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.
’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
The field of ecclesiology has grown remarkably in the last decade, and most especially in relation to the study of the contemporary church. Recently, theological attention has turned once more to the nature of the church, its practices and proclivities, and to interpretative readings and understandings of its role, function and ethos in contemporary society.
This series draws from a range of disciplines and established scholars to further the study of contemporary ecclesiology and publish an important cluster of landmark titles in this field. The series editors represent a range of Christian traditions and disciplines, and this reflects the breadth and depth of books developing in the Series. This series presents a clear focus on the contemporary situation of churches worldwide, offering an invaluable resource for students, researchers, ministers and other interested readers around the world working or interested in the diverse areas of contemporary ecclesiology and the important changing shape of the church worldwide.