Go to Table of Contents
The focus of this project has been church growth, a movement that more often than not was found lacking. Great attention has been given to old and current definitions of church growth, with a new process suggested for moving beyond numbers. This project recommended strategies to encourage and foster religious transformation, based in large part on theological exploration and discovery. What then is the value of this kind of transformation in the lives of individuals, societies and the universe as a whole?
In our contemporary society of convenience and consumerism, if people do not see results or value in their participation, then they will not continue to take part. If the church is not achieving its primary purpose of assisting in the search for meaning and wholeness for its members, then its members will seek meaning elsewhere. Church growth then cannot be focused on the number of people in the pew or those listed in the membership database. Church growth must be about helping to make meaning in people’s lives. If the church does act as God’s agent in transformation, then it has lost its relevancy in today’s society. Meaning making, leading towards wholeness, is what drives the quality of religious experience. With quality may come quantity, but increasing numbers cannot be the goal.
This paper has focused on two aspects of the church: the individuals and the community because religious transformation is simultaneously happening individually and collectively. The new church becomes a collection of individuals in various stages of transformation working together to change the nature of their congregation and community. The transformed individual is one who attempts to exemplify their understanding of the will of God in his or her daily life. That is to say, this person is open-minded, openhearted and compassionate in word, thought and deed.
Wholeness is sought through the epiphania of recognizing and living through one’s theological world. Personal life, ministry and vocation combine to demonstrate conviction. As suggested earlier, “whole” individuals, with their new skills and attitudes work within communal groups playing the roles of prophet, teacher, exhorter and evangelist. Within these contexts they create faith communities that are built from individuals who have common values and ethics for present and future life, love and living.
In this vision, transformation is not limited by the boundaries of church walls. Pilgrimage is experienced by moving outside the boundaries of oneself into something new – a new experience, situation, relationship or paradigm – then returning home to the faith community and unpacking that experience theologically and spiritually in order to fully grasp its meaning. Continuously living faith beyond church walls epitomizes a new attitude of church growth.
When enough divinely inspired individuals take the qualities of Romans 12 outside the church walls and into the world through their daily living, they create a transformed community. When humanity, ecology and the universe are imagined as an interdependent web, and the transformed individual as a strand of that web, then one person’s actions can have visible effects on the web. Thus the community is ever building, ever renewing the web of connections through divine interaction, matching inner work with outer work.
The virtual image of the new, transformed church is reflected in what the New Testament refers to as the Realm of God. Capitalizing on this courtly language, the image becomes one of a universal society of humanity living in religious and spiritual responsibility with each other. If all people put their faith into practice and both allowed and encouraged others to do so, then we would all have a chance for meaning making and wholeness in our lives.
Return to Table of Contents