Saturday, October 22, 2011

Healthy Numerical Church Growth

What does healthy numerical growth in a church look like? Dennis McCallum in his book, Organic Disciplemaking, examines the exceptional numerical growth of the early church:
The period from the death of Christ until the end of the first century was the most fruitful in the history of the church. During these few decades, Christianity spread clear across the Roman Empire and even penetrated deeper into Africa, the Parthian Empire, and India. The best estimates put the number of Christians at the end of first century at around 1 million. That’s an increase of 2000 times the number of Christians before Pentecost (perhaps 500). And all of this growth was facilitated by the process of discipleship. Without mass media, advertising, church buildings or seminaries, the primitive church expanded at a rate never equaled in the nineteen centuries (28).

McCallum then goes on to provide a helpful illustration of what I believe to be a healthy church growth model that happens through exponential multiplication:
Consider the following scenario: No one would feel bad about a church that could win fifty thousand people in two years. In fact, we know of no church that has down so well. And if they won an additional fifty thousand each two years thereafter, such a church could win 1.5 million people during a sixty-year period. Remarkable indeed! This would truly be a super church.
On the other hand, a single house church of thirty people, where the average member did nothing but win and disciple one other person during a two-year period would seem rather unremarkable. They would have a mere sixty people after two years, and would become two home churches. But if the original group and the new group both did the same thing during the following two years, and this process continued for the next sixty years, the result would be far more remarkable than that of the super church. In fact the duplicating group would have won 16 million people! They would, in fact, have out-performed the super church by more than ten times! Not only that, but within another twenty-five year, this duplicating group would have won every person on earth (28-29).

McCallum admits that these are not realistic numbers to actually achieve for a single local congregation. But the contrast is striking. What if we were to ask the Lord to allow us the opportunity for one such redemptive relationship over the next 24 months? This is a very realistic and, by God’s grace, achievable goal.  Will you take up the challenge?

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