MOVE, WHAT 1000 CHURCHES REVEAL ABOUT CHURCH GROWTH
Authors GREG L, HAWKINS, CALLY PARKINSON
ISBN 978 0310 325253
If you want a book about church growth that is informative, packed with loads of statistics, based upon what could be an unscriptural ‘spiritual continuum,’ then this is the book for you. It is interesting, confirmatory, sometimes a bit boring and yet instructive. It represents the analysis of data received and analysed by the Willow Creek Church of Chicago. An avowedly ‘seeker friendly’ church which began to sense a dissatisfaction both within the staff and the congregation back in the early 2000’s and decided to canvas both their own members and invite other churches to do the survey. It was a brave thing to do and well worth the effort. It did lead to some adjustments in Willow Creek itself and is something of a challenge to the very notion of a church that is ‘seeker friendly.’ I mention the ‘spiritual continuum’ that underlies the framework of the book and it is here that we must test its Biblical veracity. The idea that a church is made up of four main groups and a transition from one to the other is the aim of the ministry and life of the church is open to question. First there is those who are “Exploring Christ,” then those who are “Growing in Christ,” then those who are ‘Close to Christ” and finally, those who are “Christ-Centered.” This analysis of church attendees into four means that what is crucial are those things that act as a catalyst to shift the first to the second and so on to the “Christ Centered.”. What is intriguing is that these ‘catalystic elements’ are so utterly basic, daily Bible reading, even systematic expositional preaching is encouraged as essential to growth of a soul, prayer both in the individual life and together is found to be a vital component to church growth, an outreaching heart is vital that bears testimony to the power of Christ. Some of us would say, ‘but that is obvious.’ But, perhaps it is not so obvious. There are barriers to growth from one ‘stage’ to the other in the spiritual continuum. These are acknowledged, things like ‘repentance’ for instance and simple obedience to God’s word’. So, all in all, the book unfolds data that confirms the centralities of what it means to be a Christian growing in grace and a church that is at least, in some ways, a true church. The survey made plain that no one goes from someone ‘exploring Christ’ to growing in Christ unless they believe certain truths, among them the Trinity. The book will not leave the reader saying smugly, “well, I told you so,” or “so what is new and could you not see that from the beginning ‘seeker friendly’ is not what it is all about?” Perhaps the issue exposed by this helpful analysis is where do we begin? With God, or with man and his ‘felt needs.” Settle that deeply and a plain path emerges.