by Gary L. McIntosh, ed.
I wish this book had been written several years ago. Zondervan published this work as part of the Counterpoints Series on the fiftieth anniversary of the contemporary Church Growth Movement.
Zondervan, 5300 Patterson Ave. SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49530, 2005, 295 pages, $16.99.
—Reviewed by J. D. Payne, director, Nehemiah Project and assistant professor of church planting and evangelism, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, Kentucky.
I wish this book had been written several years ago. Zondervan published this work as part of the Counterpoints Series on the fiftieth anniversary of the contemporary Church Growth Movement. The book offers a critique of the Movement. Gary McIntosh, a well-known church consultant and author, wrote the Introduction and the Afterword, and three pastoral leaders contributed small chapters based on their overall reflections of the work. The heart of the book revolves around the writings of Elmer Towns, Craig Van Gelder, Charles Van Engen, Gailyn Van Rheenen and Howard Snyder. Each of these five contributors was selected “because he represents one of the key voices for his particular point of view, but also because of his personal involvement with Church Growth as a practical discipline” (25).
The work addresses a number of important questions. What are the contemporary views on the Movement? What are the strengths and weaknesses of the Movement? What will be the future direction of the Movement? What will be the future issues of debate related to the Movement?
The format of the book is simple. Each contributor wrote an extensive, well-documented chapter summarizing his thoughts, followed by four brief responses from the other contributors.
The writers agree on the following: the Movement has been and is extremely influential, the nature of the kingdom assumes growth, the Church’s priority is not maintenance but mission and the social sciences are helpful when used with discernment. They disagree on issues such as the mission of the church, the definitions of the gospel and evangelism, the use of human means in facilitating growth, a yardstick to measure healthy growth and the point at which the church moves from healthy contextualization to harmful accommodation.
I thoroughly recommend this book, particularly for use in the academic setting. The strengths of this work include excellent historical analysis of the origins, developments and present status of the Movement. Also, this work attempts to offer a theological response to a movement that has consisted primarily of methodological and strategic writings. Though I found myself to some degree in agreement with each contributor, the work struggles to be an effective Counterpoints book. At times the contributors seem to make the same points, while using different terms or emphases. Also, there is little consistency in the structure of the contributors’ chapters and their argumentation. Readers are left wondering if the contributors did not receive clear guidelines regarding the focus of the book: to address “the classical Church Growth perspective as developed by Donald A. McGavran and his followers” (23).
Check these titles:
McGavran, Donald A. 1970. Understanding Church Growth. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans.
Rainer, Thom S. 1993. The Book of Church Growth: History, Theology, and Principles. Nashville: Broadman and Holman Publishers.
Wagner, C. Peter. 1998. Church Growth and the Whole Gospel: A Biblical Mandate. Eugene, Ore.: Wipf and Stock Publishers.
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