Heaven on Earth
How and Why the New Church will Grow
by John L. Odhner
“…Coming down from God out of heaven” Revelation 21:2
People in the General Church have many different attitudes towards church growth. Perhaps some of the following statements will sound a little familiar to you.
“Obviously, evangelization will be the top priority in any true church.”
“Church growth is a nice idea, but isn’t it more important to focus on living by the doctrines?”
“If we are willing to try the advice of church growth experts, we will experience phenomenal growth in our church.”
“I like the idea of evangelization, but I feel hesitant about the methods we learn from the Old Church and Madison Avenue.”
“The New Church is going to grow tremendously, and the General Church can grow along with it, or get left behind.”
“Why should we be so concerned about numbers?”
“A church is like an egg: it will either grow or rot.”
“The best we can do in evangelization is to live a good life and set an example.”
“Evangelization is difficult because most people are not really interested in spiritual things.”
“We will find plenty of people interested in our church if we take the initiative in reaching out to them, accommodating to their language and lifestyle, and meeting their more obvious needs.”
“The greatest danger in church growth is that we may lose our distinctiveness.”
“When people are really committed to the church, growth will happen spontaneously.”
“Church growth will happen only when we make measurable goals and specific plans, and when we consciously direct our efforts towards those goals.”
There are a lot of different attitudes in our church towards the subject of church growth. On the one hand, this variety of approaches and attitudes is intellectually stimulating, and actually helps us grow because it opens us up to a variety of approaches which can help us reach different kinds of people.
On the other hand, the differing opinions can lead to a feeling of tension in the church which can not only cause delay as we struggle with a lack of unanimity, but can also subliminally project to the public the image that we are an unhappy or unfriendly church.
One of the ways to keep a sense of harmony among a variety of different opinions is to have over-arching general principles which tie the details together and give a sense of direction.
It is probably clear to most of us that the greatest need we have in the area of evangelization is not more talk but more action and results. Consequently, I have no desire to present controversial issues for discussion. Rather, I want to focus on some general principles which might guide our evangelization efforts and encourage unified action in a number of areas.
To a certain extent my study of church growth literature has been motivated by a delight in finding scientific confirmation for the doctrines of the New Church. I have found that every really significant principle that I have found in church growth literature has been simply a confirmation of principles I was already familiar with from the Writings—and not from obscure passages in the Spiritual Diary, but as key concepts which are central to the doctrines. I believe that the only thing we have to do to experience the growth the Lord desires for His church is to put into practice what He teaches. I find it very helpful to base my thinking about church growth directly on the Word.
As you look over the following principles, you may find that the doctrines I refer to are basic concepts that are quite familiar, although the context for the applications may be new. And of course, the point is to use our agreement on these principles as a starting point which will allow us to move forward in unity even though we may be applying these principles in a variety of different ways.
The Church Is Heaven On Earth
“I John saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband” (Revelation 21:2). So John prophesied a church where God Himself would make His home and dwell with people, where there would be no death, no sorrow, no crying, no pain. In many ways this prophecy has been fulfilled. The Writings have been given, the Last Judgment accomplished, a new heaven formed, and a church established on earth which is to be the crown of all churches which have so far existed on the earth. Although many Christians have taken the New Jerusalem to be symbolic of life after death, we know that it means primarily the New Church on earth. We know both from doctrine and experience that the joy of a relationship with the Lord and power against evil in our lives is a heaven on earth which we can experience here and now. In this sense, we can see this prophecy as history—an event already completed.
In a broader sense, however, we may find ourselves still back in chapter twelve: The woman clothed with the sun is still in the wilderness, still fleeing the dragon. The church has not yet grown beyond a few; it has at times been torn by doctrinal debates, misunderstandings, pride and lack of charity. In this context we receive hope for the future from the prophecy that the church will spread to many, that the woman will come out of the wilderness, that the city will descend from God out of heaven.
The church is the Lord’s heaven on earth. All the beauty and the joy, the peace and the closeness, the challenge and the power of heaven are brought down to earth in the Lord’s church. There are times when we sense this as a present reality, and times when we hope for it in the future of the church. But in either case, our vision and hope is to transform the stumbling struggles of our lives and the lives of those we love by bringing a measure of heaven to earth.
This is what we are looking for in the growth of the church-to bring heaven down to earth. Before Moses built the Tabernacle of Israel, he was shown a tabernacle in heaven that became the pattern for his work. Now as we strive to build a tabernacle or dwelling place for the Lord, He has given us a pattern to follow, the pattern of heaven itself, as described in His Word for the New Church. Our guidelines for building the church will be what is said about heaven.
What is said of heaven may be said of the church, for the church is the Lord’s heaven on earth (Heaven and Hell 57).
Whether you say the church with a person, or heaven with him, or the kingdom of God with him, or the Lord with him, it is the same, for the church is the Lord’s heaven on earth, and the Lord’s kingdom is heaven and the church together, and the Lord is their source, in fact is them (Arcana Coelestia 10357).
Laws of Church Growth
The principles for building the church are the principles of heaven. Of course there are differences between heaven and earth. I don’t expect the church to outwardly look like heaven, but it should have a functional correspondence with the form of heaven, so that the same laws of order govern both heaven and the church. Furthermore, the church is made up of both the internal church which is known to the Lord alone and external organizations, which strive to manifest the inner church. The order which begins in the Lord governs everything from the highest to the lowest, from the inmost heaven down to the most earthly congregations of people. Consequently, we are looking at several levels of laws which correspond to one another:
- Divine order in the Lord, from Whom all laws are
- Laws of order in heaven
- Laws of order in the church
- Laws of order in the organization
Many of the principles which follow will be confirmed by quotes from church growth experts. These experts have arrived at certain principles by observing hundreds of thousands of churches in various cultures all around the world, and noticing certain qualities (such as strong leadership, or involved laity) that growing churches generally have in common. I believe in order to correctly understand church growth literature, we need to keep in mind that the study of church growth is largely a science, a branch of anthropology. As such, its focus is on the external of the church: It can tell us what can make a church body healthy, but not what will make its soul healthy. Our desire, of course is for a healthy mind in a healthy body: a spiritually alive church in a growing, ordered organization. Furthermore, we seek a correspondence between the internal and the external, knowing that the outward, observable laws which govern the growth and development of church organizations are simply outward manifestations of the inward laws which govern the growth of the Lord’s Kingdom.
Principle 1: The Church is Love.
Application: A loving church is a growing church.
Love to the Lord and caring for the neighbor make the church (Arcana Coelestia 4723, Heavenly Doctrine 60).
Love is the inner essence of the church. A church which does not have love is a church in outward form only (Arcana Coelestia 1228, 1062, 8152, etc.).
The understanding cannot be enlightened unless it is believed that love for the Lord and caring for the neighbor are the principle and essential things of the church (Arcana Coelestia 7233).
Charity is like the warmth in the time of spring which causes grass and plants and trees to grow. Without charity or spiritual warmth nothing grows (Arcana Coelestia 1016).
Love is the greatest and simplest principle of church growth. Win Arn, the person who has led more church growth seminars than anyone else in the country, says, “A loving church is a growing church. There are no exceptions.”
All the other principles of church growth are simply corollaries and elucidations of this primary one. The list of principles in this paper is simply a description of the qualities of a loving church.
Fishing On The Right Side: A Shift Towards Love And Caring
Over most of the history of the New Church, evangelization efforts have not met with a great deal of success. The Writings give several reasons for this, including the influence of “faith alone,” and the need for the New Heaven to grow first (Apocalypse Revealed 562, Apocalypse Explained 730-732). The Writings also prophesy that the time will come when the church will spread to many (ibid.). Tied in with the church’s spread to many there must be a change in the church, symbolized by one of the Lord’s final miracles.
After the Lord’s disciples had been fishing all night without success, He told them, “Cast your net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast, and were not able to draw it in for the multitude of fish (John 21:6). This parable is addressed to those who are discouraged with evangelization-people who have been making an effort, but getting few or no results. The promise is that if we are willing to shift our emphasis in evangelization we will experience tremendous growth. This shift from the left side to the right side is summed up by the statement, “Intellectual things, or those which are of faith,
do not make up the church, but the voluntary things which are of love” (Arcana Coelestia 709). This shift involves several changes in the way we do evangelization.
First, it involves a change in motivation. To fish from the right side means to do all things from the good of love and charity (Apocalypse Explained 513), rather than to do them from doctrine and obedience (cf. Arcana Coelestia 3203.3, 8505, 8510, 8690.2, etc.). In part, I think this means making our goal in outreach to be helping people with their relationships rather than convincing them that we are right. In also means reaching out not from a sense of duty, but from gratitude to the Lord and concern for others. McGavran and Hunter point out that motivating people by guilt, sense of duty, or promise of eternal reward are traditional motivations that do not work very well. It is better, they say, to motivate people by appealing to their gratitude to Christ, their obedience to Christ, their love for the neighbor, and their sense of Christ’s presence (Church Growth Strategies That Work, p. 46-48).
Second, fishing on the right side involves a change in the message. To fish from the right side means teaching the good of life (Apocalypse Explained 600, Conjugial Love 316.5), presumably in distinction to teaching the truth of faith (cf. Arcana Coelestia 2517.6, 4844.3, 2231). The only truth we ever need to teach is the truth about love:
All things of the doctrine of the New Jerusalem relate to love to the Lord and to love to the neighbor (Apocalypse Revealed 903, cf. Arcana Coelestia 2009e, Apocalypse Explained 724).
The whole Word is nothing else than the doctrine of love and charity (Arcana Coelestia 1408, 6632).
Every church of the Lord…has nothing doctrinal except what belongs to charity (Arcana Coelestia 2417).
More important than telling people, “Here is what I believe,” will be telling them “Here is how my life has been changed.” Rather than saying, “My church tells me how to think,” we will say, “My church shows me how to care.”
Third, fishing on the right side involves a change in our methods, which involves a focus on relationships rather than media, as described just below.
Principle 2: The Purpose of Heaven is to Build Relationships.
Application: Growing churches focus on relationships.
The Writings emphasize relationships as the goal of creation, although the term “relationship” is seldom used in current translations of the Writings. In many contexts the Latin conjunctio can best be translated as “relationship.” (The English word “conjunction” is really not equivalent since it is a rather dry, intellectual word associated with planets and parts of speech, referring primarily to lifeless objects. By contrast, Swedenborg’s conjunctio refers primarily to human relationships and qualities, and is full of life and warmth.) The reason relationships have a key role in the growth of the church is because they have a key role in creation.
The sole purpose of God’s Divine love, when He created the world, was to have a relationship of mankind with Himself and of Himself with mankind (True Christian Religion 786).
As the Lord’s Divine Providence has for its object a heaven from mankind, it has for its object a relationship of the human race with Him. It also has for its object that a person should have a closer and closer relationship with Him…. Further, it has for its object that through the relationship a person should become wiser and happier (Divine Providence 45).
The very essence of love…is to love others, and to relate to them through love; it is also to be loved by others, for in this way a relationship is brought about; the essence of all love consists in a relationship (Divine Love and Wisdom 47).
The connection of all things depends upon the Creator’s relationship with mankind (Divine Providence 3e).
Heaven is a relationship with the Lord (Divine Providence 28).
Regarded in itself, love is nothing but striving after a relationship (True Christian Religion 43).
The primary purpose of creation is for the Lord to have a relationship with people, and for people to have relationships with each other. In the church, the purpose of all doctrine and worship is to build relationships. Doctrine and worship are simply means, and belong in the church only to the extent that they serve to build relationships.
As I mentioned earlier, this focus on relationships will affect our methods of evangelization. “Media-oriented” evangelization aims at get ting a message out to masses of people through lectures, books, pamphlets, newspapers, radio, and television. “Relationship-oriented” evangelization focuses on making disciples of one’s friends, relatives, associates and neighbors. “Media” evangelization is focused on the message, and is suitable for one-way communication of the truth of the church to masses of people, often as a single event. On the other side, “relation ship” evangelization is focused on specific people, and is suited to reciprocal sharing of the good of the church with them in an ongoing relationship. Relationship evangelism is the primary method suitable for communicating love and caring, so as we shift to fishing on the right side, relationship evangelization will become our primary method.
|MEDIA evangelization||RELATIONSHIP evangelization|
|Newspaper, Literature,Advertising||Family, Friends, Co-workers|
|Mass audience||Specific people|
|One-way communication||Reciprocal relationship|
|Single event||Ongoing contact|
|Teaches truth, facts||Shares good, life|
the congregation (McGavran & Hunter, p. 35).
When you mention “evangelizing” to leaders of small churches, they cringe, in part because their image of evangelizing is Christians reaching out to strangers and assimilating them into the small congregation. They acknowledge the importance of outreach to strangers and “know” they “ought” to do that, but cringe inwardly because most small-church members are not socially aggressive. They feel that the assimilation of “strangers” would undermine the nature of the small congregation as a single-cell church in which everyone cares and knows or knows about everyone else on a regular basis.
But that kind of outreach is not necessary for the small church to grow. If the small church will simply identify the undiscipled persons in the community who are already within the social network of one or more of the active church members and reach out to them, the church will grow and still retain much of its special nature (McGavran and Hunter, p. 38).
Your most important role as a witness… is personifying Christ’s love. Here is a major principle in effective disciple-making: “God’s love is best seen and experienced by others through your love.” Look at the burden-lifting implications of this concept! The traditional requirements of a “good witness” (verbal fluency… extrovertive personality…tenacity…) become less important in an effective witness than simply being an open channel through which God’s love can be expressed and experienced (Arn & Arn, p. 98-99).
Principle 3: The Lord’s Kingdom is Designed for Growth.
Application: Growing churches are intentionally structured for growth.
Heaven has tremendous potential for growth. Swedenborg wrote:
I have been given the privilege of seeing the extension of the inhabited heaven, and also of that which is uninhabited; and I saw that the extension of the uninhabited heaven is so great, that it cannot be filled to eternity (Heaven and Hell 419; cf. Earths in the Universe 168).
He also notes that heaven is growing very rapidly:
Whoever calculates will find that several thousand people die every day, that is some tens of millions every year… All of these after death have gone into the spiritual world… or are constantly going into it (Heaven and Hell 415).
Sometimes I have heard the argument that quality leads to quantity, but quantity does not lead to quality. The idea is that if we have a really high quality church, it will attract numbers almost spontaneously, whereas if we just go out and convert the masses, it will not add to our quality. Along with this there is perhaps a concern that if we grow too quickly we will lose some of the unity that we have as a small church. But the Writings clearly show that an increase in numbers leads to both higher quality and greater unity.
Every perfection in the heavens increases with increase of number (Heaven and Hell 418).
The perfection of heaven increases according to its numbers… In proportion to the increase of numbers in that most perfect form, there is given a direction and consent of more and more to unity and therefore a closer and more unanimous conjunction; the consent and the conjunction derived from it increase from numbers (Last Judgment 12).
Although some Christians have believed that a limited number of people (e.g. 144,000) will be able to get into heaven, the truth is “Heaven is never closed…and there is no limit of number” (Heaven and Hell 420). In fact:
Every society of heaven increases in number daily, and as it increases it becomes more perfect… As heaven gains in perfection by increase of numbers it is evident how mistaken those are who believe that heaven may be closed by becoming full; for the opposite is true, that it will never be closed, but is perfected by greater and greater fullness. Therefore the angels desire nothing so much as to have new angel guests come to them (Heaven and Hell 71).
The Lord could never be satisfied with a static, limited heaven, no matter how large. Our earth currently has about 5 billion people on it. Swedenborg points out that even 60 trillion people would not even fill the volume of one of the moons around the planets, a space so small as to be almost invisible…. What would this be for the Creator of the universe, to whom it would not be enough if the whole universe were filled, since He is infinite? I have talked with angels about this, and they said that they had a similar idea of the fewness of the human race compared with the infinity of the Creator… that in their thought as many millions of earths as could possibly be conceived of would still be nothing at all to the Lord (Heaven and Hell 417).
The ability to and effort to grow in love, in wisdom, and in numbers, is a fundamental aspect of heaven’s image of the Lord.
The angelic heaven is an image of the infinite and eternal, because it is an image of the Lord, who is infinite and eternal. The image of His infinity and eternity is manifest in heaven’s being constituted of myriads and myriads of angels, and in its consisting of as many societies as there are general affections of heavenly love… It is also manifest in that this form is perfected to eternity with the increase in numbers, the greater the number of those entering into the form of the Divine love which is the form of forms, the more perfect the resulting unity. It is plain from all this that the angelic heaven presents an image of the infinite and eternal (Divine Providence 62).
The angelic heaven primarily has respect to infinity and eternity, and therefore to its multiplication without end, for the Divine Himself dwells therein. Hence also it is clear, that the human race will never cease, for were it to cease, the Divine work would be limited to a certain number, and thus its looking to infinity would perish (Last Judgment 13).
Since the church is simply heaven on earth, the growth of the church is also a reflection of the Lord’s infinity. Without growth, the church is less an image of the Lord.
The Question of Numbers
The church growth movement is very much involved with counting people, and many who are not very familiar with the reasons for this have assumed that the primary goal of the church growth movement has been to get warm bodies into the church to be counted on Sunday, regardless of their level of commitment. Church growth experts advise setting numerical goals and counting people, but the reasons involve much more than numbers.
We Need Numerical Goals For Careful Planning.
Why do we put RSVP at the bottom of an invitation? We need to know approximately how many people are going to come to a party or dinner so that we can carefully plan the amount of food, number of chairs, transportation, etc. Otherwise, we might end up wasting lots of extra food, or might find we do not have enough to go around. In church growth, the goals are larger, and more long-term. If the church is to grow, some things may need to be planned years in advance. The planning for a new building, for example, must be started perhaps two years before the building is actually needed. Raising funds for the building may require many additional years of planning. Many other decisions, such as staffing, programming, and style of ministry will inevitably be influenced by the numerical goals. If the decisions are not made in light of numerical goals, then inevitably decisions will be made that will limit the results to something less than they otherwise might be. Goals by themselves will not make a church grow, but a lack of appropriately planned staffing, facilities, programming, or style of ministry will certainly prevent uses from being performed and people from being served. In other words, lack of clear numerical goals will have a negative impact, not only on numbers, but also on the quality of the services the church offers. (More about goals later.)
Numerical Measurement Helps Us Determine Results and Identify Problems.
Suppose you put on a church supper, and find that there is not enough food to go around. Discussing it later, you discover that no one knows how many people were present. Was the shortage due to having more people than anticipated? Or was it because there was not even enough food prepared to feed those who were expected? Or were people just eating too much? Keeping track of the number of people who come is essential to identifying areas where our planning was successful and areas which need adjustment.
It is sometimes difficult to get accurate feedback about church programs. Often people who attend the least make the loudest complaints, and the positive feelings of people who genuinely benefit from the program may not be so vigorously announced. In churches, most people vote with their feet. Their attendance at a function is a strong way of saying that they value the service and want it to continue. If we fail to count their attendance, we are failing to count their vote and their opinion. Taking note of how many people and what groups of people are coming to a service is way of showing appreciation and respect for their decision to attend.
Numerical Goals Involve A High Level Of Commitment.
The concept of a lot of warm bodies filling up the pews is completely inconsistent with the kind of goals the church growth movement encourages. Church growth leaders have consistently spoken out against the idea of numbers for the sake of numbers. For example, Peter Wagner, one of the top church growth experts in the country, writes:
I am not interested in names on church rolls. There are already too many nominal, inactive and non-resident church members in America. I am not interested in churches which are religious social clubs. I am not interested in decisions for Christ totaled up as people raise their hands or come forward after a crusade. I am not interested in Christians who profess faith in Christ but do not demonstrate it in their lives. These numbers are unimportant. But I am interested in lost men and women who put their faith in Jesus Christ and are born again. I am interested in true disciples who take up their cross daily to follow Jesus…I am interested in responsible church members who continue “steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship…” (Acts 2:42)… When numbers represent these kinds of people, they are much more than a “numbers game” (Wagner, p. 23).
The church growth movement has demonstrated quite clearly that the greater the commitment of its members, the greater the potential for growth. Church growth experts have also observed that setting numerical goals not only requires a higher degree of dedication, but also in turn inspires a greater degree of commitment. Growth and commitment are simply two sides of the same coin. The goals of the church growth movement go far beyond mere counting of attendance at church. Church growth experts are more interested in counting how many people are really living by the Bible, how many relationships are being built up, and how many uses are being performed. Again and again, they speak of their goals in terms of Matthew 28:20: to “make disciples of all nations,… teaching them to observe all that [the Lord has] commanded.”
Principle 4: The End is Everything in the Cause and Effect.
Application: Growing churches have clear goals.
There are a number of words which have very similar meanings: end, motive, purpose, goal, intention, objective. Some of these might be thought of as more general, basic, or long-term while others are more limited, specific, or short-term. I am lumping these all together and calling them goals, although I recognize that we need all kinds, shapes and sizes of goals. In planning, we start with general, long-term goals, and work our way down to the specific, short-term goals. In terms of accomplishment, of course, we start with short-term goals, which finally lead us to accomplishing our long-term goals. One key to church growth is to recognize that goals are everything:
The goal is everything in the cause and also everything in the effect (Divine Love and Wisdom 168, Arcana Coelestia 4667.2).
It is the goal that makes the person, and such as is the goal, such is the person (Arcana Coelestia 4054, cf. 4464.3).
The Lord’s kingdom is one purely of goals and uses, so the angels who are with a person pay attention to nothing else than the goals and uses (Arcana Coelestia 1645).
It is the part of a wise person to know the goals that are in him (Arcana Coelestia 3796.3).
The importance of goals is confirmed by the findings of church growth experts:
The number one requirement for having real church growth-unlimited church growth-is to set goals (Paul Cho, pastor of the world’s largest church, quoted by Wagner, p. 187).
Almost without exception, growing churches have a sense of destiny… Their members are clear about their objectives… They are in agreement about the task to be done (Reeves, p. 19).
Goals aid growth in four major ways. First, they provide direction… Second, goals inflame imagination… Third, goals motivate and direct people away from wandering generalities and toward meaningful specifics… Finally, goals expand potential (Reeves, p. 40-41).
Successful people have a clear, strong sense of purpose, around which they center their lives. They have “hitched their wagons to a star” that serves as a compass bearing, giving consistent direction to every thought and effort. Purpose functions as a gyroscope, giving them stability and renewing balance no matter what direction the fortunes of life may turn them. Purpose integrates life into a consistent, harmonious whole. It provides a driving power, a compelling sense of urgency, that generates and marshals energy…
Just as individuals do, vigorous organizations work toward a clearly understood purpose. A clear sense of purpose captivates and rallies the people, welds them together, moves them harmoniously in the same direction, and guides their actions.
The effective church is a body of people who have been “laid hold on” by one mastering, divine purpose. It is captivated by Christ’s mission. His purpose functions as its purpose. Such a church has all the hallmarks of a vigorous organization (Ellis, p. 18, 20).
Principle 5: The Pastor’s Function is to Lead.
Application: Growing churches have strong leaders.
I took a poll of ministers asking, “What is the single most important word used by the Writings in describing a priest’s role?” The most frequent answer was: “Lead” (See Heavenly Doctrine 315, 318. Arcana Coelestia 10794, 10798).
A pastor is a shepherd, and one of the most important functions of a shepherd is leading. “The Lord is my shepherd: I shall not want… He leads me beside the still waters… He leads me in the paths of righteousness…” (Psalm 23:1,2). “He calls his own sheep by name, and leads them out. And when he puts forth his own sheep, he goes before them and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice” (John 10:3,4). In one sense, of course, the Lord is our only shepherd and leader, but still he does so through people. “Angels do indeed lead, but they only minister; for it is the Lord alone who rules a person through angels and spirits” (Arcana Coelestia 50.3). Consequently, there is a parallel between Divine leadership and human leadership:
A person is led by the Lord in spiritual life by almost the like things as those by which a person leads others in civil life (Arcana Coelestia 4366).
There is a wide variety of different governments in heaven, yet the descriptions we have of leaders there generally indicate strong leadership. They do not domineer or dictate, and they are servants in the sense that they are motivated not by their own good, but the good of the community. Nevertheless, they “are preeminent in love and wisdom,” they “dwell in the middle of the community in higher position than the rest,” and they accept honor and glory for the sake of obedience which is due them because they have been appointed by the Lord (Heaven and Hell 218). A prince and a priest in heaven said, “The dignities in which we are we in fact sought to attain,…and we are surrounded with honor, and accept it-yet not on our own account, but for the good of the society” (Conjugial Love 266).
The Writings frequently point out that there are both an evil kind of love of dominion and a good kind of love of dominion (Divine Love and Wisdom 142, 424.3, Divine Providence 233.5, Apocalypse Revealed 502.3, Conjugial Love 261-266, True Christian Religion 405, Spiritual Diary 5000, Apocalypse Explained 951.8, 1188.), and that it is difficult for people in this world to distinguish these two kinds of love, since they outwardly appear alike. (The difference is that those in the good love shun evils as sins against the Lord; see Apocalypse Revealed 502.3, Apocalypse Explained 1189.3.) Some people have strong leadership styles that spring from a love of dominion from a love of uses.
They who rule from love towards the neighbor can be exalted to great dignities. By means of these the Lord rules… Their rule is the rule of love; in fact when spiritual and heavenly love rules then the Lord rules (Spiritual Diary 5000).
Note although leaders in heaven are obeyed, it is not blind obedience. “The Lord does not command, but leads” (Arcana Coelestia 6390), and likewise angelic leaders, although they have much power, they do not domineer or manipulate people-it is authority, not authoritarianism, a point also stressed by church growth experts:
Authority and authoritarianism should not be confused. Authoritarianism says, “This is right because I say so.” Authority says, “I say this because it is right.” A good leader has authority on his side, but he is not authoritarian (Ellis, p. 131).
The servant pattern conceives of leadership as based on relationship rather than position. Biblical headship of pastor or church leader turns away from authoritarian patterns that coerce, to relational patterns that lead for the benefit of the one guided. The concept of a position that demands obedience and submission is foreign to the Biblical concept of headship (Smith, p. 168).
We have evidence of strong leaders in heaven, but how central is that leadership to the priest’s role? Imagine a number of people on an expedition through the wilderness. The expedition happens to have both a leader and a guide. The guide knows the path. The leader knows the destination. The guide can help people find the way to get where they want to go. The leader can help people figure out where they want to go. The role of the guide is to help people see the road immediately before them. The role of the leader is to help them see the goal off in the distance.
As priests, we have both roles, guiding (or teaching) and leading. The leading is the end, and the teaching is the means. Both are necessary, but the leading is more central, and unfortunately, more likely to be abdicated. Teaching without leading is a major fault of ministers. “Those who teach and do not lead to the good of life, and so to the Lord, are evil shepherds” (Heavenly Doctrine 315).
The risk of being a leader is that people may not follow. The leader says “Here is where I am going. Do you want to join my expedition?” People may choose not to go. The guide, on the other hand says, “I will go with you to your destination and help you find the way.” I find it is much easier to be a guide or a “travel agent” minister, saying, “Tell me where you want to go, and I will show you the best way to get there.”
The distinction between leader and teacher is somewhat similar to the distinction between leader and administrator/manager. A pastor in a growing church must be a good leader, although he does not necessarily have to be a good administrator or manager. The leader focuses on the goals or ends, while the manager focuses on the means. The role of management (which Reeves & Jensen, below, call instrumental leadership) can be delegated to others. The one thing a leader cannot delegate is his leadership.
Make no mistake about it. Most church growth starts with the pastor. I agree with Dewayne Davenport who says: If called upon to name the key to church growth, it would be leadership (Wagner, p. 46).
Those who study church growth factors will usually cite strong, effective leadership as the key to continued successful results. When a church has a senior pastor who functions as a pacesetter and is supported by energetic and competent staff and lay leaders, that church invariably experiences growth (Reeves, p. 22).
Visualizing The Goal
The priests and leaders in heaven are highly regarded and eagerly obeyed. Yet of course we attain good leadership not simply by asking for obedience, but by knowing what leadership is and how to rightly lead. The Arcana points out that the Lord’s leading is focused primarily on goals:
The Lord regards nothing else in a person than his goal… The angels with a person, being the Lord’s angels, rule nothing in the person but his goals; for when they rule these, they rule also his thoughts and actions, seeing that all these are of the goals. The goal with a person is his very life; and all things that he thinks and does have life from the goal, and therefore such as is the goal, such is the person’s life. The goal is nothing else than love; for a person cannot have anything as a goal except that which he loves (Arcana Coelestia 1317; see also 2303e).
The goal in church leadership is the good of life. The pastor’s job is to lead “by truths” to this good (Heavenly Doctrine 318). The relationship between truth and good then, is a key to understanding leadership. Good is the goal. Truth is the means. Truth is also the form of good, or good presented to view in the understanding.
When good is formed so as to be intellectually perceived, it is called truth (Arcana Coelestia 3049).
Truth is the form of good, that is, good formed so as to appear in the light (Arcana Coelestia 9783e).
Truths themselves constitute as it were the face of good (Arcana Coelestia 3804.2).
The intellectual is distinguished from the voluntary by this, that the intellectual presents things to itself in a form, and so that it may see them as in light (Arcana Coelestia 8458).
Good which is of the will forms itself in the understanding, and presents itself to view (Heavenly Doctrine 32e; cf. Arcana Coelestia 3868, 4742.2, 8882, 5337, 5351.2, Divine Providence 199).
Thus truth is simply goodness presented in such a way that it can be visualized. The priest who leads to the good of life by teaching the truth is one who helps his congregation visualize their goal of a good life. I mentioned just above the importance of having a vision for the future. Some passages in the Writings point to the need for seeing or visualizing our goals.
It is reason’s very enjoyment to visualize with love the effect in thought, not after it is attained but before it is, not in the present but as future. So a person has what is called hope, which rises and declines in the reason as he visualizes or anticipates the outcome (Divine Providence 178).
It is the part of an intelligent person to keep goals in view, and to foresee and dispose the means to some final goal (Arcana Coelestia 5094.4).
A person is able to have goals, to see, acknowledge, believe and be affected by them (Arcana Coelestia 3646.2, cf. Spiritual Diary 2854).
When anyone proposes anything to himself, he perceives it as present (Arcana Coelestia 7017).
The task of the pastor, which is to lead to the good of life by teaching truths, is to communicate a vision for some future goal so that the congregation accepts that goal as their own. The importance of being able to communicate a vision for the future is stressed also by church growth experts as a key to growth leadership.
The church planter must see the church in his mind… The man of God must have a vision-he must have a vision of his work before he begins. The church planter must have a clear idea of his church before he arrives in the city to which God has called him (Elmer Towns, p. 117).
Do not underestimate the power and importance of a dream. It will be impossible for your church to get out of its holding pattern without a dream. Someone must have a vision of the good, the wonderful, and the possible that is in the future of your church. What is a dream? It is a mental picture of a future reality… A dream may be personal at the beginning, that is, it may be a vision given to one person, but it must become corporate. It will have to be communicated to, shared with, and eventually owned by others (Chaney & Lewis, p. 78).
Two major functions of leadership are those of expressive and instrumental operations. Expressive operations are those that create and maintain in a body of people a vital commitment to a clear and shared purpose. These operations point the way, guide, motivate, challenge, inspire, devise and execute plans, instruct, enable people to function well, and keep the vision clear. They center on stating, re-stating, reminding, and clarifying purpose. They interpret actions and effort in terms of how they contribute to achieving the purpose. They serve as the “eyes” for the body to see where it is and where it is going… Instrumental operations deal with finding and marshalling resources, developing ways and means, and administering programs for achieving the purpose… It is imperative that preaching ministers be as free as possible from instrumental details in order to concentrate on purposes, objectives, goals, and ideals (Ellis, 133-135).
Your most vital functions as a leader are (1) to help people clarify and understand their real purposes, objectives, and goals; and (2) never to allow people to lose sight of them. Keep reminding people of why they are here and the direction they are to be moving. Keep the overall picture before them constantly. Show them how each activity is important in achieving the objectives (Ellis, p. 154).
Principle 6: Every Member of the Body Performs a Use.
Application: Growing churches involve lay people in meaningful ministries.
The worship of the Lord itself consists in performing uses (Arcana Coelestia 7038).
We have always encouraged our members to be useful to the community through their jobs. One question of application is, have we found ways of giving our members significant, fulfilling functions in the church organization? Are our lay people the primary force involved in accomplishing the highest priorities of the church?
Another way to ask this question: At what point do we consider a person a “member” of our church? When he shares our beliefs? When he attends services? When he has friends in the church? When he has a function in the church?
Most people belong to a number of different communities. Through their occupations they serve-and so are part of-large communities of people who benefit from their services. They may also be part of a company they work for. They may be part of a household. They may be part of a support group or volunteer organization. They may belong to country clubs, coops, carpools or choirs. In each case, they are true members of the organization only if they have some use or function in it, just as every member of the human body has a function that benefits the whole body. A person who joins a choir just to listen is not really a member of the choir, but of the audience. If a person joined a carpool just to get rides without taking a turn driving, we would consider the person a parasite.
Swedenborg tells the story of a group of people who thought nothing would make them happier in heaven than endless church services. But given the opportunity to experience that kind of heaven, they soon came to hate it, started complaining, and soon left the church, longing to get back to useful pursuits (Conjugial Love Chapter 1). Beautiful church services will not make people happy in the church. Equipping people for uses in the church will. The pattern for our church is heaven, and in heaven everyone has a use:
The Lord’s kingdom is such that everyone must perform a use (Arcana Coelestia 1097.2).
In the other life everyone without exception must perform some use, because a person is born for no other purpose than that he may perform use to the community in which he is and to the neighbor, while he lives in the world, and in the other life (Arcana Coelestia 1103.2).
The Kingdom of Christ, which is heaven, is a kingdom of uses (Conjugial Love 7.3).
Angels have all their happiness in use, from use and according to use (Heaven and Hell 403).
If in an earthly kingdom everyone is valued and honored according to his use, what must it be in the heavenly kingdom? (Arcana Coelestia 5395)
The Lord’s love is to do uses to the community (Apocalypse Revealed 353).
Each society of heaven has its own special function. There are societies who care for:
- Little children
- Older children
- The simple good
- The gentile nations
- Spirits in the lower earth
- Spirits in hell
- People being raised from the dead
- People on earth (Heaven and Hell 391)
Certain things we note about these uses:
- Everyone is involved in the uses.
- All the uses are directed at specific groups of people.
- All the uses involve leading people to heaven.
- Each use is focused outside of its own community.
- All the uses make important differences to others’ lives.
We have always sought to involve lay people in “church uses,” such as ushering, teaching Sunday School, maintenance, choir, tableaux, evangelization, etc. Yet until every person in the church has a meaningful church use, we need to keep asking ourselves, Have we involved enough lay people in church uses? Have the uses we have involved people in been genuinely significant, people-oriented, life-changing uses that are focused outside the present membership? Have we given people the training they need to do these jobs well? Have we shown them how their particular task is essential to our overall vision for the church?
Lay persons are mobilized by a challenge to spiritual, sacrificial, significant ministry… Most challenges given to lay Christians today are defective in several ways. They are often anemic. Nothing is asked for! No real challenge is involved… Challenges are often only materialistic… A big challenge in most churches is too often only for something material-a building, a more expensive organ…Challenges are often dull. They are challenges to meet an organizational need, to fill a spot, to become a little cog… Finally, challenges are often only temporal. There is nothing of eternal significance in what men and women are asked to do (Lewis and Chaney, p. 173, 174).
There is no end to the number of uses lay people could be involved in, in addition to ones we currently encourage, and only a few are currently being done:
Uses can be directed at all kinds of people:
- Deaf people
- Blind people
- Mentally/emotionally handicapped people
- Mothers of preschoolers
- Senior Citizens
- Young couples
- Parents of Teens
- The unemployed
- Lonely people
- Hospitalized and sick people
People involved in…
- substance abuse
- child abuse
- extramarital sex.
Uses can be on all levels (cf. Divine Love and Wisdom 331-333):
Uses can be accomplished through:
- individual one-on-one caring
- support groups and service groups,
- total congregational involvement
- volunteer, part-time, and full-time workers
All the uses can focus on:
- people outside the church
- filling needs,
- healing hurts
- building relationships
- sharing spiritual priorities
- assimilating people into the church
There are a number of reasons why it is important to involve lay people in uses.
- Happiness comes from being useful, not from being served. We may have people in the church who are unhappy with the kind of program we have or the kind of service we have. When this happens, rather than simply serving them better or catering to their wishes, the solution is to get the people who are complaining involved in providing the services. People are not happy being parasites.
- A passive church in which most people are not actively useful will have little or no energy to spare for growth.
- The few people who are working will likely feel overworked and resentful.
- The pastor will be so distracted providing services that he will not have time or energy to lead, to focus on goals.
- All genuine relationships are based on use, so without lay uses the relationships of people in the church with each other will be artificial.
The health of the organization depends upon each of it members having some use within that organization. Of course, the uses which a person does for and through his church may be less important than other uses that individual does. Charity itself is to do the work of one’s employment faithfully, and for most people this is some job not connected with the church. However, I think the same principle applies in both areas. Caring for the larger community is done primarily through one’s employment or job in the community, and caring for the church is done primarily through one’s role or task in the church.
The importance of lay involvement in uses is confirmed by church growth experts:
The chief contribution of lay people to the growth of the church can be summed up in one word: ministry… Every church member is supposed to be an active minister. That is why I prefer the word pastor for the person who leads the church rather than minister, although I would not want to quarrel with anyone’s terminology (Wagner, p. 131).
The church’s main problem is getting lay people involved in ministry. If we can solve that problem we will solve two others.
First, we will dramatically reduce the internal “people-problems”… Most of the people in our church are so involved with other people they don’t have time or energy to put into griping sessions…
The second problem a ministering laity can solve is the elimination of our disobedience to the Great Commission (Tillapaugh, p. 124-127).
A mobilized membership may be a more important factor in church growth than even a strong pastor (Reeves, p. 24).
Finding A Use For Each Person.
The inmost aim of the Divine Providence is to lead each person to his own special place in the Grand Man (see Divine Providence 67). That place is specially suited to the individual’s character and desires-“allotted according to the quality of his good” (Arcana Coelestia 7236).
The Lord sees what a person’s nature is and foresees what he wills to be and thus what he will be… The Lord therefore foresees his state after death and provides for it from the person’s birth to the close of his life… Everyone has his place provided for him by the Lord through this foresight (Divine Providence 333).
The Lord provides that everyone (in heaven) should love the uses suited to his native character (Heaven and Hell 417.2).
In a similar manner, the aim of the church’s leadership should be to lead each person to his own place, that is, his own use, role, or task, in the church organization. This involves finding tasks and roles which are specially suited to the personality and gifts of the individual lay people. (Even in hell people are given work specially suited to their character; cf. Apocalypse Revealed 153.10).
Each person in heaven has his own special use which identifies him. “The use itself which a person loves determines his life, and distinguishes him from others” (Arcana Coelestia 4459.7). Growing churches also use this principle of leading people to the uses they are specially suited for. One church growth author points out that growing churches emphasize role specialization. Volunteers are placed in jobs according to their interests, aptitudes and suitability, rather than on an arbitrary or availability basis…
Motivating and training a person according to his or her gifts takes less time and energy and often leads to increased happiness, fulfillment, and effectiveness (Reeves, p 27).
Principle 7: Each Community Serves its Members and the Greater Neighbor.
Application: Growing churches have programs large enough and diverse enough to meet the needs of people in the congregation and community.
In the Lord’s kingdom, the emphasis shifts from the service of worship to the service of people, since charity is the internal of all genuine worship.
Heaven consists in desiring from the heart the good of others more than one’s own, and in serving others for the sake of their happiness (Heaven and Hell 408 end).
In a growth atmosphere there is emphasis on a service image. Growing churches consider themselves as service-oriented. They are aware their only reason for existence is to be of service to God and people (Chaney and Lewis, p. 56).
In the previous section we dealt with the need for every member to be involved in some kind of use which is of service to the whole body; in growing churches each part should serves the whole. Here we look at the fact that as the members give, they also receive. Each member of a congregation will not only serve but also be served by the total program of the church.
The general performs a use for its parts, and the parts for the general, for the general is composed of the parts and the parts constitute the general. Therefore they provide for each other, have regard for each other, and are joined together in such a form that each thing and all things have reference to the general and its good; thus it is that they act as one (Heaven and Hell 64).
It is known that the goods of use which individuals perform subsist from the general good; for each one derives his particular good of use from the general. All things necessary to life, and also for occupations, and the wealth by which these necessities are procured are from this source (Doctrine of Charity 133).
In a community in heaven everyone communicates his own good to all who are in the community, and all there communicate to each one (Arcana Coelestia 8470).
The general good exists from the goods of use which individuals perform; and the goods of use that individuals perform subsist from the general good (Doctrine of Charity 127).
Variety In The Program
In order for the individuals in a community to receive from the whole “all things necessary for life” and for use, the community must provide a wide range of services. Just as the community is perfected by an increase in number of people who join it, the general use of the community is perfected by the number of particular uses added to it. Consequently, we find that in heaven, there is a very wide range of services provided. The innumerable occupations in heaven provide for the individuals there everything that they need.
It is impossible to enumerate the employments in the heavens… for they are numberless (Heaven and Hell 387).
In heaven there are administrations, ministries, employments, businesses, studies,… handicrafts (Conjugial Love 207).
In consequence of the multitude of uses in heaven, angels have everything they need provided. “They are housed freely, clothed freely, fed freely.” (Heaven and Hell 393).
One of the characteristics of a growing church is that it is “big enough to provide the range of services that meet the needs and expectations of its members” (Wagner, p. 36). How large the program must be will depend on the nature of the congregation. People do not expect as much from a small church as they will from a larger church, and people will tend to join the kind of church which fits their particular needs and expectations. There is no set ideal size for a church or church program. The only way to discover the best programming is to pay close attention to the needs of the congregation and surrounding community. A growing church is a need-oriented church. This is a very needy world, and a caring church will focus on those needs simply because it cares and because the needs are there.
Mercy means charity because all who are in charity are in mercy, or in other words all who love the neighbor are merciful to him; and therefore acts of charity are described in the Word by acts of mercy; as in Matthew: “I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you gathered Me, naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me” (25:35, 36); and in other places by benefiting the poor, the afflicted, the widows, and the fatherless… Charity, because it is affected with good, is affected with mercy towards those who are in miseries. The good of charity has this within it because it descends from the Lord’s love toward the whole human race, which love is mercy because all the human race is settled in miseries (Arcana Coelestia 5132).
Growing Churches have Diversified Ministries.
Nothing is more obvious, nothing is more universal among growing churches. However, it is equally obvious that a full quiver of ministries in a community does not guarantee growth. Many churches have proliferated programs and ministries within a community, but continue to decline. On what basis then do growing churches diversify?
Ministry diversification, first of all, must be according to the leadership of the Holy Spirit… Church leaders should invest time-real calendared time-to humbling themselves before God and saying, “Lord, what would you have us to do?”…
Consideration should be given to felt need in the community. This needs to be underlined. Not necessarily the universal and eternal needs of man, but local temporal hurts in a given community demand consideration in formulating the ministries of the church… Go house-to-house and attempt to discover those programs for which there is a crying need. Then, under the leadership of God, meet that need (Chaney and Lewis, p. 175).
Successful goals should help to define the churches’ prime objective-to meet spiritual needs. According to Robert Schuller, “The secret of a growing church is so simple-find the hurt and heal it” (Reeves, p. 41).
The need for a diversified ministry can perhaps be seen more clearly from the effects of a church program that is being cut back:
[A] widely used approach to avoid church growth can be described very simply by the term cutback syndrome. This is reflected in such frequently heard comments as these: Last year we combined the two evening circles in our women’s organization into one. -We are in the process of merging two of our adult Sunday school classes. -The attendance at our first worship service on Sunday morning has dropped to an average of thirty-five, so we have cutback to just one worship service… There are at least five major reasons why this is one of the most effective means of discouraging church growth. First, by reducing the number of groups in the church, this reduces the opportunities for new members to find a place of entrance, acceptance, and fellowship. Second the more sensitive any organization is to the needs of people the more complex and diverse its organizational structure. By reducing the complexity of the congregational program structure, that church becomes less able to be sensitive and responsive to the diverse needs of people outside any worshiping congregation. Third, a reduction in the organizational and program structure reduces the need for additional leaders and workers… New members are not needed… Fourth, the range of events and experiences to which members could invite non-members is reduced. Finally, expectations do influence performance. Adoption of the cutback motif tends to create a self-perpetuating cycle which largely eliminates the possibilities for church growth (Lyle Schaller, p. 61, 62).
A growing church will observe needs carefully, and will be certain the program is as complete as possible in meeting those needs. If necessary, the church will transfer people from other, already established programs, or use people from outside the congregation to complete its programming.
If a society is not complete, as it should be, there are then taken from elsewhere, from some neighboring society, as many as will fill up the form of that good, according to the need in each state, and its changes. For the form of the good varies as the state is changed (Arcana Coelestia 7836).
Diversified ministries demand program flexibility… Without flexibility churches quickly become program-centered instead of God-centered and/or people centered… The will of God and the need of men are shoved aside in devotion to a cultural expression (Chaney and Lewis, p. 176).
Principle 8: Heaven is Structured from Larger Societies made up of Smaller Societies.
Application: Growing churches have multiple levels of group dynamics.
Angels participate in the group life of heaven on different levels. They may attend a worship service with 3000 other people (Conjugial Love 23). They may have lunch with 120 people (Conjugial Love 14). They may join a small group of seven or eight people (Conjugial Love 293-294). The different sizes of groups that angels are involved in reflect the basic structure of heaven:
The angels of heaven are not together in one place, but are divided into larger and smaller societies in accordance with the differences of good of love and of faith in which they are (Heaven and Hell 41).
In most ancient times… people lived distinguished into nations, families, and houses, in order that the church on earth might represent the Lord’s Kingdom, where all are distinguished into societies; and these societies into greater ones; and these again into still greater ones (Arcana Coelestia 1259).
The universal heaven is one society, which is ruled by the Lord as one person; the general societies there are as many as are the members, the viscera, and the organs in a person; but the specific societies are as many as are the little viscera contained within each viscus, member and organ; and the particular societies are as many as in these little viscera there are lesser parts constituting a greater one (Arcana Coelestia 7836).
There are many different reasons for this order of communities with smaller subdivisions. I would suppose that one reason would be to meet different needs of the angels. The smaller groups within a society allow for diversity within the community, and allow each angel to be with people who are very similar to each other, and who can therefore share on a very deep level. The larger groups provide for unity within the community, tying the various smaller groups together by focusing them on the central purpose and common good of the community.
Either consciously or unconsciously, most growing churches have adopted a structure similar to heaven’s, with balance of both large and small groups. Churches which have no small group meetings tend to lack the close, family feeling that many people in today’s fractured society need. Churches which have many small groups but do not have enough larger group meetings, tend to have difficulty keeping the smaller groups from drifting away from the purpose of the church.
More than any other factors, satisfactory multiple-level commitments produce the momentum-building quality of contagiousness (Reeves, p. 30).
The friendship level is where the deepest interpersonal relation ships are experienced between two or three persons. The support group level relationships are developed among eight to fourteen persons. The subcongregational level-usually between forty to eighty persons-offers further fellowship and a deeper sense of belonging. The worship level, with no numerical limits, provides spiritual nourishment and unity (Reeves, p. 28).
Growing churches utilize small group dynamics.
For purposes of church growth, emphasis must be placed on the word dynamics. Small groups of people can meet regulary and never experience reproductive, spiritual vitality. Members may enjoy getting together, sharing with, and caring for one another, but never really know the vigor of a contagious common life. It is small group dynamics, not small groups that are related to growing churches.
This dynamic is often employed within very large units of people. Huge churches with thousands of members may have hundreds of small groups that add life-giving vigor to those churches. A Bible class may grow large on the same principle. Organized into small units of sharing and fellowship within the larger class, these small groups may become conductors of life within the larger unit (Chaney and Lewis, p. 176, 177).
Principle 9: Each Community in Heaven has its Own Unique Goals, Affections, Wisdom, and Life which is Shared by All in the Community.
Application: Growing churches have a clear sense of identity-a sharing of lifestyle and cultural values.
One of the most basic characteristics of heaven is that people who share common values and ways of thinking cluster together in one group:
Such as the general is, such is the part of the general; for the parts must be like their general, in order to belong to it (Arcana Coelestia 3633 end).
Such as is anyone in the whole, such is he in the part, for they are homogeneous (Arcana Coelestia 6626.2).
In the other life there must be concord and unanimity of all in order that they may be a one… To this end the thought and speech of one must agree with those of others. It is fundamental that thought and speech in themselves should agree in everyone in a society (Arcana Coelestia 5182).
Disagreement has a negative effect on the group. For example, in heaven “the preacher becomes confused… if any one in the congregation dissents; and for this reason the dissenter must needs turn away his face” (Heaven and Hell 223).
The clustering of angels into homogeneous units, each with its own unique values and lifestyle, allows angels the freedom to have their own kind of life with people who share their values. It also means that angels who are working on common uses are able to work together and support each other. There is a greater sharing than could take place if all did not have those common values and lifestyles. This also allows each community as a part of heaven to have special gifts which it can offer the whole.
One corollary of this homogeneous grouping of people is that a person who thinks and lives differently from a group will feel uncomfortable being a part of it and will want to leave.
What is homogeneous or concordant effects conjunction and presence; and what is heterogeneous and discordant effects disjunction and absence. What these spheres effect in the natural world is known also to some (Conjugial Love 171).
A homogeneous affection conjoins and a heterogeneous affection separates (True Christian Religion 622 end).
These similarities and differences are not restricted to major issues. The angels in a society share not only inward affections, but also similar ways of talking, acting, dressing, and even similar faces (Heaven and Hell 47; cf 553.2). This all adds up to a sphere which can either attract or repel others.
Homogeneities and heterogeneities, or sympathies and antipathies, are not only felt there, but they also appear in their faces, speech, and gestures (Conjugial Love 273).
Consociations take place in the other life according to spheres; those that agree are conjoined according to agreement, those that disagree are repelled according to disagreement (Arcana Coelestia 8630).
Like spheres conjoin, that is, like affections for truth and good; and unlike ones disjoin (Arcana Coelestia 9606).
Church growth experts have observed that the homogeneous groupings of people on earth play a significant role in how people join congregations, and how congregations grow. More specifically, they have found that churches grow faster when they are composed of one homogeneous kind of people, and when they focus on reaching the same kind of people.
Men like to become Christians without crossing racial, linguistic, or class barriers. This principle is an undeniable fact. Human beings do build barriers around their own societies. More exactly we may say that the ways in which each society lives and speaks, dresses and works, of necessity set it off from other societies. Mankind is a mosaic and each piece has a separate life of its own which seems strange and often unlovely to men and women of other pieces… In this vast mosaic, how does the Christian Faith spread from piece to piece? Does it invite members of all pieces to leave their own people and become parts of the people of God? Or does the Church form inside each piece? (McGavran, UCG, p. 223, 224).
The homogeneous unit strategy (gathering people of similar social, educational, or economic levels into one church) remains the most often discussed and least understood aspect of Church Growth theory…
The homogeneous unit strategy has proved effective in reaching individuals and groups with the gospel. The failure to employ the strategy has proved detrimental to effective, responsive evangelism and church planting…
The homogeneous unit concept recognizes and accepts the plurality or diversity of mankind. This pluralism stands as an easily recognized and incontestable fact in human society…
People (cultures, groupings, tribes, language entities, occupational groups, etc.) of the world form what Donald A. McGavran calls the mosaic of mankind. Each piece in the mosaic adds its own color, texture, and shape to the whole. The whole is incomplete without the pieces and the pieces of less beauty until seen as parts of the whole… The HU strategy does not intend and should never be used to amplify or rationalize racism. Race, as a matter of fact becomes less and less central to homogeneous units in modern society. The mosaic is based on many factors, only one of which is race. Factors such as occupation, education, age, special interests, and background draw people into homogeneous units…
Using the HU strategy, Church Growth seeks to provide congregations which do not place unnecessary or artificial barriers in the way of persons who should consider Christ. The existence of homogeneous unit churches does not erase the necessity of theological decision, it only opens the way for it (Smith, p. 50-53).
The homogeneity of a church is generally not directly observed by visitors. When people join a church or are repelled by it, they usually will not attribute this to a similarity or difference in lifestyle between themselves and the congregation. Instead, they usually stay or leave because of a perceived friendliness or lack thereof. Regardless of how outgoing and friendly a congregation is objectively, a visitor who shares its values and lifestyle will tend to perceive the people as being more friendly, while a person who does not share its values and lifestyle will tend to perceive the congregation as being less friendly.
This same phenomenon occurs in heaven. There all communities are open and friendly to newcomers and visitors who come to them:
The angels are greatly gladdened with newcomers and with the greatest concern want them to be associated; but from that exquisite perception, they at once know and perceive whether he is such that he can be among them; if not they grieve; but still they labor with the greatest care to initiate him; but when there is not concord, they separate themselves, and so it is again give to the soul to be transferred around (Spiritual Diary 299).
They who are admitted are received by the angelic societies with inmost charity and its joy; but they who do not want to remain in the societies to which they come first are received by other societies, until they come that the society with which they accord (Arcana Coelestia 2131).
When they pass from one community to another they are dismissed with courtesy and charity, and this until they come into the angelic community which accords with the distinctive quality or genius of their charity, piety, probity, or sincere courtesy (Arcana Coelestia 1273).
In spite of the best efforts of the angels to be friendly and of service, the relationship may not have any magic in it. The “chemistry” may not be right. Regardless of the friendship that is offered, an angel will not feel comfortably at home with other angels who have different values and lifestyles.
Few go out of their own society into another, for going out of their own society is like going away from themselves or from their own life, and passing into another life which is less friendly (Heaven and Hell 47).
Like are drawn spontaneously as it were to their like, for with their like they are as if with their own and at home, but with others, they are as if with strangers, and abroad; and when with their like they are in their freedom, and consequently in every delight of life (Heaven and Hell 44).
On the other hand, when a person is with his own kind, he feel at home immediately, even if he had never met the people before.
All who are in like good, even though they have never seen each other before, know each other, just as people in the world do their family, relations, and friends (Heaven and Hell 46).
The basic psychospiritual factors at work here are very much like the ones which cause inward and outward coldness in marriages. Partners often feel cold towards each other and may label one another as unfriendly without recognizing the basic inward or outward dissimilarities that cause the feelings of coldness. The presence of coldness does not mean one or the other is bad. They may simply be different (see Conjugial Love 235-250).
There are differences between the organization of heaven and the organization of earth. Heavenly communities are organized strictly according to internal similarities, while in earthly communities external similarities tend to take precedence (cf. Conjugial Love 271-275). Also, earthly communities tend to be less clearly distinguished from one another, since the limitations of time, space, and matter cause more of a mixing together of different kinds of peoples. Yet similar processes work in both places. To look a Navajo in the eye is considered a sign of disrespect, while for most Anglos it is a sign of interest in a person. With such differences in culture, how easy it would be for a friendly concern to be perceived as being unfriendly!
The concept of having different congregations for different social, racial and economic groups smacks of racism to many people, which has made the homogeneous unit principle the most controversial of all church growth concepts. For this reason, some church growth theorists have described the homogeneous unit principle as an expedient method of outreach, but not as the ideal for a mature church. In a mature Christian church, they say, there will be no classes, races, or ethnic groups, but a homogeneous mixing of all people. In part this ideal is related to the mistaken concept of heaven as a place where everybody is together without distinction.
For the New Church, however, that maturing process is not one of eliminating distinctions between groups, but rather one of shifting the basis for those distinctions from outward similarities (relating, for example, to wealth, education, and race) to inward similarities (relating, e.g., to their concept of God, their uses, and their manner of applying truth to life).
The Writings clearly teach that charity makes the church one. When there is spiritual and heavenly love in the church, people of many different backgrounds, lifestyles and beliefs can work together harmoniously. If the concept of the homogeneous unit is applied without love, it will divide peoples from one another and create barriers of misunderstanding and mistrust between various distinct groups. Hell is also organized into homogeneous units.
Properly understood and applied this principle enables people of varied backgrounds to work together more effectively, and with greater appreciation of one another. When the horn players sit in the horn section and the violin players in the violin section, the harmony and beauty of the orchestra’s music is increased, not decreased. The human body would be totally unable to function if the heart cells, brain cells, and skin cells were equally distributed throughout the body. If the cells were not gathered into distinct organs (homogeneous units) they would not be able to communicate with each other or function together except in the most protozoan fashion.
Sometimes people on earth are unaware of these kinds of group dynamics, and almost unconsciously follow the particular crowd they belong to. Furthermore, many groups in this world are too heterogeneous to have a clear sense of identity. In heaven, however, the communities are homogeneous and consequently their group identities are clear, the angels knowing the qualities and purpose of their own community and others.
Heaven is distinguished into members and parts, like a person, and they are also named in the same way. Moreover the angels know in what member one society is and in what another; and they say that this society is in some member or province of the head, this in some member or province of the chest; this in some member or province of the loins, and so on (Heaven and Hell 65).
Every community has a common good distinct from that of the other communities (Arcana Coelestia 8469).
Church growth experts point to the need for a congregation to have a clear identity and explicit understanding of who they are and who they are trying to reach, sometimes called a philosophy of ministry.
Growing congregations invariably possess a clear identity (Reeves, p. 21).
The term “philosophy of ministry” is relatively new, but highly useful. It allows us to become conscious of the fact that each church, like each individual person, has a unique personality. No two churches are alike…
Church growth leaders have learned not just to live with diversity, but to rejoice in it. Unbelievers come in such great variety that the more different kinds of churches there are, the more options they have for find Jesus Christ.
No church can do everything. No church can meet everyone’s needs, no church can minister well to all people. Therefore choices concerning excellence in ministry must be made. It is a poor approach to say, “We’ll fit in a little bit of everything for everybody.” Radio stations discovered a long time ago that it is better to specialize. Rock stations don’t mix in a little bit of classical music or vice versa. If they did their clientele would go down to practically nothing. It is better to set ministry priorities and do a few things well rather than attempt many things in a mediocre way (Wagner, p. 175-176).
Principle 10: Heaven is a State of Constant Progression and Perfection.
Application: Growing churches focus on “discipling” rather than simply “decisions.”
It is important to distinguish between the initial process of entering the church (the decision) and the ongoing process of perfection that follows joining the church. In both these areas we can learn from what the Lord teaches, confirmed by church growth research.
In regard to the decision to accept a certain church as have the true teachings, the following teaching is relevant:
It is according to the laws of order that no one ought to be persuaded about truth in a moment, that is to say, that truth should be so confirmed in a moment as to leave no doubt whatever about it; because the truth which is so impressed becomes persuasive truth, and is devoid of any extension, and also of any yielding quality. Such truth is represented in the other life as hard, and as such that it does not admit good into it so as to become applicable. Hence it is that as soon as in the other life any truth is presented before good spirits by a manifest experience, there is soon afterward presented something opposite which causes doubt. In this way it is given them to think about it, and to consider whether it be so, and to collect reasons, and thus to bring that truth into their minds rationally (Arcana Coelestia 7298.2).
This truth that a person should not be persuaded in a moment is confirmed by research:
Church growth research shows that the person who make a Christian decision on the spur of the moment (perhaps at the conclusion of an emotional public meeting or a high-pressure “manipulative” presentation) is not likely to continue as an active disciple. There is much more hope for the person who has had a number of exposures to various elements of the Gospel, has seen Christianity demonstrated in the lives of others, and has considered the important implications of his/her decision…
The “new life” of the unfortunate people who are victims of a “quick sell” decision rarely becomes a reality. Such “instant evangelism,” as Samuel Southard puts is, produces many “stillborn babies.”
Helping people understand the implications of God’s unconditional love, in their own time frame and their own life situation, requires patience and consistency. It is a process that should not be hurried (Arn & Arn, p. 118-120).
More important than the actual decision is what happens afterwards. A mistake made by many churches is to believe that a person can be saved in an instant, regardless of his life, simply by making a decision and saying a formula of words.
It is an error of the age to believe that the state of a person’s life can be changed in a moment, so that from wicked he can become good… Those who separate charity and faith and place salvation in faith alone, commit this error. For they suppose that merely to think and speak formulas of that faith, if it is done with trust and confidence, justifies and saves one. Many think it is done instantly, too (Divine Providence 279.4,6).
It is not wrong for people to make decisions to accept the Lord and to join the church. What is wrong is to think that such a simple decision will itself save a person. A church which believes this way is less likely to care what a person does following his decision to accept Christ (see Divine Providence 340). The concern for such a church may be to get as many people as possible to say the words.
In the New Church, of course, we know that salvation involves a life-time process of change.
When a person is made from the old person into a new one (that is, when he is being regenerated), it is not done in a moment, as some believe, but through a course of years; in fact, during the person’s whole life, even to its end (Arcana Coelestia 4063.3; cf. 9334, 9336).
The regeneration through which come the new understanding and the new will is not accomplished in a moment, but goes on from earliest infancy even to the close of life, and afterward in the other life to eternity (Arcana Coelestia 5354.3).
A tree does not arrive at maturity in a single day;… nor does a crop of wheat or barley reach the harvest stage in one day. A house is not built in a day; nor does a person attain full bodily stature in a day, much less to the stature of wisdom; nor is the church established and perfected in a day. No progression to an end is possible unless it has a beginning from which it starts. Those who think otherwise of regeneration know nothing of charity and faith, and of the growth of each according to a person’s cooperation with the Lord (True Christian Religion 586).
To eternity a person can never be perfected beyond being like an egg to the things beyond (Arcana Coelestia 4379.2; cf. 3200end, 935.2).
Because regeneration is a life-long process, our focus is not on getting people to make decisions, but on helping them continue through that process of changing their lives.
One of the reasons sometimes given for the slow growth of the New Church is that we do not accept the concept of instantaneous salvation by faith alone. While other churches can make “instant converts” with their quick, easy, one-night-stand offers of salvation, we must face the intimidating life-long process of regeneration and gradual perfection. It might seem reasonable to suppose that making converts the easy way without concern for how they live allows a church to grow more quickly. However, church growth studies have shown that this is not the case. Churches which expect “instant converts” seldom have sustained growth. Churches which help their members with the gradual process of developing as a Christian have far more growth potential.
Although the false concept of instant salvation is prevalent in the Christian world, the opposite teaching, that salvation is according to life, is fortunately also present throughout the Christian world:
The doctrines of all churches in Christendom, viewed interiorly, are opposed to instantaneous salvation by direct mercy, but still some external people of the church maintain the idea… Is there a church whose doctrine does not teach that a person ought to examine himself, see and acknowledge his sins, and confess them, repent and then live a new life? (Divine Providence 338.8).
Perhaps this explains why some churches focus more on the life after the decision than on the decision itself. In growing churches the focus is on discipling. Church growth proponents are not so much concerned with people simply deciding to accept Christ as they are with people being committed to and following Christ in how they live.
It is not disparagement of evangelism to note that churches generally have been long on evangelism and short on discipling. This unfortunate imbalance has created an unscriptural dichotomy between conversion and discipleship. The result is that making converts has been substituted for making disciples. In the process, evangelism has become a profession of the clergy and a few “super” saints, rather than the occupation of all Christians. Meanwhile, multitudes of persons have made decisions, even professions of faith, without experiencing any vital commitment to Christ. These persons have become converts perhaps, but certainly not disciples. Many have not even become church members. This approach to evangelism is comparable to equating parenting with childbearing. Both these concepts are incredulously incongruous (Sisemore, p. 61, 62).
The phrase “disciple of Jesus” expresses the truth that effective evangelism seeks to bring persons to a relationship with Christ and thereby into personal discipleship for him. Effective evangelism seeks disciples rather than just decisions. Effective evangelism goes beyond the decision level attempting to be certain the person becomes a disciple. A responsible disciple is one who does what is required and expected of a follower. He or she lives the Christian life. Responsible disciples pray,
give, serve, witness, and grow. Responsible disciples carry out the Lord’s will, meet the needs of mankind, and fulfill the ministry of his churches. Responsible disciples continue in the Lord’s way, the Lord’s teaching, and the Lord’s work (Smith, p.38, 39).
Principle 11: The First of Charity is to Shun Evils as Sins.
Application: Growing churches are willing to examine themselves and make changes.
In order for a person to be genuinely loving and useful, he must shun evils as sins against the Lord. A church as well must be willing to turn from evil, and this means that the church must be willing to examine itself, identify specific evils, pray to the Lord for help, and make the changes which will allow the church to lead a new life. Consequently self-examination and change are facets of a loving and growing church.
There are perpetual changes of state there [in heaven]; for the angels are continually being perfected, and cannot be perfected without them (Arcana Coelestia 8108; cf. Arcana Coelestia 935, Heaven and Hell 159).
Every angel undergoes and passes through such changes of state, and also every community in general (Heaven and Hell 157).
The doctrinal things of the church are first to be learned; and then exploration is to be made from the Word as to whether they are true (Arcana Coelestia 6047.2; cf. Apocalypse Explained 79).
It is a general principle in all religion that a person ought to examine himself (Doctrine of Life 64).
The principle of evaluation and change is a basic principle of church growth. Evaluation and change are companions. Careful evaluation will usually result in the discovery that something needs to be done differently. Facing tough questions concerning the past, present, and future is crucial in church growth. Growing churches must question the functional value of activities, organizational units, practices, and facilities. It is not easy to face a hard line of questioning about what has been, is, and shall be done…
When evaluation procedures are conducted, needed adjustments come into focus. This brings our thoughts to a continuing reality in the growing church-CHANGE! Change is a way of life in church growth. We are prone to forget that change is not a one-time experience. Change is a way of life… The growing church is a changing church (Chaney & Lewis, p. 60).
We may agree that a congregation ought to be willing to evaluate itself and change what is not right, but are the changes suggested by the church growth movement in agreement with the kinds of changes the Writings might suggest? Prevalent among the barriers to church growth described in the Writings are faith alone and love of dominion. The New
Church will grow only to the extent that we can flee from and overcome these two monsters hatched in the nest of the fallen church.
The church growth movement describes the behavior of congregations as it relates to growth. It cannot discern the spiritual state of the church, which can be revealed to us by the Lord alone. Consequently the church growth movement does not tell us what is evil, but rather describes the barriers to church growth. Yet there is a parallel between the barriers to growth which can plague a church on a functional, organizational level, and the evils which can plague it on a spiritual level.
Again, we can make an analogy to the mind and body of an individual. A doctor does not diagnose evils, but rather diseases. Yet there is a correspondence between disease and evil, so that disease is a result and outward expression of evil. Of course, as we make this valid connection between sickness and evil, we must be careful not to use it as an occasion for judging sick people to be necessarily evil, or healthy people to be necessarily good.
Likewise in church growth, we will see that barriers to growth are like diseases (see Your Church Can Be Healthy, by C. Peter Wagner, which describes the pathology of congregations). These barriers are results and outward expressions of spiritual evils, yet in making this valid connection we must be careful not to judge non-growing churches to be necessarily evilly motivated, or growing churches to be necessarily in spiritual good.
A key question for the New Church is, to what extent is the church growth movement useful to us in diagnosing, treating, and curing the functional and organizational illnesses of our congregations? Is the church growth movement itself based on the evil motivations and false concepts of a fallen church?
Where Does The Church Growth Movement Come From?
There are several reasons why New Church people may react negatively to the concept of church growth based on research provided by the Christian church growth movement. Two reasons are:
- They may be suspicious that the principles of church growth are based on false doctrines and motivations.
- They may have had negative reactions to the evangelistic efforts of other churches or their own church.
These concerns will naturally arise when the methods and principles of church growth as promoted by the church growth movement are lumped together with methods and principles of Christian churches and cults in general. Many modern efforts in evangelism have been based on false doctrines such as “faith alone,” “instantaneous salvation,” and “meritorious good,” and have sprung from motives of love of dominion from love of self and love of the world. On the other hand, there are other, better sources for evangelistic methods used by Christian churches. One of these is the Bible. Many Christians sincerely
look to the Word of God for both the motivation and direction in outreach efforts. To the extent that they are not confirmed in the doctrine of faith alone and the evil of love of dominion, they can receive guidance from the Lord by this means, and will teach the doctrine of charity.
Many in those churches teach faith conjoined to life, and life conjoined to faith; but others teach faith separated from life. This latter is done by the learned who teach from doctrine, but the former by the learned and unlearned who teach from the Word. Thus they go in opposite ways (Apocalypse Explained 885.2).
Another source of information for the church growth movement is science. The church growth movement is distinguished from traditional approaches primarily by the fact that it draws its methods and principles from extensive research based on sociological methods, and rejects the concept that certain methods are better simply because they have some kind of a priori doctrinal justification. This emphasis is evident in the following quote:
Is church growth the same old stuff in a new bottle? or even the same old bottle with a new label?… Church growth represents a historic new departure for informed evangelization… Church growth harnesses the social sciences, especially sociology and cultural anthropology, to develop strategy for the missionary task. Church growth leaders emphasize practical research… Church growth research constantly tests inherited evangelistic principles and methods and discovers new ones… Church growth strategists now have at their disposal a worldwide data base from church growth research, upon which to predicate theory and strategy (McGavran & Hunter, p. 25-26).
There are several important results of this difference between traditional methods and the methods promoted by the church growth movement:
- The church growth movement is largely independent of the doctrine of faith alone, being based on sociological research instead.
- The church growth movement has invalidated a number of evangelistic methods which have grown out of faith alone and love of dominion.
- The principles discovered by the church growth movement are essentially the same principles that govern any growing organization.
My own observation is that the principles of evangelization which have been invalidated by the church growth movement are primarily (if not exclusively) the ones which have been based on faith alone and love of dominion.
One example of this is the Billy Graham type of crusade. A key element of Graham’s crusades were the large numbers of souls which were saved by a single night’s haranguing and emotionalism. Obviously, this method is based on the concept that a
person can be saved in an instant simply by confessing to believe in Christ. This type of evangelization earned Graham widespread media recognition, and many Christians were led to believe that Graham was doing great things to help the Christian church grow.
The church growth movement, however, has popped Graham’s bubble. The hard, cold evidence clearly indicates that even in the best of Graham’s campaigns only 7 percent of those who registered “decisions” actually became new members of local congregations, and of those 7 percent the large majority had previously been drawn to the congregation through relatives or friends, leaving about 1 percent of the decisions in which the crusade was the key factor in bringing a person into the church (Arn, Mass Evangelism: the Bottom Line, PCGH, p. 95)
Another evangelistic campaign based on the same false doctrines, but using telephone canvassing instead of mass meetings was the “Here’s Life America” program sponsored by Bill Bright and Campus Crusade for Christ. Like Graham’s crusades, this one had perhaps 1 percent effectiveness (Arn, A Church Growth Look At Here’s Life America, PCGH, p. 44).
Looking at the other side of the coin, we find out how many of the people who are currently members of local congregations came into the church as the result of any kind of city-wide evangelistic campaign. The answer is less than one tenth of one percent (Arn, quoted by McGavran & Hunter, p. 34).
This is one example of how the church growth movement has shown that methods based on faith alone simply do not work for church growth (although Graham and Bright may console themselves with the belief that they have at least “saved” thousands of people who never showed signs of a change in their lives).
Some church growth leaders have indicated an awareness of the tension between faith alone theology and church growth theology. Peter Wagner writes, “Sadly, world evangelization was not a prominent activity of the Protestant reformers or the churches they started… Luther’s sound theology was not sound missiology” (Wagner, p. 154). And Robert Schuller calls for a new reformation, moving from a theology of faith alone to a theology of self-esteem:
It was appropriate for Calvin and Luther to think theocentrically. After all, “everyone was in the church” and the issues were theological, not philosophical. For them, the central issue was, “What is the truth in theology?” The reformers didn’t have to impress the unchurched so there was no need for them to take the “human needs” approach. They were a church after all, not a mission. They would “proclaim the Word of the Lord,” and all had better listen! Time and history have changed all that. Today the sincere, Christian believer is a minority. So the church must be
willing to die as a church and be born again as a mission… If we hope as a church to survive, we must learn to think and feel and talk as caring believers who are sincerely interested in understanding and meeting the deepest spiritual and emotional needs of the unbelievers (Robert Schuller, p. 12,13).
He later asks if a “failure of Protestant Christianity” can be “a result of a fundamental defect in our basic theology?” (ibid., p. 27). He wonders whether Luther and Calvin were “possessed more by the spirit of St. Paul than by the Spirit of Jesus Christ” (ibid., p. 39). And I add, how could a church which was based on faith alone possibly have an adequate theology of spiritual caring?
Faith alone is not the only evil in missionary work. One of the most obnoxious things about door-to-door evangelists is their frequent pushiness. My guess is that this pushiness has its roots in love of dominion, which is often the hidden motivation for evangelistic campaigns. When a church wants to grow in order to have a larger budget, or to become a more powerful force in the community, or for any other reason that primarily helps the existing members of the church, the basic motivation is one that uses other people for selfish purposes. When this is the motivation in outreach, the first thing to go by the boards is a concern for the freedom of the audience. One church growth author writes:
The Manipulative Monologue Model views evangelism as a process of manipulation. The message might be an emotional appeal or it might be leading a person through a set of carefully prepared questions. The techniques of high pressure salesmanship are based on this model of communication. Unfortunately, many books on preaching, and most books on person to person evangelism have been based on the high pressure salesmanship approach. There are also many people and churches who practice religious communication according to the manipulative monologue model.
They see the influence as being all one-way. They are not really interested in listening unless they can use the appearance of listening for manipulative purposes.
This same author compares this with Non-manipulative Dialogue, which “is an effort to look at things from the perspective of the other person.” The study described by this author found that both methods were successful in bringing converts to the church, but that the vast majority of those brought by manipulation soon dropped out, while almost all those brought by Non-manipulative Dialogue remained as active members. [A third method of evangelization based primarily on one-way transmission of information or teaching, was found to be largely unsuccessful in bringing converts to the church.] (Yeakley, PCGH, vol II., p. 139-144.)
Frequently New Church people hesitate to get involved in evangelism and dislike the evangelistic overtures of other churches. I would venture to guess that much of the discomfort many New Church people feel with evangelistic methods is the result of the direct influence of the false doctrine of faith alone, and the evil motive of love of dominion. Again and again I hear people explain their distaste for evangelization with stories of insensitive, dominating doorknockers and shallow born-again fanatics looking for an instant conversion.
The insights from the church growth movement should be a breath of fresh air to such New Church people, since they indicate that the methods which do not work and ought to be discarded are the very methods which are so distasteful because they are manipulative and smack of faith alone. The church growth methods which work are also the ones that people feel most comfortable with, because they are based on caring and love.
The Writings note that faith alone preachers use love, caring and good works as a tools for boosting the size of their churches. Those preachers know that if they stop teaching love, they will lose members. Even they can see that this is the plain teaching of the Word, which cannot be openly opposed. (See Arcana Coelestia 4730, 4754, Brief Exposition 79, True Christian Religion 462, 518, 110.7, 506, Apocalypse Revealed 417, 463.2, Apocalypse Explained 885.2, 785) When we see other churches growing very quickly using church growth principles which are based on caring and good works, we can reflect that this kind of teaching “is of the Lord’s Divine Providence, that the common people may not be led astray” by faith alone (Divine Providence 258.6). If even faith alone preachers know to contradict or hide their own doctrine and focus on love as a means to church growth, how much more should we in the New Church make this the foundation and purpose of our evangelization efforts?
I have focused here on faith alone and love of dominion as two evils that must be shunned for church growth to take place. There are, of course, others, some of which are discussed below under the topic of the priorities in the church.
Principle 12: Influx is According to Reception.
Application: Growing churches focus on receptive people.
Essentially, the Lord is the same with every one. He is present with everyone with the whole of His being. The influx into every one is exactly the same.
However, one of the things that is the same with every one is His manner of accommodating to the individual’s state. With each person, the Lord gives as much as that person is able to receive, in the way that he is able to receive it. The Lord’s desire for every one is the same, but His actual giving depends on the individual’s free choice to receive or not.
The appropriation of the Lord’s life comes from His love and mercy toward the whole human race, in that He wills to give Himself to every one, and all that is His, and in that He actually does give them is so far as they receive (Arcana Coelestia 3742).
The Lord from mercy leads everyone who receives Him (Heaven and Hell 420.2).
The Lord loves a person and wants to dwell with him, yet He cannot love and live with a person unless he is received and loved in return. From this alone comes a relationship… To enter anyone, and remain, with whom there is no reception, is impossible (Doctrine of Life 102).
Swedenborg showed concern for the level of receptivity of the Writings among individual people. He outlines five categories of receptivity:
There are five kinds of reception: First, those who wholly reject… A second class… who are delighted with them as facts, and as curious things. A third class, who receive intellectually… but remain in respect to life as before. A fourth class receives persuasively, so that it penetrates to the improvement of their lives… A fifth class, who receive with joy, and are confirmed (Spiritual Diary 2955, cf. 4422).
The Lord is concerned not only with the receptivity of individuals, but also of whole societies. Swedenborg writes, “Since it has been granted me to be in the spiritual world, and there to see the internal nature of people from different kingdoms of the world, I feel it necessary, because of its importance, to make this known” (True Christian Religion 806). He then describes the spiritual state and receptivity of the Dutch, the English, the Germans, the Catholics, the Mohammedans, the Africans, the Gentiles, and the Jews. He points out how reception with the Protestants differs from that of Catholics (Brief Exposition 105-108). He tells us elsewhere that Europe would not be very receptive
because of the presence of the devastated former church, while western Africa, made up of Gentiles, would be very receptive. “In heaven the Africans are the most loved of all gentiles; they receive the goods and truths of heaven more easily than the rest” (Arcana Coelestia 2604). “The Africans are more receptive of the Heavenly Doctrine than any others on this earth” (Spiritual Diary 4783; cf. Heaven and Hell 514, LJ 51, Continuation of the Last Judgment 75, True Christian Religion 835f, Spiritual Diary 4774f, 5515f, 5809f, 5946, Last Judgment post. 116f).
The Divine principle of actually giving to those who receive is confirmed by church growth theory:
Our Lord spoke of fields in which the seed had just been sown and those ripe to harvest. Sometimes men hearing the Word do nothing. The field appears no nearer harvest after receiving the seed than it did before. Sometimes, however, men hearing the Word leap to obey it. They receive it with joy, go down into the waters of baptism, and come up to spirit-filled lives in self-propagating congregations.
Our Lord took account of the varying ability of individuals and societies to hear and obey the Gospel. Fluctuating receptivity is a most prominent aspect of human nature and society. It marks the urban and the rural, advanced and primitive, educated and illiterate. It vitally affects every aspect of missions, and must be studied extensively if church growth is to be understood…
The receptivity or responsiveness of individuals waxes and wanes. No person is equally ready at all times to follow “the Way”… This variability of persons is so well known that it needs no further exposition.
People and societies also vary in responsiveness. Whole segments of mankind resist the Gospel for periods-even long periods-and then ripen to the Good News. In resistant populations, single congregations only, and those small, can be created and kept alive, whereas in responsive ones many congregations which freely reproduce others can be established (McGavran, UCG, p. 245, 246).
Responsive units of people in a given section of a community should receive priority attention. It should not be deemed more spiritual to continue pouring resources into nonresponsive areas to the neglect of responsive areas. Churches do this all too frequently. Personnel, time, and finances are not available to take advantage of a new, responsive area because these resources have been allocated to nonresponsive areas. Spiritual need is often very spontaneous. Some strategy must take into account that all persons will not respond at the same time interval. When a church finds itself so overly committed to nonresponsive areas that it
cannot consider meeting the needs in responsive areas, it has an inadequate strategy (Chaney & Lewis, p. 38).
Reaching receptive people involves much more than allocating resources, of course. One vital element is accommodation. Without accommodation there is no reception. This accommodation begins with the Lord:
This Divine goodness is not such as it is in the sun, but is accommodated to reception in heaven, for unless it were accommodated to reception heaven could not exist (Arcana Coelestia 8644).
Truth Divine is not received by anyone unless accommodated to apprehension, thus unless it appears in a natural form and shape; for at first human minds apprehend none but earthly and worldly things, and not at all spiritual and heavenly ones (Arcana Coelestia 8783).
What is infinite cannot have a relationship with finite things… except by putting on something finite, and thus by accommodation to reception (Arcana Coelestia 8760.2).
Divine truth in a form not accommodated would cause spiritual death, because truth in a form not accommodated, such as it is in heaven, transcends apprehension (Arcana Coelestia 8922).
The Lord foresees how man leads himself and continually accommodates (Divine Providence 202.3).
The case herein is the same as it is with a parent who is teaching his little boys and girls: when he is teaching, he sets forth everything in accordance with their nature, although he himself thinks from what is more inward or higher. Otherwise it would be teaching without their learning or like casting seed upon a rock. The case is also the same with the angels who in the other life instruct the simple in heart: although these angels are in celestial and spiritual wisdom, yet they do not hold themselves above the comprehensions of those whom they teach, but speak in simplicity with them, yet rising by degrees as these are instructed… The case would be the same if the Lord had not taught in the Word in accordance with man’s comprehension (Arcana Coelestia 2533, cf. 314, Heaven and Hell 516).
These concepts of accommodation and reception are largely confirmed by church growth experts:
Proper strategy seeks accommodation, making the message relevant and easily accepted by the people in the receptor culture. Accommodation involves both identification and communication. While guarding against
syncretism, accommodation strives for indigenous Christian thinking and church life.
Two important strategies, meeting felt needs and using functional substitutes, aid the process of proper accommodation. Meeting felt needs shows the people that the message is relevant. The missionary seeks to communicate the gospel in ways that cause the people themselves to recognize their need…
One helpful strategy in achieving change is that of providing functional substitutes… In Java a Muslim farmer sacrifices to the field spirits, seeking protection for his crop… Should this Muslim farmer become a Christian, the sacrifice to the field spirits could not be continued… To simply prohibit the ceremony of sacrifice to field spirits would leave a serious cultural void. Better to provide a Christian ceremony with prayer to God for protection of the fields. This ceremony would be a functional substitute (Smith, p. 112, 113).
People must be met where they are-in their native context of thought. “Native” refers to the natural-that in which and with which people are born and reared… The church planter goes to people who have thoughts and philosophies strange and different from his… Unless the church planter meets the people where they are, in the normal natural setting of their thoughts, he can never lead them away from those thoughts…
People must be met where they are in the native context of things. The planter should go to the natural, physical setting of the people and plant seed there. This is where the people live most of their hours. This will be the normal context of the living out of their new-found life… It may be harmful to build a new Western-style chapel away from the people’s natural setting and then try to convince them to go to the chapel to learn about Jesus… The people who live in grass huts may also worship God in grass huts. People who live in high-rise apartments may also worship God in high-rise apartments. The slum dweller may also worship God in the slum setting (Brock, p. 47-51).
Principle 13: Love for the Lord and the Neighbor have Priority over Love of the World and Love of Self.
Application: Growing churches make spiritual outreach the top priority.
There are three loves, the love of heaven, the love of the world, and the love of self… These three loves, when they are rightly subordinated, make a person perfect; but when not rightly subordinated, they pervert and invert him (True Christian Religion 394-405).
Churches need to do many different tasks, and there are many different motivations tied in with those tasks. With the church, as with the individual, getting the right priorities brings perfection, and having the wrong priorities leads to “inversion and perversion.” The doctrine of priorities (which we usually call the doctrine of discrete degrees) allows us to unite apparent opposites. Appearance and reality, Infinite and finite, intellect and emotion, man’s life, God’s life, and spiritual and natural, are apparent opposites and are separated when the priority is twisted. When we recognize the proper priority, the reality appears, the finite receives the Infinite, the emotions speak through the intellect, and the spiritual is born into the natural. Again and again we face a choice that seems to be either/or, but in reality is both/and when the priorities are in order. Many of the dilemmas which face churches have this quality: Nurture or outreach? Facilities or staff? Pastor’s salary or additional programs? Education or evangelization? What do we give priority to?
I like to classify church uses into four categories, based on two distinctions: the distinction between spiritual and natural uses, and the distinction between uses to ourselves and uses to others. Thus the four categories of uses (with some examples of each) are:
|Spiritual Uses||Natural Uses|
|For Ourselves||For Others||For Ourselves||For Others|
|instruction||evangelization||buildings||feed the hungry|
|worship||church growth||budget||social action|
|social life||building relationships||church suppers||giving blood|
In seeking to establish the correct priorities in the area of evangelization, I find these two principles very helpful:
- Heavenly uses have priority over worldly uses.
- Uses for others have priority over uses for ourselves.
The uses which have priority are not necessarily the first that need to be done, nor are they necessarily the ones which will demand the most time and money. I use the word “priority,” in the sense it is most often used in the Word: the prior uses are the ones which are ends rather than means, the uses which are more central to the task of the church, the uses for the sake of which other uses are done. Depending on which kinds of tasks and motivations have priority in a church, the church may have four different faces:
- The Materialistic Church: when natural uses for ourselves dominate.
We cannot measure priorities by budget size. It is quite possible, for example, that a larger portion of the budget will go directly to natural uses than goes directly to spiritual uses. The key issue in looking at these priorities is to consider which is the means and which is the end. A reversal of ends and means may be indicated by words like, “If we could just bring in a few more people, then we could afford to purchase a church building.” Another way of putting it is to look at the key concerns which decide the direction of the congregation. In deciding whether or not to go ahead with a certain church program, do we allow the final decision to be made on the basis of whether we have the room or the money, or do we allow the final decision to be made by whether it is according to the Lord’s will and meeting a vital need? Church growth writers have often noted that growing churches generally do not allow their direction to be determined by real estate, money, or convenience, but by spiritual priorities and needs of others.
A devastating spiritual obstacle to balanced church growth, materialism, refers simply to any self-centered, self-serving, self-seeking tendency in churches, denominations, or church leaders. The spirit of materialism is evident when a local church delays mission activity for the sake of providing equipment, facilities, or additional staff. Materialism becomes a factor when motivation springs from a desire to build a personal empire or attract attention to self. Materialism has become the problem when churches or denominations are more concerned with advancing their own group than with the progress of God’s kingdom. Materialism obstructs church growth any time God’s churches and God’s people become self-centered and seek personal or corporate advance at the expense of servant activity.
Balanced church growth is impossible in the face of self-seeking materialism in churches or church leaders. The attitude of materialism drives churches to leave needy places of ministry to seek the easier fields. Materialism and self-seeking leads to inauthentic evangelism and church growth as churches and leaders major on the spectacular rather than on service. Materialism causes churches and leaders to demand to be served rather than seek to give self on behalf of others.
The only cure for materialism is repentance. Repentance carries the idea of leaving the old, self-seeking pattern and turning to the new,
servant pattern. Materialism, a manifestation of sinfulness in the church severely restricts balanced church growth (Smith, p. 132).
- The Society of Interior Friendship: when spiritual uses for ourselves dominate.
When the primary purpose of a congregation is social life within the congregation, and entering more deeply into the church’s doctrines, it becomes a “Society of Interior Friendship.”
They are a society of interior friendship… All within their society they call brothers, and with them they have the interior delight of life; but all others, who are outside their society they scorn, and call dead: so that they hold others in contempt in comparison with themselves, and thus relegate others to hell and believe themselves the only elect. Moreover all the good of charity which others do,…they depreciate, in fact ridicule, believing that they place merit in those things… consequently, they utterly reject a life of good. But they praise the life of good of those who are within their company, only it must not be such as stands out and is apparent. But they do this not from charity, but from interior friendship; for a friend praises a friend and thinks well of him, and this in the degree in which he perceives delight from his society (Spiritual Diary 4749m; cf. Arcana Coelestia 4054, 4804, Spiritual Diary 4524, 4810, Last Judgment (post.) 295).
Church Growth authors have noted the negative effects of “interior friendship” or spiritual nurture and fellowship when it becomes inward looking and exclusionary:
Mutual love and fellowship among God’s people enhance balanced church growth. Many things that are positive can, however, become obstructions to balanced growth. Fellowship, when it becomes an end in itself and cuts Christians off from the unchurched population, becomes pathological and destructive to the Church’s mission. It then obstructs growth (Smith, p. 130).
When fellowship becomes the goal of a church rather than the spirit of a church, there can be danger ahead. A church may become so intent on developing its fellowship that it overlooks the purpose of fellowship. The ultimate purpose is to strengthen and motivate the members to reach out, to share the koinonia with the unreached. If reaching out begins to die out, the koinonia has degenerated into mere social fellowship. And the church has become, or is becoming, ingrown, stale, and superficial. Staying in close touch with the lost world is the only way to keep a church
alive and vital (John T. Sisemore, Church Growth Through the Sunday School, p. 58).
Instruction in doctrine and learning from the Word is an important means to the goal of a life of genuine charity or caring for others. If entering more deeply into doctrine becomes the goal instead of a means, the education of the church becomes self-centered and lacking spiritual life. When life is the goal, it is easy to enter more inwardly into doctrine. When doctrine is the goal, it is difficult to enter inwardly into life.
Unless knowledge were learned for the sake of life, they would be of no use (Arcana Coelestia 2049.3).
In proportion as… one places his delight in knowledge alone, in the same proportion he removes himself from what is heavenly, and in the same proportion also the facts close themselves towards the Lord, and become material. But in proportion as facts are learned for the purpose of use; as for the sake of human society; for the sake of the Lord’s church on earth for the sake of the Lord’s Kingdom in the heavens; and still more for the sake of the Lord, in the same proportion they are opened, and therefore the angels, who are in the knowledge of all still estimate knowledges as nothing relatively to use (Arcana Coelestia 1472).
A person is not born for himself, but for the sake of others (True Christian Religion 406).
The extreme example of ingrown doctrine is again the society of interior friendship, where people perceive themselves to be more enlightened than others (Arcana Coelestia 4804) because they know the arcana of faith:
They conceal the arcana of their faith from others, and speak about them to each other… Hence also they impress on each other that they alone are the saved, and that all others are condemned. They do not speak about their arcana to others… There is interior friendship amongst them because they think much concerning their salvation, and that they are saved, and not others; hence they have such friendship. When they speak together, with closed doors, they then talk about such things (Spiritual Diary 4795, 4796).
While this “closed door” attitude is obviously an extreme, it is unfortunate that in many churches, Christian education turns inward and becomes more the goal than they means.
While a concern for the spiritual health, the personal growth, and the social fellowship of Christians within existing Sunday Schools
is necessary, in declining Sunday Schools these concerns have become the entire preoccupation of the classes and curriculum…
Such self-centered education does not motivate people toward involvement in the church’s mission of growth and outreach. On the contrary, education that concerns itself with only the spiritual nourishment of its own members contributes significantly to a “self-service mentality” that effectively seals off the Sunday School from the outside world…
“Nurture-oriented education commits the serious error of making an end out of something that is meant to be a means. By definition it is self-centered and therefore suffers from a basic introversion. It violates the example given us in Christ’s teaching and life where ministry on behalf of others is central and primary.”
In most declining Sunday Schools, the programs, curriculum, activities, and training do not reflect the priority of outreach required by Christ for His church. Further study shows that not only are such inward-focused Sunday Schools a deterrent to growth, they often fail to reach the very goal they do have-to develop greater spiritual maturity and Christ-likeness among existing members (Win and Charles Arn, and Donald McGavran, quoting Dr. Kenneth Van Wyk, in Growth, a New Vision for the Sunday School, p.40-42).
- The Social Gospel Church: when natural uses for others dominate.
A church which gets distracted from helping people on a spiritual level by focusing most of its energies in meeting people’s physical and social needs is not likely to grow. Consequently, we must always keep in mind that reaching out on a spiritual level has priority over reaching out on a natural level:
Those who are at last initiated into the internal of charity and mercy know that this very internal consists in willing well and in doing well to the internal man, thus with such things as conduce to spiritual life; and that the external consists in doing well to the external man, thus with such things as conduce to the bodily life, but yet with such prudence, that while the external man is benefited the internal man may also be benefitted at the same time. For he who does well to the external man and ill to the internal man, does not practice charity; and therefore when the one is done, the other must also be looked to (Arcana Coelestia 9209.2).
Two mistakes we could make in regard to social action would be (1) to make benefitting the external man (feeding the hungry, etc.) the primary goal, or (2) to
ignore social action as a possible external means towards the goal of benefitting others on an internal level.
Humanitarianism, the theology that places meeting social needs, overcoming oppression and injustice, and bettering living conditions as the primary goal of missions, obstructs church growth (Smith, p. 119).
I address those in the Church whose ‘holy bag’ is Christian social action-peace, food, reconciliation, justice… Wherever, anywhere in the world over the last 19 centuries, when the Christian Movement has emphasized disciple-making, two things have happened… We have made some new disciples and planted some churches and have had a social influence out of proportion to our numbers. But whenever the Christian mission has neglected disciple-making and concentrated on the other facets of Christ’s work, we have not made many disciples or planted many churches and have not had much social influence either! (Hunter, quoted by McGavran, UCG, p. 26).
- The Growing Church: when spiritual uses to others has top priority.
As we noted earlier, each community in heaven has a use which is (1) focused on people outside the community and (2) intended to lead those people to heaven (cf. Heaven and Hell 391). In growing churches, similar uses have priority. Evangelization-finding the lost, making disciples-is central to the purpose of the church, not just a frill or a means to some other end. Church growth researchers note that churches grow as a result of deliberate choices to grow, and not simply as a side effect of other priorities.
Disciple-making is most effective when it is an intentional response by the local church to the Great Commission… Intentionality in evangelism is the church’s response to Christ’s command to make disciples. It is an act of obedience, and acknowledgement of His Lordship. Intentionality in evangelism means that disciple-making becomes part of the priorities and goals of the church, part of its very reason for being (Arn & Arn, p. 56).
The first responsibility of Christians is this present age is to get as many people as possible into the kingdom and under the lordship of Jesus Christ (Wagner, p. 29).
God commands those of His household to go and “make disciples of all nations.” Fulfilling this command is the supreme purpose which should guide the entire mission, establish its priorities, and
coordinate all its activities. The Church today faces deep cleavage among her members at just this point. Some are so deeply impressed by the physical needs of man-and who can deny the urgency?-that meeting these needs becomes for them the highest present purpose of God and the Church…
Deeply as I sympathize with the problem and long as I have ministered to desperate physical needs-for years I superintended a leprosy home-I cannot ally myself on this point with those who put social action first. On the contrary, my conviction is that the salvation granted to those who believe on Jesus Christ is still the supreme need of man, and all other human good flows from that prior reconciliation to God.
The Lord Jesus put it succinctly when He said, “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things shall be added to you” (McGavran, UCG, p. 43).
In making spiritual outreach the top priority of the church, it is important to understand that social action, fellowship, and maintenance-things done for ourselves and/or on a worldly level-are very important for the church to be doing. Uses for ourselves are necessary to church growth. Natural uses are necessary to church growth. But we must always see that spiritual outreach is the prime purpose, to which every other use must be simply a means.
Establishing the correct priorities leads not only to growth, but also to perfection (cf. True Christian Religion 403). Our schools will become better schools, our worship better worship, our buildings better buildings, our social action better social action, precisely to the extent that making disciples of all nations is the governing purpose behind all of them.
Principle 14: Every Community is Led by the Lord as One Person.
Application: Growing churches allow, expect and plan for “people movements.”
The western world tends to be more individualistic than many other societies. We place a high value on individual freedom, and we encourage self-sufficiency and “doing you own thing.” This may have resulted in part from the freedom-loving, pioneering spirit of the men and women who settled the New World.
We are especially individualistic in matters of religion, and I wonder whether a large part of the individualism is tied in with the basic doctrines of faith alone. The Writings frequently point out that putting the primary emphasis on doctrine (especially the doctrine of faith alone) tends to separate people.
There are two things which join together the church’s people, namely, life and doctrine. When life conjoins them, the doctrine does not separate them; but if the doctrine alone conjoins them, as is the case at this day within the church, they then separate from one another and make as many churches as there are doctrines (Arcana Coelestia 4468).
The western world’s overemphasis on individualism may also be tied in with a lack of knowledge of the spiritual world and of influx. On a couple of occasions spirits came to Swedenborg wanting to be alone with him, and he told them that “in the other life it is impossible to be alone, as men suppose themselves to be on earth, and that many spirits were present”. There were others who were indignant that they wanted to be alone. (Arcana Coelestia 816, 2596)
I believe that this individualism, arising out of a left-brained, faith-alone, materialistic world view, has strongly influenced the evangelistic techniques of the Christian church, leading it to disregard the key role that the social network plays in one’s spiritual growth and decisions.
Of course, the myth of individualism is based upon fact. Although in reality we are intimately interdependent, there is the important appearance of self-life, which I will come back to later. However, the fact is that it is our interconnection with others which allows us this appearance of independence. The closer one’s relationship with the Lord, the more distinctly he seems to himself to be his own, and the more plainly he recognizes that he is the Lord’s. (Divine Providence 42-45).
Each person’s freedom of choice is in a way a very personal matter between one’s self and the Lord. However, it is also true that it is simply a freedom to choose one’s spiritual (and
to a certain extent one’s natural) associates. True freedom does not exist apart from involvement with a group or society. Angels and people come into their freedom through sharing affection and thought with others like themselves.
Once some angels…were led through hellish communities from one to another, and in each one while they were in it they thought just as the devils there thought… They were told to think from themselves, differently from the devils, but they said that they were completely unable to do so… It is the same with many who believe and insist that they have life in themselves. Also it sometimes occurs that angels are separated from the communities with which they are connected, and when thus separated they are unable to think, will, speak, or act, but lie like new-born infants; but as soon as they are restored to their societies they revive. For every one, person, spirit or angel, is connected as to his affections and derivative thoughts with communities, and acts as one of them; and for this reason it is known what each one is from the community in which he is (Apocalypse Explained 1147.2).
In our society loneliness is the most pervasive kind of emotional suffering. It is also probably the most painful, as is illustrated by the fact that the most severe civil punishment our society metes out (possibly excepting execution) is solitary confinement. Being cut off from society has about the same effect on angels:
No angel or spirit can have any life unless he is in some society (Arcana Coelestia 687).
He who is deprived of his society becomes half dead (Arcana Coelestia 1506).
The most precious gift the Lord can give a person is genuine relationships. It should not be at all surprising that people’s religious decisions are made in the light of how they will support or undermine their relationships with each other.
Because relationships are the goal of His creation, and because spiritual growth and choices can come only in the context of a community, the Lord is most careful to make those relationships and communities a part of His leading. In the other world the process of purification applies not only to individuals but to whole societies (cf. Heaven and Hell 68, Spiritual Diary 5511, Apocalypse Explained 677.3). He gathers people together into communities and leads each community as one person. The church on earth is also led through stages of life as if it were one person.
Each society consists of many who by their harmony and unanimity constitute as it were one person (Arcana Coelestia 684; cf. Divine Providence 64, Divine Love and Wisdom 71).
The Lord so conjoins the societies that they all lead as it were one person’s life (Continuation of the Last Judgment 21).
The Lord directs all in the whole heaven as if they were a single angel; and the same is true of all in each society (Heaven and Hell 52).
The same is true of the person of the church in the composite or collective sense as of the individual or single person. A person in the collective or composite sense is the church among many, while the individual or single person is the church in any one of those many. It is according to Divine Order that there should be what is general and what is particular, and that both should be together in every single things, and that otherwise particulars cannot have existence and permanence (True Christian Religion 775).
In the Lord’s sight the church is seen as a single person, and this larger human must pass through his stages of life like an individual, that is to say, from infancy to youth, from this to adulthood, and finally to old age; and then, when he dies, he will rise again (True Christian Religion 762; cf. Arcana Coelestia 2905.2).
We tend to think of spiritual growth being an individual process, and it is in the sense that individual freedom is always preserved. However, the Lord always leads and orders people’s free choices and affections into the larger human form. Consequently, people journey through life more easily in groups than as individuals.
In the Word, the messages of repentance and promise are more often addressed to whole groups of people than to individuals. Families, tribes and nations are called to repentance, and often addressed by one name as if they were one person. When the people sinned, they frequently did it as a mob. When people turned to the Lord, they often did so as a family, as a tribe or as a nation.
The growth of early Christian church frequently involved groups of people turning to the Lord together. For example, we are told that after a certain royal official knew that Jesus healed his son, “he himself believed, and his whole household” (John 4:53). When Peter visited Cornelius, he found that Cornelius had called together his relatives and close friends. As a group they listened and as a group they were baptized (Acts 10:24,44). When the disciples fished, they did not use a hook to catch one at a time, but a net to catch many.
In our church we instinctively rejoice over a small people movement when a whole family-mother, father, children-is baptized. And we may feel frustration when the spouse of a new member is opposed to the church and the family life becomes strained. However, our society is reduced to the nuclear family, and even this is fractured. Our social webs are not closely woven, and so we see less clearly the nature of conversion as it applies to larger groups.
Our modern western society is exceptionally pluralistic and especially secularized. If a person chooses to be converted in our society, he is expected to make the choice as an individual. In a tribal society, however, religion is much more an integral part of society. Their family life, work life and social life are woven on the loom of the ancestral religion. If an individual is converted, the rest of the tribe may ostracize him as a traitor not only to the religion, but also to the family, the work force, and the social network and the culture. The result is that the individual suffers greatly for his religion, and his religion is projected as one which destroys society and relationships. If on the other hand the tribal leaders are presented with the new religion, and they in turn present it to the people, who consider it over a period of time in a series of village meetings, and decide as a group to accept the new religion, then the social structure, relationships and culture are left intact and can support the converts in their new spiritual life. This is just one example of a group conversion process which to some extent plays a role in every society and with every individual. Although western churches tend to be suspicious of, ignorant of, or unsupportive of people movements, they do take place in our culture. The process through which the Church of the Open Door in Americus joined the New Church is an example. That kind of process could possibly take place more frequently if we expected and planned for it to happen. (We can’t make it happen-it is the Lord’s work-but we can prepare and plan for it.) Perhaps more important are our policies and practices in regard to countries like Ghana, where we should expect people movements to be the rule rather than the exception. The approach we take to evangelization could have a tremendous impact on the growth of the church in those countries.
McGavran writes that many church leaders have great difficulty understanding how indigenous peoples (plural) become Christian. Their own experience has been how, in individualized westernized societies, men and women, boys and girls, become Christian one by one. They know very little of how in close-knit webs of relationships, in castes, tribes, and other homogeneous units men and women become Christians in a chain of group actions. Educated leaders think a chain of group decisions cannot happen and usually that it ought not to happen. At no point does westernization more greatly damage world evangelization.
Across the ages and in all six continents God Himself has caused most first-time decisions from non-Christian faiths to come by way of people movements. By way of contrast, the one-by-one mode is typical in populations which have already become largely Christian. One-by-one is therefore the mode which most pastors and missionaries know from their own early experience. It brings great growth in “Christian” populations… But in non-Christian populations, turning for the first time to the Savior, most conversions occur group by group, in some form of people movement. Thus people movements are necessary at the growing edge of the church. If the Church would advance on new ground, she must create and nurture people movements (McGavran, MDMT, p. 101, 102, 108, 109).
In applying people movement strategies, the following steps should be observed:
- Accept the possibility and validity of men and women jointly expressing their faith in Christ. Realize that in many cultures one would not think of not checking with the group before a decision. Refuse to allow the cultural overhang of Western individualism to cloud the realization of the validity of people movements. George Peters says, “There is an ethnic, a group, a people approach in evangelism which has been either overlooked or ignored by the Westerner, not because it is not in the Bible, but because of his mentality of individualism.”
- Be aware of groupings, families, gangs, and other communities through which the gospel can spread. Such groups exist in nearly every society. They represent unusual possibilities for church growth.
- Approach the recognized groups as social units. Work through the recognized leaders of the group. Adapt to the structure of their society. Speak to the individuals as members of the group.
- Take a positive approach to communicating God’s message. Attacking the existing beliefs, behaviors, and concepts most often proves fruitless. Present the message of a loving God, a saving Christ, and a leading Spirit.
- Consider waiting on baptism until a sizable group can respond together. Care must be taken, however, that baptism not be understood as some kind of graduation. Allow time for the group to develop.
- Provide continuing post-baptismal care. Teaching, shepherding, and guidance are imperative. McGavran declares that the quality of a people movement is uniquely tied to and dependent upon post-baptismal care. The post-baptismal care should be adapted to the needs of the people served (Smith, p. 70, 71).
Principle 15: Procreation is the Greatest of Uses.
Application: Growing churches focus on reproduction.
When God created man in His image, the first commandment He gave was, “Be fruitful and multiply” (Genesis 1:28). It makes sense that this should be the first commandment, since the propagation of the human race and thence of the angelic heavens is the primary end of creation (Conjugial Love 68, cf. Arcana Coelestia 2039, 1123, Apocalypse Explained 991.2), and the sphere of propagation is the universal of all spheres.
There are many spheres which proceed from the Lord… but of all these the universal sphere is the conjugial sphere, for this is also the sphere of propagation, and is consequently the supereminent sphere of the preservation of the created universe by successive generations. This conjugial sphere fills the universe and pervades it from first things to last, as is evident from the fact… that there are marriages in the heavens,… and that on earth, besides being with men, this conjugial sphere is in all subjects of the animal kingdom even to worms, and also in all subjects of the vegetable kingdom, from olive trees and palms even to lowly grasses (Conjugial Love 222; cf. 386).
This sphere is received even by worms and blades of grass-how much more should it be received by the organizations of the church? If the organization is healthy, and there is within it a marriage of the Lord and the church, there will be an eager desire in the church to propagate itself, to reproduce, to be fruitful and multiply.
The potential for reproduction in the church is reflected in the potential for reproduction in natural things:
By the plant soul is meant the tendency and effort to produce a plant from its seed progressively even to new seeds, and thereby to multiply itself to infinity, and to propagate itself to eternity; for there is as it were in every plant an idea of what is infinite and eternal; for a single seed can be so multiplied during a certain number of years as to fill the whole earth, and can also be propagated from seed to seed without end… This is not a natural but a spiritual power (Apocalypse Explained 1203.2).
This same spiritual power is available to the church and each of its congregations, small groups and individuals. “In everything spiritual there is a propagative force” (Apocalypse Explained 1201.3). There are several levels of reproduction that are important to evangelization. (1) Congregations reproduce themselves by starting new congregations. (2) Groups reproduce themselves by starting new groups. (3) Disciples reproduce themselves by making new disciples. (4) Love and wisdom reproduce themselves by a
radiating spread of love and wisdom. All four of these are important to the spreading of the church. If any one is lacking, the growth of the church will be greatly impeded.
Although the reproductive force affects the church on all these levels, it is also true that individuals, groups, and congregations will at times be unable to reproduce. Reproductive ability comes with maturity, and tends to fail in old age. When the reproductive force is weak, churches tend to be barren, and grow slowly. However, the time of childhood, maturity and old age are determined by state, not time. Some churches mature in 3 years, some do not in 30. Some have many years of productive growth. Some reach stagnation and old age long before their time.
When the Writings mention the spiritual offspring of the church, they usually say that spiritual offspring are the goods and truths of the church (e.g., Conjugial Love 120, 121, True Christian Religion 380). Likewise in marriages, spiritual offspring are said to be goods and truths (Heaven and Hell 382). It is important in this context to remember that goods and truths exist in people.
It must be clearly recognized that there is no good nor any truth which is not in a substance as in its subject. Abstract goods and truths, being nowhere because they have no abode, are not possible. They certainly cannot be seen as things floating in the air (Conjugial Love 66, cf. True Christian Religion 37).
The case here is like that of all other things abstracted from their subjects, which when spoken of nevertheless lead to the perception of the subjects in which they are; as when the truth of faith or the good of charity is spoken of, there is understood the person of the church in whom they are (Arcana Coelestia 8761).
In the church, the subjects of good and truth are primarily individuals, groups and congregations. Consequently, when we speak of propagation of good and truth, it means truth and goodness actually spreading from person to person, from group to group, from congregation to congregation.
The use of conjugial love is the propagation of the human race and thence of the angelic heavens. This use is the end of ends of creation, and consequently all the happiness and pleasure the Lord could possibly give us is gathered into this His love. (Conjugial Love 68, cf. Arcana Coelestia 2039, 1123, Apocalypse Explained 991.2). The phrase “thence of the angelic heaven” is significant. The fact that a person is born into this world does not mean that he automatically goes into heaven. The propagation of the heavens is a second propagation, a new birth following the first. Genuine marriage love has within it a desire not only to bring people into the world, but also to bring people into heaven (cf. Apocalypse Explained 988.5). This desire of course includes one’s children, but it extends far beyond the limits of one’s direct descendants and one’s childbearing years. I think we can say that the desire to spread the church is simply an expression of conjugial love-the love of having spiritual offspring.
One of the three major characteristics of an indigenous church is its ability in Christ’s strength to reproduce itself. This is called self propagation. A church does not attain this characteristic easily or by accident. The way a church is born will influence its ability to reproduce itself… If the church planter is fully aware of the need for “thinking reproducible” in everything done, he will more likely plant a church capable of reproduction… The church planter must think reproducible in every aspect of planting a church from the time the first seed is sown to the actual birth of the church and as it continues to grow (Brock, p. 55, 56).
Another way of describing reproduction is as the “new unit” principle:
The principle of new units is a basic principle of church growth…
- Newly converted people usually come from groups of people who are not being touched by the ministry of the church. Therefore, their friendships open new avenues for growth.
- Newly converted people have the thrill of the newness of the new life in Christ.
- Newly converted people express strong loyalty to the church through attendance and participation.
- Newly converted people have a contagious enthusiasm that more settled members do not have.
- Newly converted people have a fresh and dynamic testimony of the activity of God in their lives. They appear to look for God’s activity in their lives.
- Newly converted people have tremendous capacities for personal growth.
New people reach their relatives and friends and encourage the existing church family to reach out with new vigor. Nothing can stimulate church growth more rapidly than new people being reached…
New organization units…[and] new extension and bridging units are part of the new unit principle of church growth (Chaney and Lewis, p. 61-63).
In evangelism, growing churches have added multiplication to addition. Multiplication is a fundamental principle of growth. In no genre of living creatures does growth take place just by one unit adding other units. Some of the added units also begin to add units, while the first unit continues to add other units. That is reproduction by multiplication.
Pastors and congregations are too often brainwashed into believing that church growth must be by addition only. No effort has been made to equip others to reproduce. The pastor or a visiting evangelist are seen as the only agents of addition growth.
Multiplication growth takes more time. For new reproducers must be equipped. In the long run, however, multiplication growth is far more productive (Chaney and Lewis, p. 182).
Principle 16: Man Feels Life from God as his Own.
Application: Growing churches encourage a sense of self-life and independence in its congregations and groups.
In making new disciples, starting new groups, and planting new churches, we must always have as a goal for each disciple, group, or church to have a sense of its own life.
The closer a person’s relationship is with the Lord, the more distinctly he appears to himself as if he is his own… Providence has for its goal that a person shall seem more distinctly his own, yet recognize the more clearly that he is the Lord’s (Divine Providence 42, 45).
Whatever a person does from the will as his own, according to the understanding as his own… remains permanently. By this the Lord brings a person into a state of a relationship with Himself; and in this He reforms, regenerates and saves him (Apocalypse Revealed 875.12).
To act from affection is to act from life, that is from self, thus from what is our own, or what is the same from proprium. In order, therefore, for a person to receive a heavenly proprium, such as is the proprium of the angels in heaven, he must be kept in freedom, and be introduced in freedom (Arcana Coelestia 2880).
The heavenly marriage is such that heaven and the church are united to the Lord through proprium, insomuch that it is in the proprium. For without proprium there is not union, and when the Lord insinuates innocence, peace and good into this proprium, it then still appears as proprium, but heavenly and most happy (Arcana Coelestia 252).
This principle of self-life is the other side of the focus on community and the homogeneous unit. Everyone in a community in heaven has shared affections, thoughts, and life, yet within the limits of that shared life there is a wide variety of individual people, each with a unique contribution to and expression of that common life.
Communities as well as individuals have the appearance of self-life. The individuality of a congregation within the denomination, or of a group within a congregation, may manifest itself in various ways. The sense of self-life in a small group or congregation can be enhanced if it has a clear sense of purpose and identity, its own permanent leader, a high level of commitment to the group’s mission, cohesive relationships among the members, its own budget and treasury, its own outreach program. These characteristics may give an appearance of competition between groups, or make strong groups look from the outside like exclusive clubs, cliques, or power blocs. In a healthy congregation, however, each group will not only have its own sense of self-esteem, but will also affirm
the importance, validity, and role of other groups within the total program and purpose of the church. Self-love is useful and necessary not only to the individual, but also to small groups and congregations, provided this love becomes a means for serving the Lord and the neighbor.
This need for self-life exists with both the congregation and the small groups within the congregation, and efforts to start new churches and groups should strive for the goal of giving them independence as well.
The mother church often wants to keep the daughter church under its domain, and it discourages progress toward independent constitution. This is especially a problem for those churches engaged in bridging growth. Often overwhelming paternalism produces reluctance to grant the daughter church independent church status.
The mother church should take deliberate steps to ensure that the daughter church will not always maintain a dependent relationship. One goal to be constantly held before the two congregations is that the daughter church become truly indigenous to the community in which it is planted.
What does this involve? Traditionally, indigenous churches have been identified as those which are self-propagating, self-supporting, and self-governing. These three attributes are very important. Periodic evaluation should be made of the progress of the daughter church in this direction. Is the new congregation being successful in its own evangelism program? Is there measurable progress toward self-support? Is leadership developing so that responsible government can be developed? Is the new congregation being successful in its own evangelism program? Is there measurable progress toward self-support? Is leadership developing so that responsible government can be developed? (Chaney and Lewis, p. 163).
In an attempt to more accurately delineate the nature of a church, Allen R. Tippet points to six marks of an indigenous church. When taken together, the marks contribute to the church’s unique “self-hood.” One mark of an indigenous church is its self-image. The church sees itself as the Body of Christ in the local situation. It feels responsible for expressing Christ’s love to the community. An indigenous church accepts itself as Christ’s church and does not view itself as being dependent on or subject to an outside mission organization.
A second mark of an indigenous church is self-functioning. Such a church has the necessary parts, which working together, accomplish the various functions of the church. The church can provide for its own worship, study groups, training programs, and community ministries…
A third mark of an indigenous church relates to the self-determining capacity. This church makes its own decisions in the pattern most natural to the cultural setting…
Self-support is the fourth mark of an indigenous church. The indigenous church supports both its own financial needs and those of its service projects… In most cases, subsidy produces negative rather than positive results…
The fifth mark of an indigenous church, self-propagation, means a church reproduces itself in kind. Both evangelism and church planting are emphasized… Such a church does not depend on others to reach new persons or areas.
The sixth mark of an indigenous church is the quality of self-giving. The needy in the area receive comfort, love, and physical help from an indigenous church (Smith, p. 62-64).
In encouraging this kind of self-life there are several caveats: One is that while a person or group should feel and act as though it has its own life, it should nevertheless acknowledge that all life is the Lord’s.
A second caveat is that independence is not attained in a day. New disciples, new groups and new congregations-just like new babies-need a lot of support and guidance and cannot be left completely on their own. As long as the support and guidance are clearly temporary, it can enhance, rather than undermine the independence of the group.
A third caveat is to remember that the self-life of a person, group or congregation is not opposed to, but rather enhanced by, its relationships with others and its involvement in the larger community.
The Final Factor
I could list more principles of church growth which are taught in the Word and confirmed by church growth research. For example, some authors point to growth factors such as:
Commitment to the Bible Prayer Sacrifice Adequate Staffing Positive Thinking Long Pastorates Planning Taking Risks Spiritual Power …and others
Many of these additional factors are closely related to factors I have already discussed. Sacrifice is close to shunning evils. Long pastorates are tied to goal-oriented leadership and relationships. Positive thinking is related to visualizing goals. And so on. At least some aspects of most of the primary church growth principles expounded by church growth authors have been discussed in this paper.
The most important principle I have not yet covered is this: A relationship with the Lord makes the church grow. We can cultivate, water, fertilize and weed, but plants will not grow without the warmth and light of the sun. It is our relationship with the Lord which makes the New Church the crown of all churches:
This New Church is the crown of all the churches which have so far been on the earth, because it will worship one visible God, in whom is the invisible God, as the soul is in the body. Only in this way can there be a relationship of God with man…. A relationship with an invisible God is like the eye’s grasp of the universe, whose end is beyond its sight; or like vision in mid-ocean, which falls only on air and water, and completely fades away. But a relationship with a visible God is like seeing a person in the air or on the water, stretching forth his hands and inviting all to his arms. For every relationship of God with man must be a reciprocal relationship of man with God; and reciprocation on man’s part is only possible with a visible God (True Christian Religion 787).
That relationship is the starting point and final goal for every other factor in church growth. Looking back on the principles discussed here, we can see that they all focus on that relationship with the Lord.
- Love – Love for the Lord, even more than love for the neighbor, is the basis for church growth.
- Relationships – The purpose of promoting relationships between people is to promote people’s relationship with the Lord.
- Growth – Our intention to grow can be in response to the Lord’s intentions for His church.
- Goals – The goal is growth not merely in numbers, but growth in numbers of people who have a relationship with the Lord.
- Leadership – Good leading depends on an innocent desire to be led by the Lord.
- Uses – The church flourishes when lay people do uses not so much from duty as from a sense of being called by the Lord.
- Service – We are serving the Lord when we serve “the least of His brethren.” Their needs are His needs.
- Groups – Large and small groups provide for different needs in relating to the Lord as well as to each other.
- Identity – Of all the shared values giving a congregation its identity the central is a shared relationship with the Lord.
- Discipling – A person goes forward on the step-by-step journey of regeneration by following the Lord.
- Change – If evils are shunned for any other reason than because they are against the Lord, they are simply hidden from view.
- Reception – Our primary concern is not whether people receive us or our organization, but whether they receive the Lord.
- Priorities – To help people outside the church on a spiritual level we help them in their relationships with the Lord.
- Community – It is the Lord’s presence in a community which binds it together, enabling it to be led as one person.
- Reproduction – All the church’s offspring are from the church’s marriage with the Lord.
- Self-life – The closer one’s relationship with the Lord, the more one appears to live from oneself.
The good news is about the Lord and a relationship with Him and with His church. Evangelization is to announce the Lord and His Kingdom (Apocalypse Revealed 478). A relationship with the Lord is the gospel announced by the 12 Disciples in the spiritual world: “The Lord God Jesus Christ Reigns! Blessed are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb!” (True Christian Religion 791).
Making a Difference
It is not so important that we have a long list of church growth principles as it is that our thinking about church growth should rest very solidly on the Lord’s Word. By approaching the subject of church growth in the light of the Word, we will find that all the evidence from church growth research can support and clarify the teachings of the Word. Furthermore, from the Word we will understand the church growth movement more deeply-see more clearly the why’s of church growth, because we can see it in the light of heaven.
Even more important than understanding church growth, however, is that we identify the principles from the Word that are most relevant for our situation and start to do something about them. Dan Goodenough writes:
Would we really want Providence so to control human relationships that whatever we say and do to another, there would never be any lasting effects on him? Do we really want our free choices to affect only ourselves in a permanent way? Would we be happy believing that however we decided to act towards others, the Lord will ensure that only the utmost good will ever result?… Every human relationship is in fact illusion, unless by our free choices we can have real and lasting influences on others.
It appears, then, that not only is man free in some degree in his natural actions, but he may also, through his decisions, have important and even eternal influences, good or evil, upon others-influences that would otherwise not take place (Dan Goodenough, p. 68).
We have now before us free choices that will affect the growth of the Lord’s kingdom. We must make decisions that will prove difficult and costly. Our choices may have dramatic consequences in the spiritual lives of others. If we fail to act on today’s opportunities, then sickness, despair and sorrow may spread into the void we leave. If we act wisely, thousands of people may find healing, hope and happiness.
The implications of these church growth principles are very practical, affecting how we define the role of the pastor, what kinds of goals we set, how we budget our time and money, what we ask of our lay people, how we educate our priesthood, how we structure our organization. The questions we need to ask are simple and down to earth. Who are the people we can reach out to this week? When and how can we help them? Who can help us reach them? What kind of group do people need? A marriage support group? A singles group? When can it start? Who will we invite to join? And perhaps first of all, What are the evils in me that are standing in the way of this? How do I need to change?
In one sense the changes needed for church growth are rather small though numerous adjustments. It is simply a matter of making the doctrine more a part of our lives. However, because the Lord’s doctrine always challenges our established notions and gets to the very root of thinking and actions, it may seem at times that He asks for sweeping reforms. Regeneration takes place little by little, yet it involves a shift from the left side to the right side that is often described as an inversion-it is turning one’s life upside down, or rather right-side up. If our organization follows the same Divine pattern, we might presume that putting many small things right-side up which had been upside down can, over some period of time in the development of the church, bring about a major inversion which puts the church on its feet.
This kind of inversion is involved in the Woman in the wilderness tormented by the dragon becoming the Woman descending from heaven, prepared as a Bride adorned for her Husband. Large programs initiated by inspired pastors may aid this process, but mostly it will be the sum total of many ordinary people making small plans to reach out in ordinary ways with a desire to share with others their relationship with an extraordinary God. It is such simple caring and usefulness that will announce the Lord’s presence in His Divine Human, and convey His message of love:
Behold, the Tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying; and there shall be no more pain, for the former things are passed away (Revelation 21:3-4).
Go therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age (Matthew 28:20).
Summary of Principles
- The Church is Love. A loving church is a growing church.
- The Purpose of Heaven is to Build Relationships. Growing churches focus on relationships.
- The Lord’s Kingdom is Designed for Growth. Growing churches are intentionally structured for growth.
- The End is Everything in the Cause and Effect. Growing churches have clear goals.
- The Pastor’s Function is to Lead. Growing churches have strong leaders.
- Every Member of the Body Performs a Use. Growing churches involve lay people in meaningful ministries.
- Each Community Serves the Greater Neighbor as well as its own Members. Growing churches have programs large enough and diverse enough to meet the needs of people in the congregation and community.
- Heaven is Structured from Larger Societies made up of Smaller Societies. Growing churches have multiple levels of group dynamics.
- Each Community in Heaven has its Own Unique Goals, Affections, Wisdom, and Life which are Shared by All in the Community. Growing churches have a clear sense of identity-a sharing of lifestyle and cultural values.
- Heaven is a State of Constant Progression and Perfection. Growing churches focus on “discipling” rather than “decisions.”
- The First of Charity is to Shun Evils as Sins. Growing churches are willing to examine themselves and make changes.
- Influx is According to Reception. Growing churches focus on receptive people.
- Lover for the Lord and the Neighbor have Priority over Love of the World and Love of Self. Growing churches make spiritual outreach the top priority.
- Every Community is Led by the Lord as One Person. Growing churches allow, expect and plan for “people movements.”
- Procreation is the Greatest of Uses. Growing churches focus on reproduction.
- Man Feels Life from God as his Own. Growing churches encourage a sense of self-life and independence in their congregations and groups.
Questions for Application
The following questions are keyed to the principles in the paper, and are designed to help you think about how to apply them.
- What level of love and caring is expressed between members of our congregations? What level of caring is expressed towards the larger community?
- Where are we doing well in our central task of helping people with their relationships?
- How large will your church be in five years? What do you need to do now to prepare for a church that size?
- What are our specific goals as a denomination? What are your specific goals for your congregation?
- How much of your time is spent leading? Can you delegate non-leadership tasks to allow more time for leading?
- How many of your laity are involved in meaningful church uses? Are they trained? Are they enthusiastic?
- What new programs have been added to your schedule recently? What new groups of people might you minister to next?
- How many small groups do you have in your congregation? What kind of people are you reaching with those groups?
- What makes your pastorate unique in the New Church? What kind of New Church people feel at home in your congregation?
- In what ways is your church helping guests and recent converts become better disciples?
- What are the barriers to growth in your pastorate? Has your society examined itself in order to identify specific evils?
- What are the most receptive areas in the world today? Do our primary efforts go where there is the most reception?
- How are decisions made in your congregation? To what extent is spiritual outreach the yardstick that measures each program and decision?
- What groups in your community can you approach as a group with the purpose of helping them on a spiritual level?
- When will your congregation be planting a church? Which groups or individuals in your church have a vision for spiritual reproduction?
- Is your congregation self-directed? self-supporting? self-propagating? If not, when may it hope to be?
Charles Arn, Donald McGavran and Win Arn, Growth: A New Vision for the Sunday School (Pasadena: Church Growth Press, 1980).
Win Arn, “A Church Growth Look at ‘Here’s Life: America,'” The Pastor’s Church Growth Handbook, Vol. I, Win Arn, Editor (Pasadena: Institute for American Church Growth, 1979), pp. 44-60.
________, “Mass Evangelism: the Bottom Line,” ibid., pp. 95-109.
Win Arn and Charles Arn, The Master’s Plan For Making Disciples (Pasadena: Church Growth Press, 1982).
Charles Brock, The Principles and Practices of Indigenous Church Planting (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1981).
Charles L. Chaney and Ron S. Lewis, Design for Church Growth (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1977).
Joe S. Ellis, The Church On Purpose: Keys to Effective Church Leadership (Cincinnati: Standard Publishing, 1982).
Daniel W. Goodenough, Providence and Free Will in Human Actions (Bryn Athyn: Swedenborg Scientific Association, 1986).
David J. Hesselgrave, Planting Churches Cross-Culturally: A Guide for Home and Foreign Missions (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1980).
Donald McGavran and George G. Hunter III, Church Growth: Strategies That Work (Nashville: Abingdon, 1980).
Donald McGavran, Momentous Decisions in Missions Today (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1984).
Donald McGavran, Understanding Church Growth, revised ed. (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1980).
- Daniel Reeves and Ronald Jensen, Always Advancing: Modern Strategies for Church Growth (San Bernardino: Here’s Life Publishers, 1984).
Lyle E. Schaller, Assimilating New Members (Nashville: Abingdon, 1978).
Robert H. Schuller, Self Esteem: The New Reformation (Waco: Word Books, 1982).
John T. Sisemore, Church Growth Through the Sunday School (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1983).
Ebbie C. Smith, Balanced Church Growth (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1984).
Frank R. Tillapaugh, Unleashing the Church: Getting People Out of the Fortress and Into Ministry (Ventura: Regal Books, 1982).
Elmer Towns, Getting a Church Started (Lynchburg: Church Growth Institute, 1985).
Kenneth Van Wyk, “Is Christian Education Stunting Your Growth?” The Pastor’s Church Growth Handbook, Vol. I, Win Arn, Editor (Pasadena: Institute for American Church Growth, 1979), pp. 129-135.
Flavil Yeakley, “Views of Evangelism,” The Pastor’s Church Growth Handbook, Vol. II, Win Arn, Editor (Pasadena: Institute for American Church Growth, 1979), pp. 139-