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Evaluating the Church Growth Movement: 5 Views (Counterpoints: Church Life) Paperback – October 13, 2004
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From the Back Cover
Gaining form and momentum over the second half of the 20th century, the Church Growth movement has become an enormous shaping force on the Western church today. You may love it, you may hate it, but you can't deny its impact. But what exactly is Church Growth? In what ways has the movement actually brought growth to the church, and how effective has it been in doing so? What are its strengths and weaknesses? This timely book addresses such questions. After providing a richly informative history and overview, it explores---in a first-ever roundtable of their leading voices---five main perspectives, both pro and con, on the classic Church Growth movement: * Effective Evangelism View (Elmer Towns) * Gospel in Our Culture View (Craig Van Gelder) * Centrist View (Charles Van Engen) * Reformist View (Gailyn Van Rheenan) * Renewal View (Howard Snyder) As in other Counterpoints books, each view is first presented by its proponent, then critiqued by his co-contributors. The book concludes with reflections by three seasoned pastors who have grappled with the practical implications of Church Growth. The interactive and fair-minded nature of the Counterpoints format allows the reader to consider the strengths and weaknesses of each view and draw informed, personal conclusions. The Counterpoints series provides a forum for comparison and critique of different views on issues important to Christians. Counterpoints books address two categories: Church Life and Exploring Theology. Complete your library with other books in the Counterpoints series.
About the Author
Paul E. Engle, series editor for Counterpoints Church Life, is an ordained minister who served for twenty-two years in pastoral ministry in Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Illinois, and Michigan. He is an adjunct teacher in several seminaries in this country and internationally. He serves as associate publisher and executive editor in the Church, Academic, and Ministry Resources team at Zondervan. He and his wife Margie, live in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Dr. Gary L. McIntosh teaches at Talbot School of Theology, is a professor of Christian ministry and leadership, leads 20-25 national seminars a year, serves as a church consultant, was president of the American Society of Church Growth in 1995-1996, and has written over 95 articles and 10 books, including Finding Them, The Issachar Factor, Three Generations, One Size Doesn’t Fit All, Overcoming the Dark Side, and Staffing Your Church for Growth. He has over 15 years of experience as a pastor and Christian education director. He is a graduate of Colorado Christian University, Western Conservative Baptist Seminary, and Fuller Theological Seminary. He is editor of the Church Growth Network newsletter and the Journal of the American Society for Church Growth.
Elmer Towns (DMin, Fuller Theological Seminary) is cofounder with Jerry Falwell of Liberty University, where he currently serves as vice president and dean of the school of religion. He is an author and editor of popular and scholarly works, a seminar lecturer, and the creator of over twenty resource packets for leadership education. Dr. Towns has published over fifty books, including four CBA bestsellers and the 1995 Gold Medallion Book of the Year, The Names of the Holy Spirit. A visiting professor at five seminaries, he has received four honorary doctoral degrees. He and his wife, Ruth, have three children.
Gailyn Van Rheenen ( PhD, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School) is the facilitator of Church Planting and Renewal at Mission Alive (www.missionalive.org), adjunct professor of missions at Abilene Christian University, and former missionary to East Africa. His website is www.missiology.org.
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Top Customer Reviews
List strengths of book.
I believe there are many things to like about this book. Each of the presenters (except one that I will discuss under the weaknesses) offered very thoughtful insight on their perspective, as well as helpful debate with each response. I like the fact that each view is presented by someone who is a proponent of that view, rather than having someone else tell you what the other group believes. This approach is a much more "honest" way of presenting differing perspective. I also believe the responses added much to understanding each view. I thought each perspective was theologically grounded and at the same time a healthy concern for the importance of the cultural context was present. A very beneficial historical perspective was given on the overall topic of church growth. It was helpful to better understand the roots of the church growth movement and how different individuals play significant roles.
List weaknesses of book.
There were two major weaknesses of the book. First, most of the views, if not all, seemed to be a bit pushed. In other words, it seemed the editor had to come up with these somewhat arbitrary views of church growth. I do certainly believe there are those who are for and against the traditional church growth perspective, but to say there are five different views seem arbitrary. Secondly, the Centrist View by Charles Van Engen was very muddled and confusing. It was certainly the least helpful of each of the views presented. Additionally I thought the title of Van Rheenan's view (Reformist) was not a very good title, it should have been called something like the Complementary View.
Let me mention one thing that would have strengthened the book, in my opinion. Instead of five views on the Church Growth Movement, I would have had it five views on Church Growth. Then, most of the articles would have focused primarily on their approach and philosophy of the growth of the local church. Instead, the main thing is concentrating on the Church Growth Movement as founded by MacLaren and popularized by C. Peter Wagner, and if the author has concerns then they share an alternative. While I think this would have helped, this still shares the same information.
This is the fourth Counterpoint book I've read. All have the common feature of having articles by different authors presenting their views on the chosen topic and responses to each article by the other authors. However, there are unique features of each volume I've read. In this one, there are comments by three pastors after reading the five articles. I found this very useful.
One thing I like about the four books I've read is that all are on topics where the authors disagree but where none term the others as heretics. I love discussions/debates done with respect, and this one fits the bill on this subject.
In the mid-'80's, I took a course at Bible College on church growth, which took an approach similar to the official movement, represented in this volume by Elmer Towns. Personally, I lean closest to Howard Snyder's Renewal view and relate some to Craig Van Gelder's GOC approach. It definitely gives a lot to think about.
If you're thinking of starting a church or wondering how to add spark to a sputtering congregation, this book would be immensely helpful.