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The church is fundamentally different from corporate enterprises that exist primarily for profit.  Churches can no longer think of growth in terms of quantity, or size, or couched in any bureaucratic or institutional mindset such as requiring a percentage increase in attendance or giving by a certain date.  These are the visions of corporations and organizations that are primarily operating for profit and not for human transformation. 

Rather, church growth must be conceived as broadening horizons of ministry: spreading the gospel (which literally means “good news”) in more ways and to more people than ever before.  People must experience the life-changing growth of God’s love and the wholeness that comes from living within the interdependent web created by that love.  When a church is offering this kind of transformational experience, the numbers will take care of themselves, by no longer being the covert, yet primary goal of current church growth initiatives. 

This definition of church growth also includes the goal of transforming societies and nations.  Church growth happens not only inside the walls of the actual church building starting with the transformation of individuals but also outside the walls of the building, in the space of the world and people’s lives.  Church growth comes from people becoming religiously responsible (theologically, ethically, and/or morally) change agents that continue to live their faith throughout their daily lives, beyond the church’s physical walls.  Church becomes an action verb which is carried out in a new sacred space – that of the “interdependent web of existence of which we are all a part.”[1]  

Several stages happen in church growth both linearly and simultaneously.  It involves the growth of individuals, growth of the congregation/faith group, and growth of the community.  The latter is comprised of transformed individuals, working collectively to bring the church into interdependent relationships with humanity and the universe.  Personal growth starts with the physical church’s focus on providing a learning environment, incorporating a transformational basis for living a faithful life; rather than just providing a Sunday morning “feel good” experience.  Each religious denomination has a different set of doctrines or guiding principles that aid in articulation of what the growth goals are. 

Romans 12:2-18 guides this project with its inclusive set of characteristics that are unarguably positive and effective for both individual peace and wholeness as well as for community and universal wholeness.  A priori, wholeness and peace for humanity and creation are worthy goals.

The authors of Common Fire discuss several traits and characteristics of person who have proven to be growing individually and communally:  community, compassion, conviction, courage, confession, and commitment.[2]  The church must foster these characteristics by teaching them and aiding their incorporation into congregants’ lives.  Such learning and incorporating tasks needs to be grounded in the faith tradition, scripture and other sacred texts valued by that tradition.  These characteristics grow a person from being “human” to being faithful, and this transformation should take place within the church context.  The church provides the foundation, skills and tools, and motivation/support for individuals to lead faithful lives in an “action-verb” church sense.

In addition to personal growth, the second arena for growth is in what used to be known as the “parish.”  The parish represents the people and places surrounding the church.  Whether or not they are members of the church, they should be considered by the church as a part of the church’s “sacred space” and therefore the church’s responsibility.  In this understanding of parish, sacred space moves out of the church and becomes something more common, more inclusive.  It is instinctual for caring, compassionate, committed individuals acting out of their transformation to interact with others in the local community.  Grounding their work and relationships in their faith (theologically, morally and ethically) leads them to a natural and honest ministry of self and other. 

The realm of sacred space that is created by these religiously committed individuals, interacting naturally, daily, with one another as a matter of faith is living the “New Commons” concept described in the text mentioned above.  Church growth is a new way of being in the world, leading and acting faithfully in everyday, every moment situations, in order to bring about this “New Commons” where peace and wholeness are matters of everyone’s responsibility.  [KW1] If churches were to focus on the multiple purposes of the transformation of people, institutions and worship, what would those ministries look like?  How would they be implemented?

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[1] Unitarian Universalist Association, ibid.

[2] Parks Daloz, et al.  These characteristics are named as the titles of chapters within the book and are the basis for the authors’ understandings of what makes an individual achieve for the betterment of community.

A summary of theological worlds and reference to Jones’ book needs to be inserted here.

1 Response to “Redefining Church Growth”

  1. 1 julius
    October 13, 2014 at 7:55 AM

    great message for all christian

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... or, preaching from both ends


That's too bad - I'm so sorry. Oh, well, just try to make the best of it. What you'll find here is a variety of essays and ramblings to do with things theological, social, whimsical and, sometimes, all three. I don't write to get famous - trust me, I've been told how futile that would be - but to express myself. I love to communicate and browbeat - ummm, I mean dialogue - about the things I find intriguing. Since you're here, and the door's locked, why don't you stay a while. There's a page bar under the header with links to information about us - I mean me. Don't forget to tell me what you think - in a nice way, I mean.

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