Wednesday, May 6, 2015

The final Lectures. A tribute to Dr Donald McGavran

The Mc Gavran Lectures
Final Lectures
Duke Divinity School 

In 1973 I had the privilege of attending a fall pastors conference sponsored by our denomination at the beautiful Banff Springs Hotel in the Canadian Rockies.

The guest speakers at that conference were Dr. Donald Mc Gavran and Dr. Win Arn. Church Growth as a discipline was in its infancy and these 2 were the pioneers in awaking the church particularly in North America to the the essential task of making more and better disciples in response to the mandate given by our Lord to take the gospel "panta ta ethne".

During that visit I began a 30 plus year friendship with with both of these faith giants.
I am writing this post to talk about my friend and mentor Dr. Donald Mc Gavran. He was instrumental in starting what today we call the Church Growth Movement. He also founded the School of World Missions at Fuller Seminary. Throughout his life his mantra was very simple; "It's God's will that His church grow and that His lost Children are found."

At his encouragement my journey into the field of Church Growth and Missiology had begun. That journey has taken me to all but one American State, every province in Canada, and a total of 42 different countries teaching Church Growth to pastors and their lay leaders. In this journey over the past 40 plus years I have had the privilege of having over a million lay leaders in church growth conferences, as well as over 100,000 pastors. I have been with and consulted with almost 3000 churches and with 56 different denominational bodies. Little did I know then what God had in store for my life.

My story in whole or in part is most likely a testimony of many. This man of God changed our lives, our churches  and our world for the better.

I want to tell a little about the genesis of not simply this post but the next 12 or 13 posts. In 1986 I was invited to go with Dr. Donald Mc Gavran to Duke University for a series of lectures and teaching at the Divinity School. At that event were the current students at the divinity school and pastors from the Methodist Judicatory in North Carolina. As Dr. McGavran notes in the first lecture he was in his 89th year and felt it might not be a good idea to travel across the nation for these lectures. 

Dr. Mc Gavran's eye sight was poor and he manuscripted each of his lectures. He asked me to read the lectures to the class and then he would spend the next hour or more answering questions on the subject matter raised. I taught in the afternoon and then he an I went to our hotel. For the record he did fine and the persons who had the privilege of listening to him speak will be forever blessed. As far as I know this was the last time he ever travelled to lecture on Church growth. 

When we initially arrived we were picked up by the Divinity School President and taken to our hotel. When we arrived they had reserved 2 rooms, one for each of us. Dr. McGavran however let it be known that one room was enough and he and I would stay together. I didn't object and we found ourselves together for dinner and in the evenings for 6 consecutive days.

When I had finished the day I was spent and just wanted to go back to my room and crash. Turn on the TV catch a bit of news and the latest sporting news and just relax.

Dr. McGavran teaching

I recall coming back to our hotel the first night and went to turn on the TV only to hear Dr. McGavran ask me if I could leave it off for awhile as he wanted to pray. It was then I knew why he wanted me as his roommate. For the next hour plus and repeated every night I watched him get on his knees and cry out to God for lost peoples and people groups, lift up missionaries all over the world, and pray for God to move mightely to the saving of souls. You see to Dr. McGavran Church Growth, was first and foremost a matter of the heart.

When the lectures, and that week was over I was a different man. As we flew back I wanted to give Dr. McGavran back the lectures. He insisted I keep them. I have them all, with his personal notes typed on an old typewriter in front of me as I write this.

I have wondered for some time what I should do with them. I have taken the time to have each of the lectures digitized so that their record and value may preserved. It is my plan to put these on my blog one lecture at a time with the hope and prayer that something of what this great giant of the faith wrote and said may be helpful. Any questions or comments can be posted of my blog or you can email me at

Feel free to copy and use these lectures for your seminary classes and personal benefit. My request is that in each and every case where you copy it or quote it please give honor to this faith pioneer by acknowledging his authorship.

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