Getting the direction of homogenous growth right.

One of the problems with homogenous church growth as practised in many churches is that mission is focused on invitational work. People are asked to come to the Sunday service or central church events. This strategy will result in a church congregation which looks, thinks and speaks like the leadership of the church, which is most often homogenous. People from cultures other than those present at the service will be unlikely to stay regardless of how friendly people are during the service and afterwards because the newcomer can’t see anyone like them.

Eddie Gibbs and Ian Coffey state in their book Church Next (IVP 2001) that homogenous church growth involves the reverse of this principle of invitation. We must not understand the command to “go into all the world” as an instruction to “invite all the world to come into our service”. Seek-and-find necessitates going out and looking because harvesting is done in the fields, not in the barns. Church must move from a Constantinian model – which presumes a church culture – to an apostolic model to penetrate the vast, unchurched segments of society.

I am ashamed by the cultural diversity of the Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses in Wolverhampton. The reason there are so many Asian Mormons and JWs is precisely because their mission strategy is to go into the fields before gathering into the barn.

Whatever people think of Saddleback Church, Rick Warren seems to have made the homogenous church growth principle work in mission without resorting to the formation of homogenous congregations. In The Purpose Driven Church he states that

[God] created an infinite variety of people with different interests, preferences, backgrounds and personalities and that the concept of evangelistic targeting is built into the Great Commission. Each of these unique people groups needs an evangelistic strategy that communicates the gospel in terms that their specific culture can understand.”

Saddleback Church began by targeting a young, unchurched white-collar people group and now includes specific mission to young adults, single adults, prisoners, the elderly, parents with ADD kids, Spanish, Vietnamese, Koreans and many other target groups. Saddleback has adopted an homogeneous church growth strategy which is outward focused so involves developing cultural awareness before witnessing to those homogeneous units. People are brought to faith in Christ where they live or work and are loved by those who bring the good news. The result of this is a gathered church which is culturally diverse. This in turn produces church services which can function as invitational without creating homogeneity because when people are invited they might not see anyone who is exactly like them but they can see a diversity which overcomes their sense of not quite fitting in.

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One Response to Getting the direction of homogenous growth right.

  1. Pingback: Free Online Resources for Intercultural Ministry - Face to Face Intercultural

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