Wednesday, May 13, 2015

The Church Growth Movement Sweeps Across America. Dr. Donald McGavran

Lecture 6
The Final Lectures
Dr. Donald McGavran

Up until 1971 church growth had been very largely concerned with overseas missions.  My own experience as an overseas missionary and the fact that the movement was developing in a school of world mission guaranteed that.  True, there had been frequent references to the fact that the principles of church growth also applied to Christianized lands like the United States.  In 1966 and 1967, the Rev. Medford Jones, a noted evangelist among the Christian Churches, at my invitation, tried to make the Winona Lake annual Church Growth Seminar a meeting place for ministers of many churches.  They attended most of my lectures and some by Mr. Jones.  Nevertheless, church growth and the Church Growth Bulletin were devoted overwhelmingly to the work of foreign missions.
As long as three-quarters or more of the world’s population remains non-Christian, and Asia and much of Africa remain overwhelmingly non-Christian, all schools of mission will, beyond doubt, spend most of their time on discipling the non-Christian ethne of Asia, Africa and Latin America.  However, beginning in 1972, effective evangelism in the United States and other Christian lands began to be taken seriously by the church growth movement.
In 1972 Professor C. Peter Wagner, believing that church growth was needed to be promoted in North America, told me he was planning in or near Pasadena for an accredited seminar course on church growth.  Every week there would be one three-hour class session held at the Lake Avenue Congregational Church from 7:00 to 9:00 a.m.  He and I would share the teaching load.  I gladly assented to his proposal.
As these ministers saw what church growth would mean in Southern California and the United States as a whole, they became increasingly enthusiastic.  Dr. Wagner resolved to have other similar accredited classes for American ministers.
A house church of new converts from a leper colony near Bangalore
One of the men enrolled in this course was Dr. Winfield Arn, who was at that time Director of Christian Education for the Evangelical Covenant Church in California, Arizona and Nevada.  As Dr. Arn listened with amazement and understanding to the church growth point of view, he resolved to start the Institute for American Church Growth.  He came to see me in my office, telling me of his resolve.  cautioned him, saying, “Win, you had better not do that.  You may lose your shirt.”  Disregarding my advice, he resigned as Director and began the Institute for American Church Growth.  This institute has had an amazing impact on the congregations and denominations of the United States, Canada, and other “Christian” lands.  Every year large numbers of church growth seminars are held all across the country, sometimes on a denominational, sometimes on an interdenominational basis.  It has published many books on American church growth.  It has made more than a dozen church growth films, many of which are projected each week of the year in congregations all across the United States.
With offices on Colorado Boulevard in Pasadena, the Institute has become nationally known.  Just before coming to Philadelphia, I spoke at a meeting of more than 200 denominational executives in Pasadena convened by the Institute for American Church Growth.
Similar influential emphasis on North American church growth was being mounted by Dr. Wagner and his classes on church growth.  These formed a large part of the courses required for a Doctor of Ministries Degree in Fuller Theological Seminary.  It became increasingly clear that American church growth was a vast field in which many could work effectively.
Indeed, in 1976, the United Methodist Church, observing that it had lost a million members in the previous decade, turned to Dr. George Hunter, gave him a budget of a quarter of a million dollars a year, and asked him to instruct Methodist congregations and conferences all across the land in the principles and practices of church growth.  His program did much to turn the United Methodist Church around and greatly furthered the church growth movement.
On July 1, 1971, Dr. Arthur Glasser became Dean of the School of World Mission.  Under his direction the school moved forward even more rapidly.  More and more attention was paid to Chinese evangelism.  More nationals from more countries were given scholarships and admitted to the School of World Mission.  The enrollment at the School mounted steadily year by year.  Dr. Alan Tippett became the first editor of the magazine, Missiology, and the cause of missions was greatly benefitted.
About the same time, a business executive, Edward Dayton, who, after his conversion decided to become a minister and had enrolled at the Fuller School of Theology, became deeply interested in the School of World Mission.  He contributed the idea of PERT charting, the progress of the expansion of Christianity in any given area or people.  Upon graduating he formed a new organization called MARC, Missions Advanced Research and Communications Center.  This was made a part of the great World Vision organization.  Among its many contributions to the cause is the publication of a series of books titled Unreached Peoples of the World.
A group of graduating Christian leaders to whom I had the privilege
of teaching Church Growth. They are currently serving in
China,  Burma, India M Malaysia and other
Essential to an understanding of world mission in the 60’s and 70’s is a clear picture of the effect which the ending of European imperialism has had on the missionary enterprise.  Up until the end of World War II, most of Africa, all of what is now Pakistan, India, Bangladesh and Burma, all of Indonesia, and the Philippine Islands and sundry other parts of the world were ruled by western missions.  The men and women of these lands viewed missionaries as a part of western imperialism.  This imperial order collapsed with the end of World War II.  The Philippines were granted independence; so was the Indian subcontinent including Burma.  So was Indonesia.  During the next fifteen years, so were most of the countries in Africa.
With the ending of the imperial era, the national Churches (denominations) in each of these formerly ruled lands, sometimes strong but often weak, insisted more strongly than ever that they were completely independent of western churches and could neither be ruled by no guided by missionaries from the West.  Mission schools and colleges which had been managed by missionary principals speedily appointed national principals.  Episcopalian churches, most of whose bishops had been westerners, rapidly retired these and appointed national bishops.  The opinion of the national leaders of Unions, Conferences, Dioceses, and Synods were increasingly recognized as the last word in what ought to be done.  While large amounts of missionary money continued to pour into these lands, it was increasingly made over to the national churches to divide and spend.
Increasingly, also, national governments denied visas to missionaries.  Whether this governmental action was suggested by leaders of the national churches or by enemies of the Christian faith is not at the present time clear.  Both causes have been argued, but the outcome was sharply to diminish the number of missionaries in a great many mission fields.
At the very time when many nations of the world were opening to the Christian faith, the number of missionaries who could get permission to work there was sharply diminished.  This led many denominations related to the World Council of Churches to diminish their missionary labors.  “World evangelization,” they said, “is now the work of the younger churches.  We shall continue to make grants to them, but the work is theirs, not ours.”  As a result, the mission budgets of many great denominations sharply diminished.  Since they were no longer sending out large numbers of their own sons and daughters, their giving to missions sharply decreased.  For example, the United Presbyterians, who in the 50’s were sending out more than 1600 missionaries, in the 70’s were sending out less than 400.  Furthermore, in the Episcopal Church the number of missionaries dropped by almost 75% during the same period.
In the evangelical denominations, however, many continued to send out missionaries.  Some sent even more than before.  It was clear that what world evangelization was in a globe populated by equal nations, most of who were non-Christians, was far from settled.
Many maintained that “Since in that land we now have our great national church, we no longer need to pray for, give to, and work for its evangelization.”  That “the great church” concerned numbered less than one percent of the population of that country did not seem to make much difference to those who advanced this argument.
It was in this kind of a world with these sentiments that the School of World Mission in Pasadena, California, was developing its concepts of what effective missions should be.  In the vast enterprise it was easy to do much good work and achieve very little, if any, church growth, i.e., the conversion of large segments of the population.  It was too easy for churches to “carry on a great mission work” which consisted largely of encouraging and supporting slow-growing or even non-growing national churches.
That here and there great growth was occurring did not materially change the picture.  For example, while a small denomination known as the Evangelical Church of India was planting one new congregation a week in south India, and in northeast India, the Baptists were adding thousands from the animists each year.  It was also true that in the rest of Pakistan, India, Bangladesh and Burma, most of the denominations established in the preceding two centuries had become largely static or slow growing.  In some places they were declining.  The rapid growth of the Church in Taiwan between 1947 and 1965 had ended.  The numbers of Christians there in 1985 remained only slightly larger than they were in 1965.  In Japan only one percent of the population had become Christian, and in the Muslim world gate after gate had been shut and locked against the spread of the Christian faith.  In the rapidly growing cities of the world also little effective evangelism was being carried out.  The urban populations in many cases were winnable but they were not being won.  It was this kind of a world that the School of World Mission faced.  It was in this kind of a world that the newly named science of missiology made its pronouncements as to how populations ought to be and could be Christianized.
The rise of the School of World Mission in Pasadena triggered an increased emphasis on missionary education in evangelistic seminaries all across the United States.  At Columbia Bible College, President Robertson McQuilkin started a graduate department specializing in the preparation and education of missionaries of the church.  At Gordon-Conwell Seminary, twenty miles from the great City of Boston, Professor Christy Wilson emphasized Christian mission in a great way.  Trinity Divinity School at Deerfield, just north of Chicago, decided to emphasize missions.  It sent its new Professor of Missions, Dr. David Hesselgrave, veteran missionary to Japan, to the School of World Mission for a school term to learn all that he could and then launch courses on effective missions at Trinity.  The Missouri Synod Lutherans appointed a professor of church growth in their seminary in St. Louis.  Biola University, which had had a missions department, strengthened it, appointed four full-time professors of missions, and by the early 80’s had developed a program leading to a Ph.D. in Missiology.  Many other Bible colleges and seminaries introduced courses emphasizing the opportunity and need to reap fields white to harvest and to care for unripe fields so that they would shortly become ripe.
Books on mission had been comparatively rare in the 60’s. Such as were published—see the book lists published in the International Review of Missions for those years—dealt very seldom with effective evangelism or the discipling of unreached segments of earth’s population.  Missions tended to discuss the problems of national churches.  The Church of Jesus Christ exists in many forms among the many populations of planet earth.  Books on missions tended to discuss these problems of existing congregations and denominations.  They seldom focused their attention on effective evangelism.  To be sure, evangelism was frequently spoken of, but it made no distinctions as to whether those who responded to the call were nominal Christians of one’s own denomination, nominal Christians of somebody else’s denomination, the children of existing Christians, or men and women belonging to some non-Christina faith, such as humanism, Marxism, Buddhism, Islam or Hinduism.
In sharp contrast the books published by the Fuller School of World Mission dealt continually with actual Christianization.  Was Christ’s command to matheteusate panta ta ethne really being carried out?  To what degree had this ethnos  of these ethne been disciple and enrolled in Christ’s body, the Church?  The career missionaries at the School of World Mission, whose careful researches into the multiplication of congregations among various segments of the world’s populations had been accepted as master’s theses or doctoral dissertations, were in many cases published.  The stream of books relating to effective evangelism formed an ever widening and deepening stream.  Consciousness of eternal God’s command that the gospel be so preached to panta ta ethne that these segments of society would be led to faith and obedience was heard, therefore, not merely by professors of mission and students enrolled in missionary courses, but b the tens of thousands (or more likely hundreds of thousands) who read these books in denomination after denomination and land after land.
During the 70’s the impact of the School of World Mission on the missionary thinking of the world was very considerable among evangelicals.  Among concillars it tended to be ruled as old fashioned, speaking to a bygone age, unaware of the strong nationalistic sentiments of the younger Churches, or not sufficiently concerned with equality and justice.  Nevertheless, bit by bit, here and there, the concillar denominations were influenced and began to take significant action.
For example, in the early 80’s a bishop of the United Methodist Church in the United States, noting that his denomination had lost a million members between 1965 and 1975 and wakened by church growth thinking, proposed in a letter that between 1985 and 1995, the United Methodist Church win 10 million Americans to ardent Christian faith.  What John Wesley had prayed for and dreamed about 200 years before in England was being envisaged in the United States.  While this bishop’s words at this stage should be considered more a hope than an actual plan, more a dream than an actuality, they do indicate that some denominations were concluding that for them to remain static in the midst of an increasingly humanistic, materialistic, and secular American population was not God’s will.
As the financial resources available to the School of World Mission increased, other members were added to the faculty and other aspects of the missionary enterprise began to be taught.  For example, since all missionaries need to learn a new language and speak it effectively, a new professor was added to the faculty, and his new courses on learning language were added.
In an attempt to win a hearing among the widest possible range of denominations, Arthur Glasser and Donald McGavran started teaching a course on contemporary theology of missions.  This dealt with evangelical theology concillar theology, Roman Catholic theology, and liberation theology.  While describing fairly each of these branches of theology, the course insisted throughout that each theology should be judged by whether it did effectively carry out the divine command to win men and women to Christ and multiply Christian congregations.  The course later materialized in a book published by Baker Book House called Contemporary Theology of Mission.  It became one of the most read books on missions. 
Dr. Ralph Winter, the missionary genius who delivered the school’s courses on history of missions, learning that the Pasadena Nazarene College had moved to San Diego and was selling its campus and adjoining lands for $15 million, in 1976 decided to resign from his post as tenured professor in the School to found a world mission center on the former Nazarene campus.  He had, in 1969, founded William Carey Library, a publishing house of mission books.  This publishing company moved immediately to the campus which Dr. Winter had purchased.
William Carey Library enormously facilitated the publication of books on world mission.  What other Christian publishers turned down, fearing that they would not sell enough copies, William Carey Library boldly published.  The expanding missionary conscience of Christians created avid readers.  William Carey Library can scarcely be overrated.  As to the U.S. Center for World Mission, it became a place where 44 missionary organizations, large and small, established their headquarters.  Its publications multiplied.  It sought to arouse a missionary concern in all denominations across America.  Dr. Winter insisted that raising the $15 million always be subordinated to raising missionary concern in the Churches of North America.
The U.S. Center for World Mission lifted up the concept of unreached peoples and called sharp attention to the fact that these were not being reached in any adequate way by existing missionary efforts, whether of national churches or of missionary societies.  The USCWM and several other world mission centers started in other places, whole not calling themselves church growth movements, nevertheless were both a fruit of it and among its most effective promoters.
Time will not permit an adequate account of the church growth centers started in other countries of the world, but they must be mentioned.  As career missionaries and national leaders graduating from the School of World Mission went back to their lands of labor, they often started church growth centers.  These arose in Taiwan, the Philippines, Japan, India, Singapore, Kenya, Brazil, England and Australia.  The attention of missionary societies and churches was increasingly focused on carrying out eternal God’s command and of obeying Him to whom all authority in heaven and earth had been given.
8n 1980, Dean Glasser resigned as Dean and continued teaching.  His place was taken by Dr. Paul Pierson, a United Presbyterian missionary to Brazil for many years.  Under his dynamic leadership the School increased still more.  The extension services which Dean Glasser had begun were carried still further.  Under them hundreds of nationals and missionaries, while residing in other lands, took accredited courses from the School of World Mission.
Dr. Cho leads us in praying for the harvest

When the School of World Mission opened on September 25, 1985, more than 300 students from 71 different nations, including Yugoslavia and Namibia, registered.  Twenty-seven Ph.D. degrees in missiology had been given, 39 professional doctorates in missiology had been given, and very large numbers of M.Th.s and M.A.s  in missiology had been conferred upon men and women who had successfully completed strenuous courses on missiology.
This lecture in a rather inadequate way has covered the fifteen years 1970-1985.  Much more than this had happened.  I hope that this lecture will, however, give some of the highlights and indicate some of the academic impact of church growth thinking.

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