Tuesday, November 26, 2013

What is Church Growth?

Excitement, expansion, eloquent sermons, conversions of multitudes, miraculous workings – all these thoughts express the thrust of the book of Acts. It is the narration of how the disciples of Christ followed His command to “be witnesses . . . both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth” (Acts 1:8). It is the narration of how a fledgling movement turned into a widespread and organized network of believers and assemblies of believers. It is the narration of how the church at large grew and also how individual congregations grew.

Church growth is at the most basic level the conversion of unbelievers to Christianity and the incorporating of those believers into a local assembly of believers. Church growth includes not just the simple addition of individuals to Christianity at large and to a local church, but it also includes the instruction and discipleship of those individuals.
While church growth can be said to happen in multitudes (Acts 2:41), it is ultimately something that happens on an individual basis, one person at a time (Acts 16:14-15). While numbers in themselves are not the key focus in church growth, they are, however, a part of church growth. In other words, church growth is partially measured numerically.

Church growth, of course, not only includes numerical growth, but it also includes the personal, spiritual growth of each believer. Samuel Rutherford points out the necessity of such growth, “Growth in grace should be cared for above all things; and falling from our first love mourned for.”(*) This spiritual growth of individuals must be one of the key foci of the church.

* Rutherford, Samuel. 1996. Letters of Samuel Rutherford. Edinburgh: Banner of Truth.
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