The Relationship Of Church Growth And Systematic Theology -- By: Elmer L. Towns

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 29:1 (Mar 1986)
Article: The Relationship Of Church Growth And Systematic Theology
Author: Elmer L. Towns


The Relationship Of Church Growth And Systematic Theology

Elmer L. Towns*

In the past twenty years the Church Growth movement has grown in public recognition for several reasons. First, superchurches have emerged on the scene and become influential in determining and applying Church Growth strategy. Second, there is a growing interest in the science and practice of church planting. Third, there seems to be more exposure by media to growing churches in general than two decades ago. At the same time the Church Growth movement has become a discipline, and it has become more sophisticated as it uses both theological and sociological research to examine churches to determine principles of growth. The purpose of this paper is to examine these areas and answer the following questions: (1) What is Church Growth? (2) Is Church Growth a discipline? (3) How can Church Growth and systematic theology relate to each other?

I. Church Growth Defined

The term “church growth” has several connotations. First, it is generally associated with churches that grow, both internally and externally; and as such, church growth has a generic meaning that began with the growth of the first church in Jerusalem.1 Second, the term is associated with evangelism and/ or missionary enterprises that imply outreach to the lost and their incorporation into a church, hence causing local church growth. Ten years ago C. Peter Wagner defined Church Growth as follows:

All that is involved in bringing men and women who do not have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ into fellowship with Him and into responsible church membership.2

This definition seems to define evangelism, but it is too broad for Church Growth because of the phrase “all that is involved,” which could include the areas of Christian education, pastoral theology, missiology, or other disciplines.

The third definition of Church Growth adds the aspect of research and limits the things included in its scope. In a later definition Wagner writes:

Church growth is that science which investigates the planting, multiplication,

*Elmer Towns is dean of the school of religion at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia.

function and health of Christian churches as they relate specifically to the effective implementation of God’s commission to “make disciples of all nations” (Matt 18:19–20). Church growth strives to combine the eternal theological principles of God’s Word concerning the expansion of the ...

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