An Analysis Of The Church Growth Movement -- By: Duane Litfin
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An Analysis Of The Church Growth Movement*
[* Duane Litfin, President of Wheaton College, delivered this address to the American Society for Church Growth in Chicago in 1995. He was asked to speak as an outsider and as a friendly critic. This article, used with permission, is based upon that public address.]
From its inception I have watched the Church Growth Movement rather closely. While I have made no formal effort to keep up with the developments within this movement in recent years, I have sought to stay abreast of the literature it produces. It does matter to me very much what this group says and does.
Why? Because the focus of the Church Growth Movement is on the church, an institution which is near to my heart and upon which this movement exerts a significant, and at times enormous, influence. It can be said of this movement that what it does matters if for no other reason than it has made a real difference in the contemporary American church. Thus this movement has my attention as a Christian leader.
But more specifically, the principles which undergird this movement, and those which continue to tangle with its critics, deal with the very issues to which I have given much of my professional attention, both as a scholar and as a practitioner.
I began wrestling with these issues in an intellectual way while I was still in seminary. Later, while pursuing a
RAR 7:1 (Winter 1998) p. 58
doctorate in the field of communications, and then still later while serving as a seminary professor, and even later still while pursuing a second doctorate in New Testament studies, I reflected upon this movement and its central theses. My training in communication theory, combined with my biblical/theological orientation, prompted me to approach the issues from several sides, and this has only served to whet my interest in the issues and to deepen my understanding of the stakes. Thus it is these very issues which have occupied the bulk of my scholarly attention over the years, culminating in a book, St. Paul’s Theology of Proclamation,1 published a few years ago.
My research is in that seminal passage in
Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians,
chapters 1–4. This passage stands
unique within Paul’s writings in that
it is the only place where the apostle
lays out his own modus operandi as a
preacher and explains why, theologically,
he had to operate the way he did.
In addition, this intellectual and theoretical work has been fleshed out in practice during the decade ...
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