"...if anyone makes the assistance of grace depend on the humility or obedience of man and does not agree that it is a gift of grace itself that we are obedient and humble, he contradicts the Apostle who says, "What have you that you did not receive?" (1 Cor. 4:7), and, "But by the grace of God I am what I am" (1 Cor. 15:10). (Council of Orange: Canon 6)


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    ‘The Growing Seed' by Terry Johnson

    Mark 4:26-29

    Growth through God’s Word

    And He was saying, "The kingdom of God is like a man who casts seed upon the soil; and he goes to bed at night and gets up by day, and the seed sprouts and grows--how, he himself does not know. The soil produces crops by itself; first the blade, then the head, then the mature grain in the head. But when the crop permits, he immediately puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come."

    The second half of the twentieth century saw an unprecedented interest in principles by which the church grows. When Donald A. McGavran founded the Institute of Church Growth in Eugene, Oregon in 1959, which in 1965 because Fuller Seminary’s School of Church Growth, a movement was born. The ‘Church Growth Movement’ has spawned thousands of articles and books, and has been exceptionally influential. Focusing on measurable results, it has constantly asked the question, what causes the church to grow? What practical steps can be taken to produce growth? What methods and techniques, what strategies and programs are more conducive to the growth of the church?

    These are important question and answering them can be fruitful. Every church should constantly be evaluating its ministry and asking if it can’t be doing things more effectively than they are currently being done. But one of the unintended consequences of this movement has been the gradual secularization of church-building. Increasingly the business of growing the church has been understood in increasingly secular ways. The same method by which businesses and institutions grow have been applied to the church. Management and marketing principles have taken on greater and greater importance. Demographic surveys and focus groups have been used to fine tune the method by which the gospel has been presented, and even the message itself. Sometimes in the name of relating to the culture, sometimes in the name of removing what might offend, revolutionary changes have been made in the public ministry of the church, all in the name of growth. The motives have been noble, but many of these changes have been ill-considered. Most important, the line separating what God does and what we do, between God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility, has been blurred. At times, it has seemed that the progress of the kingdom has been reduced to a natural process that can be engineered by human agents. The supernatural and spiritual character of the church has been dismissed in the process.

    Is the growth of the church fundamentally a work of man or a work of God? If things have gotten seriously confused, we should not be surprised. Most, if not all, of the error in the history of the church, from the ancient Arians and Pelagians, to the modern-day Schleiermacher-inspired liberals, to New England’s Unitarians, has been perpetuated in the name of evangelism. Positive motives do not guarantee biblical results.


    Posted by John on February 9, 2009 02:11 PM

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