I’ve posted many times against the phenomenon of homogenous church so this post might be surprising. I believe there is a legitimate and important place for homogenous church growth in both parachurch and local church situations.
The homogenous growth principle is like reaches like. There are clearly many mission organisations working alongside local churches whose stated aim just that, for example:
- UCCF/IFES encourages students to reach students
- Christians in Sport exists to help sportsmen and women reach others in their sports clubs
- Light Offshore Christian Fellowship exists for oil industry workers
- South Asian Concern trains people in local churches to understand and so reach South Asians for Christ.
These parachurch organisations focus their energy on homogeneous units of society. Each exhibits what McGavran observed or promoted, that the gospel spreads through people in the places where they already live, work and play.
None of these organisations call themselves a church. They each, to some degree, seek to support the local church to do mission. I believe, however, that the same principle of homogenous church growth can be applied at a local church level, though it need not be so culturally or focused. I am not advocating for one second that our main Sunday gatherings should be homogenous, indeed focused mission should generate heterogenous church gatherings. Rather, I believe that our mission should be focused on existing networks of people.
The homogenous church growth principle works by allocating mission resources to groups within a geographical area which are “receptive” to the Christ and avoids wasting resources on “resistant” networks. One great fallacy, according to McGavran, is that people suppose “that the church grows in a geographical area, when as a matter of fact it always grows in people themselves – usually a homogenous unit of society.” [Understanding Church Growth p144].
I’ve found in the past three years that some families or networks of friends are receptive to Christ and so I believe we should direct mission resources towards these networks. In essence, start small groups in existing social circles, so that people can grow in their knowledge and love of Christ within these networks rather than asking them to leave their networks, join pre-existing church structures or networks and try to drag people with them.
In Blakenhall, many but not all social networks are ethnically homogenous. Other networks include lifestyle (social clubs, pubs, gym, Black and Ethnic minority groups etc), class, caste or neighbourhood networks. Most networks are small, due to the fragmentation of society. The point is, the news of Christ spreads more quickly through such existing networks when the gospel is taken into them rather than the people being taken out.