How the Church Grows

Church Growth and Christian Mission, by Donald Anderson McGavran, editor, Robert Calvin Guy, Melvin L. Hodges, and Eugene A. Nida (Harper and Row, 1965, 252 pp., $5), is reviewed by Harold Lindsell, associate editor, CHRISTIANITY TODAY.

This impressive work treats the problem of church growth from four vantage points: theology, sociology, methodology, and administration. The contributors are representative: one is a Southern Baptist missions professor, another an Assemblies of God missions executive, another the director of the Institute of Church Growth in Oregon, and the last a foremost linguist with the American Bible Society.

Section 1 on theology and church growth surveys the foundations on which missionary work is built. Hodges stresses the need for a “New Testament climate.” This means New Testament Spirit-filled men who are eager to plant churches and who are undergirded by prayer. A spiritual enterprise demands spiritual people. Guy writes about an adequate theology in which Christ the Lord is exalted, sin is recognized as rebellion against God, salvation is preached through the Gospel, and missionary methods are oriented properly to the message. Nida discusses numerical increases versus maturation of converts and warns of the ideological conflicts faced by missions interested in church growth. He is less enthusiastic about church growth than McGavran. He sees the need to weigh carefully such opposing forces as nationalism, indigenous non-Christian religions, secularism, and the population explosion. He warns against the dangers of the ecumenical movement when it becomes “a functional substitute for growth.”

In the section on sociology and growth, McGavran points out that ...

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