One fall nearly two decades ago, I joined several dozen fellow first-year students at Fuller Seminary in a required class on evangelism. We were a varied lot, but we shared an earnestness of faith and a loyalty to the church.
One day, a guest teacher joined us, a bona fide "church growth consultant," we were told, although many of us were unfamiliar with the term. He brought an easel with graphs, reams of statistics, and-fatally-glib talk about special banquets for "key players."
Without knowing it, he quickly turned off many of us by what we considered pat plans and manipulative schemes. We who knew what the church was supposed to be (after all, we were seminarians!) considered his methods crass and his motivations suspect. Preach the gospel, we thought, and all this other stuff will be unnecessary. It was all we could do to remain polite through his promotional song and dance.
For the next several years, that experience colored my opinion of church growth. It was something those odd fellows ...1