or technique lead to the conclusion that the lack of positive results, when this occurs, is attributable solely to the way in which it was implemented?

When questions such as these must be answered in the affirmative, there is a confusion of sanctification with justification and a falling into work-righteousness.

But Lutherans must also guard against the opposite error, the separation of faith and good works which results in apathy, lethargy, and indifference. The following questions must also be asked.

    a. Is the lack of numerical growth in our congregation the result of a failure to prepare carefully and to execute a plan for reaching those people in our community who do not know Christ?

    b. Is a lack of new members attributable, at least in part, to our failure to keep records and to make use of statistics and measuring devices to see weaknesses and discover trends?

    c. Have we made wise use of the resources and insights at our of disposal--for example, the social sciences, the arts, etc.--in proclaiming the Gospel and in furthering Christian nurture?

    d. Are we guilty of excusing our apathy and indifference for sharing the Gospel through a kind of "glorification of littleness"?

    e. Do we tend to attribute an absence of numerical growth to faithfulness rather than to laziness and inactivity?

    f. Is a lack of new members attributable, at least in part, to a failure to communicate the Gospel clearly?

When these questions can be answered in the affirmative, then we have separated justification and sanctification and have fallen into the error of cheap grace or indulging in sin.

Concluding Word

The church faces the challenges of the future in a "world-come-of-age" in the confidence that God has given it the resources necessary to carry out the mission to which He has called it When we say "resources," however, we are chiefly mindful of the means of grace, the Gospel and the sacraments. Strictly speaking, the means of grace are the only "resources" through which God calls, gathers, enlightens, sanctifies and keeps the church in the one true faith and therefore through which He builds His church. In this sense the means of grace are not simply one item among many others. They are the most crucial dimension of the church's life and work. Where the means of grace are taken seriously, the whole life of the church will be shaped by them. "The real adornment of the churches," our Lutheran Confessions can therefore state, "is godly, practical, and clear teaching, the godly use of the sacraments, ardent prayer, and the like."[91]

Dependent on the promises of God given through the means of grace for growth and on the power of the Holy Spirit who bestows on it His manifold gifts, the church accepts with thanksgiving all methodological insights and wisdom that will enhance and facilitate the proclamation of the Word. In Christian freedom, though with Biblically tested criteria, the church will gladly make use of methods and techniques designed to accomplish this end.

Faithfulness to God's Word requires that Christians accept their God-given tasks willingly and with the confident expectation that the church will continue to grow. The church belongs to God. He has purchased it with the blood of His Son. He preserves and protects it. He guarantees its future. Believing such promises, Christians may therefore mutually encourage one another to "serve the Lord with gladness."

But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the end of eternity. 2 Peter 3:18


Biblical Principles--"truths revealed in Scripture, founded on revelation, and believed as bedrock to the faith."

Church Growth--"an application of Biblical, theological, anthropological, and sociological principles to congregations and denominations and to their communities in an effort to disciple the greatest number of people for Jesus Christ. Believing that "it is God's will that His Church grow and His lost children be found," Church Growth endeavors to devise strategies, develop objectives, and apply proven principles of growth to individual congregations, to denominations, and to the worldwide Body of Christ."

Church Growth Conscience--"the conviction that God's will is for the Body of Christ to grow."

Church Growth Eyes--"a characteristic of Christians who have achieved an ability to see the possibilities for growth and to apply appropriate strategies to gain maximum results for Christ and His church."

Church Growth Principle--"a worldwide truth which, when properly applied, along with other principles, contributes significantly to the growth of the church."

Church Growth, Types of:

    "1. Internal--growth of Christians in grace, relationship to God and to one another.

    2. Expansion--growth of the church by the evangelization of non-Christians within its ministry area.

    3. Extension--growth of the church by the establishment of daughter churches within the same general homogeneous group and geographical area.

    4. Bridging--growth of the church by establishing churches in significantly different cultural and geographical areas."

Church Growth, Ways of Increase:

    "1. Biological growth--children of existing members who come into the church.

    2. Transfer growth--members of one church who unite with another church.

    3. Conversion growth--the coming into the church of people of the world who are converted by receiving Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior."

Decision--"a personal commitment to receive Jesus Christ as Savior."

Discerning the Body--"seeing a local church or a denomination as it really is and obtaining and analyzing information about it and its members."

Discerning the Community--"seeing a church's ministry area in its sociological, economic, and ethnic composition and obtaining and analyzing information about it."

Disciple (noun)--a person who has made a commitment to Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, who is learning and practicing His teachings and who maintains a meaningful relationship with His body--the Church--and its mission of spreading the Gospel."

Disciple (verb)--to bring a person to faith in Christ and obedient membership in His Church."

Evangelism, Classifications:

    "Evangelism Zero (E-O)--winning nominal Christians back to fervent faith.

    Evangelism One (E-1)--evangelization of non-Christians in one's own language and culture.

    Evangelism Two (E-2)--evangelization of non-Christians in a similar language and culture.

    Evangelism Three (E-3)--evangelization of non-Christians of a radically different language and culture."

Homogenous Group--"a group of people who all have some characteristic in common and feel that they 'belong.'"

Homogeneous Unit Principle--"the belief that men and women in different homogeneous units or groups prefer to become Christians without crossing racial, linguistic, or class barriers."[93]

Mission--"an enterprise devoted to proclaiming the Good News of Jesus Christ, and to persuading men and women to become His disciples and dependable members of His Church."[94]

Presence Evangelism "(1-P)--the view of evangelism which considers doing good to others as a sufficient goal of evangelism."[95]

Proclamation Evangelism "(2-P)--defines evangelism as simply making the Good News known to others, whether or not conversions result."[96]

Persuasion Evangelism "(3-P)--insists that evangelism must include bringing lost people to a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and into responsible church membership."[97]

Receptivity--"openness to hear, consider, and obey the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Individuals, groups, and societies show varying degrees of receptivity."

Resistance-Receptivity Axis--"a chart which visualizes prospects who have been found to be more receptive to the Gospel as opposed to those people who give evidence of more resistance."[98]

Search Theology--"the church's God-given mission is only to announce the Good News. We sow the seed. God in His good time gives the increase. We search for lost sheep. The finding is not in our hands."[99]

Theology of Harvest--"mere search is not what God wants. God wants His lost children found. He wants the church to gather in the harvest of souls."[100]


    Concordia Student Journal IX (Fall, 1985) (A publication of the students of Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, Missouri).

    Huebel, Glenn. "The Church Growth Movement: A Word of Caution," Concordia Theological Quarterly, 50 (July-October, 1986), 165-81.

    Hoover, David W. and Leenerts, Roger W. Enlightened With His Gifts, St. Louis: Lutheran Growth, 1979.

    Hunter, Kent R. Foundations for Church Growth. New Haven, Missouri: Leader Publishing Co., 1983.

    McGavran, Donald A. Understanding Church Growth. Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1970.

    McGavran, Donald A. and Winfield C. Arn. Ten Steps for Church Growth. San Francisco, CA.: Harper & Row, 1977.

    "Mission Across Cultures and Traditional Lutheran Cultus," Concordia Journal, 12 (May, 1986) pp. 81-89.

    Sasse, Herman. We Confess the Church. Translated by Norman Nagel. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1986.

    We Confess Jesus Christ. Translated by Norman Nagel. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1984.

    Scheiderer, Steve. The Church Growth Movement: A Lutheran Analysis. Ft. Wayne, Indiana: Concordia Theological Seminary Press, 1985.

    Wagner, C. Peter. The Growing Church. Pasadena, CA. Fuller Evangelistic Association, 1976. (This is a series of six cassettes and a workbook presenting twelve lectures by C. Peter Wagner on the basic Church Growth principles.)

    Your Church Can Grow. Ninth Printing. Ventura, CA. Regal Books, 1976.

    Walther, C. F. W. Church and Ministry. Translated by J. T. Mueller. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1987.

    Werning, Waldo J. Vision and Strategy for Church Growth. Second Edition. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1983.



[1] 1986 Convention Workbook, p. 1.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Cf. Resolution 1-02A "To Affirm a Lutheran Understanding of Evangelism," 1975 Convention Proceedings, pp. 79-80.

[5] Ibid.

[6] This is especially true in the book of Acts (6:1, 2, 7; 9:1,10, 19, 26, 38, 11:26, 29; 13:52; 14:20, 22, 28; 15:10; 16:1; 18:23, 27; 19:1, 9, 30; 20:1, 30; 21:4, 16). Cf. Gerhard Kittel, ea., Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1967), 4:441 and 449.

[7] W. Robertson Nicoli, ea., The Expositor's Greek Testament (Grand Rapids, Michigan Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, n.d.), 1:340.

[8] FC SD Vl, 9-12.

[9] FC SD Rule and Norm, 3, 9; VII, 45; cf. Ap. XII, 66

[10] Gen. 3:1-9; 6:5; 8:21; Matt. 16:17; Rom. 3:12; 5:12, 18-19; 8:7 1 Cor. 2:14; Eph. 2:1; FC SD I, 6, 9, 17; Ap II, 5, 35; SA III, i, 1.

[11] F C SD 1, 5.

[12] FC SD II, 7, 12, 24, 26

[13] Rom. 5:12-19; 2 Cor. 11:3; 1 Tim. 2:14; SA III, i, 1, viii, 5; LC II, 28; FC SD I, 9.

[14] FC SD VIII,40,44,82f.; Ep VIII, 8.

[15] Is. 53:4-6; Ps. 69:4-5; Matt. 20:28; Rom. 8:32; Gal. 3:13; 1 Tim. 2:6; 1 Pet. 1:18-19; 2:24.

[16] Rom. 5:19; Matt. 3:15; Rom. 10:4; FC SD III, 15.

[17] Ps. 46; Matt. 16:18; John 10:27-28.

[18] Col. 1:12-13; Eph. 2:3; Gal. 3:26; Rom. 6:14; 1 Pet. 2:10; John 1:12. Francis Pieper, Christian Dogmatics (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1951), 2:454.

[19] Pieper, 2:461. C. F. W. Walther expressed it thus: "Whoever teaches that one may be converted and still not entirely converted contradicts Holy Scripture, which says that a man is entirely in one of two states, the state of death or the state of life. One who is not in grace is under wrath; one who is not on the way to heaven is on the way to hell; one who is not a saved person is a condemned person. Here there is no twilight, no middle state between light and darkness. " Quoted by Pieper, 2:461, note 11.

[20] FC SD II, 14. Pieper, 2: 461.

[21] Ap IV, 48.

[22] SA III, viii, 10.

[23] C. F. W. Walther, Church and Ministry, trans. J. T. Mueller (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1987), p. 268. Cf. Pieper, 3:441.

[24] 1 Pet. 2:5; cf. Eph. 2:18; Rom. 12:1-8.

[25] Rom. 12:1-8.

[26] Treatise on the Power and Primacy of the Pope, 24 and 67; C. F. W. Walther, Church and Ministry, Theses IV and VII, pp. 198 and 268. Cf. Pieper, 3:439.

[27] AC XXVI I I, 5.

[28] Acts 20:28; 1 Cor. 12:28; Eph. 4:11-12; AC V.

[29] Walther, Church and Ministry, Thesis VII, p. 268.

[30] Eph. 4:11; 1 Tim. 3:1.

[31] AC XIV.

[32] Matt. 28:19-20; Acts 1:8; Col. 3:16; 1 Thess. 5:11-15; Heb. 10:24-25.

[33] Pieper, 3:441f.

[34] Luther's Works, American Edition, 30:124-25.

[35] It should be noted here with reference to St. Paul's discussion in 1 Corinthians 12 that most modern English translations understand the Greek term pneumatikoi in 1 Cor. 12:1 to be a reference to "spiritual gifts." The Revised Standard Version, however, includes a footnote at this point to indicate that "spiritual persons" is also a possibility (the Greek allows either translation). If this is what Paul had in mind, the reference is to Christians who were enriched by the Holy Spirit in a special way, having been given extraordinary gifts, sanctified talents, offices, abilities, and services for the purpose of building up the body of Christ and manifesting the unity of the Spirit in a congregation representing different nationalities and levels of society.

[36] SA III, viii, 10.

[37] SA II, viii 11-13.

[38] Resolution 3-10A "To Clarify the Synods Position Regarding Charismatic Teaching." 1977 Convention Proceedings, pp. 131-32. Cf. The Lutheran Church and the Charismatic movement. A report of the commission on Theology and Church Relations of The Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod, 1977, p. 7.

[39] Ibid.

[40] Ibid.

[41] FC SD X, 14, 27

[42] Quoted in John Fritz, Pastoral Theology, reprint edition in Concordia Heritage Series (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1932), p. 318.

[43] Donald A. McGavran and Winfield C. Arn, Ten Steps for Church Growth (New York: Harper & Row, 1977), p. 127.

[44] In January 1987 six representatives from the CTCR and the seminary faculties, together with CTCR staff, met with seven evangelical theologians from Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California, to discuss the topic of Church Growth. A preliminary draft of this report was shared with the Fuller Seminary representatives and served as the basis of discussion for a portion of the meeting. This discussion assisted the Commission in its efforts to present the views of Church Growth leaders at Fuller fairly and accurately.

[45] McGavran and Arn, Ten Steps, p. 24.

[46] Ibid., pp. 24-31.

[47] Ibid., p. 26.

[48] Donald A. McGavran, Understanding Church Growth (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1980 Revised edition), pp. 26-40.

[49] Ibid., pp. 30-32.

[50] Ibid., p. 26.

[51] McGavran and Arn, Ten Steps, p. 51.

[52] Ibid., p. 54.

[53] Ibid., p. 32.

[54] How to Identify, Reach, and Win New People, A Professional Education Workshop for Pastors, Executives, and Church Leaders, sponsored by The Institute for American Church Growth, pp. 18-20.

[55] C. Peter Wagner, The Growing Church (Pasadena, CA.: Fuller Evangelistic Association, 1976), Cassette #3, Side 1.

[56] McGavran and Arn, Ten Steps, p. 33.

[57] C. Peter Wagner, Your Church Can Grow (Ventura, CA.: Regal Books, 1981), p. 47.

[58] How to Identify, Reach, and Win New People, p. 27. See also Wagner, Your Church Can Grow, p. 55.

[59] McGavran and Arn, Ten Steps, pp. 51.

[60] Ibid., p. 49.

[61] See Delos Miles, Church Growth, A Mighty River (Nashville, Tenn.: Broadman Press, 1981), p. 129.

[62] Ibid., p. 128.

[63] Wagner, Your Church Can Grow, pp. 69f.

[64] Ibid., 74.

[65] McGavran and Arn, Ten Steps, p. 30.

[66] Ibid., pp. 61f

[67] Ibid., p. 67.

[68] Ibid., p. 64.

[69] Ibid., p. 19.

[70] Ibid.

[71] McGavran, Understanding Church Growth, pp. 166-75.

[72] How to Identify, Reach, and Win New People, Module 3, p. 3.

[73] McGavran, Understanding Church Growth, pp. 243-44.

[74] Ibid., p. 198.

[75] Ibid.

[76] Wagner, The Growing Church, Cassette #4, Handout #14.

[77] Ibid., Cassette #6.

[78] Ibid., Handout #21.

[79] McGavran, Understanding Church Growth, p. 247.

[80] Wagner, The Growing Church, p. 29.

[81] McGavran and Arn, Ten Steps, p. 127.

[82] Wagner, The Growing Church, Cassette #1.

[83] Note, for example, that C. P. Wagner in his book Church Growth and the Whole Gospel (New York: Harper and Row, 1981) regards the kingdom of God as the controlling theme of the Scriptures according to which the church must understand its missionary mandate. To be sure, the Kingdom of God is Christocentric in nature for Wagner, but this means chiefly that "Personal submission to the king, Jesus Christ, is the chief characteristic of the kingdom of God" (p. 5). Thus, the first two theological assumptions basic to Church Growth are "The Glory of God as the Chief End of Humans" and "The Lordship of Jesus Christ" (referring not to His salvation, but our obedience). None of the five theological assumptions makes reference to Christ's redemptive work on the cross. See Hermann Same, We Confess Jesus Christ, trans. Norman Nagel (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1984), pp. 36-54.

[84] McGavran and Arn, Ten Steps, pp. 52-53.

[85] LC II, 31.

[86] The tendency to lose sight of the Scriptural teaching that the office of the public ministry is a divine institution and therefore a divine mandate for the church is evident in some Church Growth literature. For example, C. P. Wagner describes as "exceedingly effective" the evangelism method of a congregation which "believes so much in body life that they refuse to hire pastors for their churches. They believe that the Holy Spirit provides each church with all the gifts needed for healthy church life, and that when members are properly using their gifts, a professional minister is simply excess baggage. The elders and the deacons do the preaching. The only man the church hires is the bookkeeper; the rest of the work is done by the members themselves." What Are We Missing? (Carol Stream, III. Creation House, 1973), p. 81.

[87] Wagner, Your Church Can Grow, p. 75.

[88] 1977 Resolution 3-1OA.

[89] The Charismatic Movement and Lutheran Theology, A Report of The Commission on Theology and Church Relations of The Lutheran Church-- Missouri Synod, 1972, p. 24.

[90] Romans 12:3-8

[91] Ap XXIV, 50f.

[92] McGavran and Arn, Ten Steps, pp. 127-30. The Commission has here selected some of the key terms and their definitions in McGavran and Arn's book, and in other sources noted in the footnotes following. The inclusion of this material implies neither endorsement nor non-endorsement of the terms or their definitions.

[93] McGavran, Understanding Church Growth, p. 223.

[94] Ibid., p. 26.

[95] C. Peter Wagner, The Growing Church, p. 12.

[96] Ibid.

[97] Ibid.

[98] Ibid., Cassette #6.

[99] McGavran, Understanding Church Growth, pp. 26-40.

[100] Ibid.


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