You can’t imagine

Body Builder

by Terry Camsey, Major – 

… how gratifying it was to read (in the April 17 issue of New Frontier) a published acknowledgement of the effectiveness of the MISSION2000 territorial growth strategy.

It is, however, tempered somewhat by the comment, “Arising out of that number comes the concern for how healthy is this growth.”

I guess such concern depends, firstly, upon how we define growth. Do we mean increase in numbers of worship centers, attendance, memberships, or of souls added to the Kingdom of God?

It also depends upon how “healthy” is defined. The ultimate “bottom line” of all we do must surely be people won and discipled who, through the agency of the Holy Spirit, in turn, win and disciple others. That, surely, is the ultimate spiritual fruit of a healthy church and is measurable statistically…disciples, discipling!

Increases in the number of healthy (by that definition) corps/outposts and other worship units (including Adult Rehabilitation Centers) facilitate that harvest of spiritual fruit, as do programs that disciple (including worship meetings). Increases in the various levels of membership are also indicative of healthy growth.

It is interesting, with such measures in mind, to review the actual net growth of the territory during the 1990s as well as the three preceding years in which, through our “Grow in the Strength of the Lord” campaign, we already had a head start prior to the national headquarters-initiated focus on corps growth for the decade of the nineties. During that period (1987-2000) we in the West saw the following (all, I repeat, “net” growth figures):

  • 63% increase in the number of corps (74% if we include outposts reasonably expected to become corps)
  • 44% increase in the number of senior soldiers
  • 77% increase in the number of adherents (a trend already becoming apparent here!)
  • 24% increase in the number of junior soldiers
  • 16% increase in Sunday school attendance, and
  • 66% increase in Sunday morning worship attendance.

They say that those who do not learn from the past are condemned to repeat it. If there is one major learning from MISSION2000 it is that new units have a substantial effect on this kind of growth… new units produce new converts, members, disciples. Disciples are not only the ultimate product sought, but the multiplying means of producing that product! Years ago C. Peter Wagner stated that, “The single most effective evangelistic methodology under heaven is planting new churches.”

We checked that thesis carefully over the years 1990-1996 (inclusive) and found that, during that period: Senior soldiers declined 2% in existing corps and grew 15% in new corps; junior soldiers declined 17% in existing corps and grew 6% in new corps; Sunday school attendance declined 19% in existing corps and grew 6% in new corps; and Sunday morning worship attendance declined 12% in existing corps and grew 19% in new corps. And…from 1989-1994, seekers at existing corps showed a 2% increase while—with new corps included—the increase was 110%! In other words, without new corps, the territory would, over that period, have been in decline.

The most effective evangelistic methodology under heaven is planting new churches. In fact starting new units of any kind even from existing corps will result in growth. Want to really grow a Home League? Don’t just go for an increase of numbers to what already is, add another one! Want to get more people to attend worship? Add a new worshiping congregation with a different style that draws people not attracted to what already is. As in new churches, people prefer to be pioneers of the new than additions to the existing where they share little or none of the history.

It’s a lesson we have learned through the experience of MISSION2000 and one that Commissioner Linda Bond has incorporated in her Mission Priorities. God’s math is multiplication of what is, not merely addition to what is.

What was it God said? Go forth and multiply!


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