Church Growth: Definition
Tremendous growth is going on in the Christian Church today. For some observers this tends to be obscured by the world population and the increasing percentage of non-Christians which that so far implies. Meanwhile, the fact is that the number of Christians is greater now than it has ever been. With the rise of Churches and the expansion of the Church among non-Christian populations, multitudes of small congregations of less than hundred members have been formed. Consequently the number of congregations is far greater than at any time in history.
The Church is even now expanding in numerous cultures and subcultures, languages and dialects, tribes, classes, and kindred. Whereas in the year 1800 it was confined largely to Europe and the Americas, by the last third of the twentieth century it had spread to almost every country on earth. Frequently a Church splits and both sections grow. Sections of the Church, sometimes large, sometimes, small, do of course at times face difficulties or new problems and enter a period of malaise. War, famine, pestilence, the spread of some debilitating theology, adjustment to radically new conditions, migration to new lands or cities, and totalitarian oppression are some of the factors that not only check the church growth but may enervate the people of God for a time.
Christians, preoccupied with domestic problems and denominational housekeeping, often fail to see the phenomenon of mighty church growth which God is continually bringing to pass on all six continents. Some persons, surprised at the extent of this growth, may even doubt its reality. But like Mt. Everest, it is there. It is going on all the time. And understanding it is an urgent task.
1.1 Defining "Church"
When a parent says to their 16 year old daughter "Don’t stay out late," the difference between what the parents mean by "late" and what the daughter understands as being "late" is about six hours. Similarly in marriage, when a man says he understands his wife, what he means when he says he understands his wife is completely different that what she thinks he means when he says he understands her - if you understand what I'm saying. Even in theological debate, what one person means by "justification" is completely different than what someone else might understand. So to avoid as much confusion as possible, we want to begin by defining what we mean by "church growth." And we need to take these two words separately. Before we can look at how the church grows, we need to come to an agreement of what the "church" is. I won't do the study for you, but if you were to do it on your own, you would discover that according to the Bible, the church is not a building. Instead, The church body consists of the universal and local gathering of believers under the headship of Christ, meeting regularly and orderly for the purposes of exalting God, edifying one another and evangelizing the world. Many people today understand the church as a building. This is not a biblical understanding of the church. The word “church” comes from the Greek word ekklesia which is defined as “an assembly” or “called-out ones.” The root meaning of “church” is not that of a building, but of people. It is ironic that when you ask people what church they attend, they usually identify a building. Romans 16:5 says “… greet the church that is in their house.” Paul refers to the church in their house—not a church building, but a body of believers. The church is the body of Christ, of which He is the head. Ephesians 1:22-23 says, “And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.” The body of Christ is made up of all believers in Jesus Christ from the day of Pentecost (Acts chapter 2) until Christ’s return. The body of Christ is comprised of two aspects:...