Missiologist Donald McGavran’s baby turns 21 this year. The provocative North American church-growth movement seems to have emerged respectable from its turbulent teens.

A state of détente has been established between church-growth advocates and the movement’s historic enemies: old-line churches, no longer complacent about serious shrinkage, are using the techniques they once thought tacky; theologians are calmer now that growth gurus have clarified their stance on the “homogeneous unit principle” and have expanded their understanding to include the Spirit’s workings; and evangelists, who, as a class, were once a metaphor for bloated statistics, work with church-growth scholars to ensure accurate reporting and analysis.

Hardly a corner of American Christianity hasn’t been touched by this ecclesiastical pragmatism—including the congregation where Associate Editor Ken Sidey worships northwest of Chicago. For the past 10 months, Alpine Chapel of Lake Zurich, Illinois, has intentionally been riding on a fast track to expansion. The program their director of evangelism calls “accelerated church growth” is designed to help small churches vault the 200 barrier. And while there are not yet a solid 200-plus regular adult attenders, the shepherds of Alpine Chapel celebrate the near doubling of their total Sunday attendance from about 150 men, women, and children to almost 300. Of course, not everyone is eager to see an old, familiar church make the changes that stimulate growth. But those who left found other churches; and those who transferred in or have been converted more than made up the loss.

Beginning on page 44, Ken reports on how the alchemists of church growth are fine-tuning their formulas. And on page 19, consultant Craig Parro evaluates the movement’s marketing orientation.

DAVID NEFF, Managing Editor

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