Concern about church growth and decline is widespread and contentious, yet theological reflection on church growth is scarce. Reflecting on the Bible, dogmatic theology and church history, this book situates the numerical growth of the church within wider Christian theology. Leading international scholars, including Alister McGrath, Benedicta Ward and C. Kavin Rowe, contribute a spectrum of voices from evangelical, charismatic, liberal and anglo-catholic perspectives. All contributors unite around the importance of seeking church growth, provided this is situated within a nuanced theological framework. This book offers a critique of ’decline theology’, which has been influential amongst theologians and churches, and which assumes church growth is impossible and/or unnecessary. The contributors provide rich resources from scripture, doctrine and tradition, to underpin action to promote church growth and to stimulate further theological reflection on the subject. The Archbishop of Canterbury provides the Foreword.
David Goodhew is an Anglican priest and Director of Ministerial Practice at Cranmer Hall, an Anglican theological college which is part of St John’s College, Durham, UK. He has worked as a parish priest and as a fellow and chaplain of St Catharine’s College, Cambridge. He has published widely in the field of modern British church history and South African history, editing the collection Church Growth in Britain, 1980 to the Present, which was published by Ashgate in 2012.
’This book is a treasure store which I commend happily, and with delight at the excellent timing that has bought it into being at this point in the Church’s life.’ From the foreword by The Most Revd Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, UK ’This is a very timely volume which will contribute significantly to the reconstruction of confidence in church growth as sanctioned by scripture, doctrine and church history. The assembled writers approach the theme from their own distinctive expertise but with a common message, that a theology of decline has no place in classic Christian teaching or the experience of the living church.’ John Pritchard, former Bishop of Oxford, UK ’The bold claim of this far-reaching set of essays on Church growth is that it is when our understanding of God is small and fearful that we are uneasy about the idea of Church growth. God is the creator of all things, and works towards their fulfilment, and the Church is drawn into this action of God for the world. Christian practices of prayer, sacraments and personal holiness pull us deeper into the missionary heart of God, who loves the world and claims it for himself. It is only as the Church allows itself to be shaped by the God whom we worship that Church growth can become more than pragmatism, and instead be a rejoicing at the work of the God who is the source of all life and hope.’ Jane Williams, St Mellitus College, UK ’These fascinating essays by scholars from a variety of church contexts working across the range of theological disciplines, invite further work on the context and limits of secularisation theory. Building and reflecting on the empirical research in Church Growth in Britain: 1980 to the Present, this book provides the beginnings of a serious theology of church growth. That is badly needed and highly significant, and needs to be pondered and carefully evaluated by theologians and church leaders alike.’ David Cornick, General Secretary, Churches Together in