A Biblical Evaluation of the Homogeneous Unit Principle, Part 4

by David Rogers on January 8, 2014 · 15 comments

THE PRACTICE OF UNITY

Having established that racial and social unity is the theological ideal that should be manifested in the Church, we are still left with the thorny question of how to most effectively and edifyingly put into practice this ideal in the everyday contexts in which missionary and local church ministry take place.

When faced with the reality of the global church, it is tempting to accept homogeneous churches as an inescapable element of the evangelical landscape. As Wagner observes, “There is no question that the vast majority of the world’s Christian churches are culturally homogeneous. If the exact data were available, I would not be surprised if they showed that something on the magnitude of 95 to 98 percent of the congregations in Christendom are made up basically of one kind of people.” [44] Even in a place as culturally diverse as the United States, “According to the 1998 National Congregations Study, about 90 percent of American congregations are made up of at least 90 percent of people of the same race.” [45] And yet, due in great part, no doubt, to the theological reasons presented in this paper, Schnabel observes, “The popularity of the ‘people group principle’ is waning among missiologists.” [46]

At the same time, however, a sincere desire for gospel faithfulness and effectiveness in the evangelistic task given by Jesus to his disciples has led many to seek practical handles for the carrying out of their missionary ministry by way of church growth principles and a focus on reaching the unreached people groups of the world for Christ. There is, undoubtedly, some degree of legitimacy behind this focus. The example of Jesus as the Good Shepherd who came to “seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10) and who leaves the ninety-nine sheep in the fold in order to seek out the one that was lost (Luke 15:1–7) is surely instructive to us as his followers who have been sent with the same mission, just as he was sent by his Father (John 20:21). We are to “go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone [we] find” to come to the feast he has prepared (Matthew 22:1–14). Most assuredly, there is a message here concerning the imperative to penetrate cultural, social, and linguistic barriers in order to seek out the “hidden peoples” of the world, doing our best to make sure every individual has the opportunity to hear the gospel message in a way that makes sense to them and inviting them to form part of the people of God.

If our evangelistic methods are placing unbiblical barriers in front of people becoming faithful disciples of Jesus, we must do what we can to eliminate these barriers. It is at this point that a focus on people groups has some important missiological value. As Schnabel affirms,

The sociological focus of the church-growth movement is certainly helpful in one respect. It challenges churches to analyze and study the various social groups and subgroups that live in the city, region, province and country. A local church should know which social groups their members belong to, which social groups are underrepresented and which social groups are totally ignored. As the pastors and teachers of the church seek to preach the whole counsel of God, they want to reach all people who are willing to listen to the news of Jesus. They do not want to reach only Jews or only Greeks but both Jews and Greeks, not only slaves or only the free but both slaves and free, not only men or only women but both men and women. [47]

We may conclude that a “people group” approach has positive value when used as a tool for opening doors for the inclusion of more and more people into the realm of God’s kingdom, but can have negative consequences when used for excluding people from full fellowship with other members of the Body of Christ.

The Need for Understandable Gospel Communication

An overriding principle governing this process is the need to make the communication of the gospel as comprehensible as possible. An obvious application of this principle has to do with language differences. If the gospel is going to be clearly communicated, it must be communicated in a language that is understandable to the hearers. While on the Day of Pentecost each of the hearers was miraculously enabled to understand the messages spoken in tongues by the disciples of Jesus [48], the norm for modern-day missions is an intentional and concerted effort on the part of the proclaimers of the gospel to learn the languages of the hearers and to present the message in a way that is comprehensible to them.

While with some degree of effort, through the use of interpreters, bilingual (and even trilingual) gospel meetings and worship services are a viable option, in many settings a truly multilingual meeting that reflects the full linguistic diversity of the surrounding community would only result in cacophony. For this reason, it would appear that the presence of linguistic differences, in at least some cases, is a sufficient motive for justifying some degree of homogeneity along language lines. [49]

By the same token, the case can be made that not only language but also cultural differences can in various ways obstruct the accurate hearing of the gospel message. Cornett and Edwards argue that differences in worldview can present a major obstacle for clear communication, and may thus form one legitimate reason for homogeneous unit churches. [50] It is due to this factor that missiologists have long pointed to the need to contextualize the proclamation of the gospel in a way that is meaningful and relevant for those to whom it is being proclaimed. While this is undeniably true, it is also true that biblically faithful contextualization must not in any way obscure or distort the transcultural, universally valid essence of the gospel message being communicated. Correspondingly, if (as has been argued above) the message of racial and social reconciliation is a non-optional core element of the gospel, it must be asked in each case to what extent an intentional segregation of gospel hearers and worshipers facilitates a correct understanding of the gospel and/or simultaneously obstructs a correct understanding of the gospel.

HUP Dynamics Around the World

McGavran maintains that the HUP is universally applicable in whatever context of the world one might find oneself. [51] While the human tendency toward ethnocentrism may indeed be universal, it is much more difficult to demonstrate that the use of the HUP as a missiological principle has produced universally positive consequences.

Rwanda

One interesting case in point is that of the country of Rwanda. Before the violent uprisings and tragic massacres of 1994 in which between 500,000 and 1,000,000 Tutsis and Hutus lost their lives, Rwanda was held up by both McGavran and Wagner as a prime example of the positive effects of the missiological use of the HUP. [52] Due to an “effective” Christianization of the various people groups present in Rwanda along ethnic lines, an unusually high percentage of the population claimed at least nominal adherence to Christianity at large and membership in one church or another. When asked several years after the genocide to reflect on lessons learned as a result of the tragedy, however, evangelical statesman Tokunboh Adeyemo wrote that, among other lessons, “The church must seek unity. There must be neither Jews nor Greeks (no racism, tribalism, or sexism). There must be neither bond nor free. Homogeneous church growth formulas, like the old missionary comity arrangements, should be discouraged. Such methods only reinforce tribalism.” [53]

The United States

The North American context, drastically different in many aspects from that of Rwanda, provides another interesting case for study. The history of racial conflict, especially between blacks and whites, in the United States is well-documented. Indeed, because of this history, in certain circles racial reconciliation between blacks and whites in the United States has become the cause célèbre for the church at large. Such an emotionally charged atmosphere has led Wagner to remark that “Christian opposition to the homogeneous unit principle in America derives more from American civil religion than from purely biblical or theological sources.” [54]

The fact of the matter, however, is there are certain elements of popular religion in the West, manifested in a particularly noteworthy fashion in the United States, that have favored the development of a peculiar expression of homogeneity among Christian churches. These elements may perhaps best be described by the term “consumerism.” [55] It appears that the consumeristic mindset representative of American society at large has made inroads among the church in the form of congregational “niche marketing” designed to attract a “clientele” matching up with a certain “demographic profile.” This mentality has produced such ecclesiological novelties as “cowboy churches,” “drive-in churches,” “youth churches,” and “seeker churches,” not to mention the thousands of other garden-variety homogeneous unit churches dotting the American ecclesiastic landscape.

In an interesting turn of events, it appears that this approach to church is making a bigger impact in the Global South than in Europe. Tom Zimmerman makes the following observation: “The limited usefulness of the homogeneous unit principle in Europe is also clear. Rarely are there enough interested people from one target group to start a thriving evangelical church. Many of the existing churches purposely choose to avoid homogeneity, so that they can appeal to a broader spectrum of society.” [56] On the other hand, Mark Noll, in his book The New Shape of World Christianity, documents how the exportation of much of the American approach to religion, including consumeristic Christianity, has in recent years played a major role in the spectacular growth of the church in the Global South. [57]

The Muslim World

Writing from a Muslim context, David W. Shenk observes that the relative lack of ethnic loyalties on the part of certain people from Muslim backgrounds and a desire to be more individualistic in their outlook has made them more open to Christianity in general, and more particularly to churches that provide “a primary fellowship which is also genuinely universal, and . . . affirm the integrity of personhood.” [58] Similarly, he references certain contexts in East Africa where the use of Swahili in place of more ethnically specific tribal languages as well as a transethnic and transcultural approach to church has proven to be a positive factor for numerical church growth.” [59]

Rural Areas and Isolated Tribal Groups

An additional situation that calls for a unique perspective is that of rural areas and/or isolated tribal groups in which the surrounding community is composed of only one racial group. In such a setting, a de facto practice of the HUP on a local basis is practically inevitable and need not be discouraged. On the other hand, this particular circumstance should not be allowed to become an excuse for exclusivistic racism or intentional isolation from the broader Body of Christ, whenever opportunities for wider fellowship present themselves. [60]

Immigrant Populations

A final case in point that some have claimed warrants exceptional treatment is that of immigrant populations. DeYoung et al., for example, regard the “unique circumstances of first-generation immigrant groups” as one of the few exceptional justifications for homogeneous unit churches. [61] While in certain situations, especially where there are language barriers present, this proviso may well be valid, in my personal experience, I have not always found this to be the case. During my missionary experience in Spain in the 1990’s and 2000’s a flood of immigrants from Spanish-speaking countries in Latin America led to a concurrent growth of many pre-existing evangelical churches as well as the establishment of new congregations comprised almost exclusively of homogeneous groups of newly arrived immigrants. Though the adjustments were often difficult, both for the long-time Spanish believers as well as the newly arrived immigrants, several congregations with which I am acquainted were able to successfully integrate large groups of immigrants, bringing a special blessing that included both numerical and spiritual growth on the part of many, as well as a golden opportunity to bear witness to the reconciling power of the cross of Christ in the surrounding community.

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[44] Wagner, “How Ethical Is the Homogeneous Unit Principle?,” 12.

[45] Michael O. Emerson and Christian Smith, Divided by Faith (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000), 135–36.

[46] Schnabel, Paul the Missionary, 405–06.

[47] Ibid., 413.

[48] Though some interpreters understand the biblical narrative as indicating a miracle of understandable hearing on the part of the hearers, and others a miracle of understandable speech on the part of the speakers, the point is moot with regard to the present discussion. Apart from an obvious miracle on the part of God, clear gospel communication in a multilingual setting requires gospel communicators to learn the languages of the hearers and defer to them in their presentation of the gospel.

[49] Ortiz, One New People, 37.

[50] Terry Cornett and Robert Edwards, “When Is a Homogeneous Church Legitimate?,” EMQ 20, no. 1 (January 1984): 24.

[51] McGavran, The Bridges of God, 161.

[52] Ibid., 6–7. C. Peter Wagner, Your Church Can Grow (Glendale, Ariz.: Regal, 1976), 128; Wagner, Our Kind of People, 11.

[53] Tokunboh Adeyemo, “Lessons on Rwanda for the Church in Africa,” EMQ 33, no. 4 (October 1997): 430.

[54] Wagner, Our Kind of People, 53.

[55] Emerson and Smith, Divided by Faith, 136–37, 140; DeYoung et al., United by Faith, 133.

[56] Tom Zimmerman, “Willow Creek or Lima? Europe’s Church Planters Ask,” EMQ 27, no. 4 (October 1991): 398.

[57] Mark A Noll, The New Shape of World Christianity: How American Experience Reflects Global Faith (Downers Grove, Ill.: IVP Academic, 2009).

[58] David W. Shenk, “The Muslim Umma and the Growth of the Church,” in Exploring Church Growth (ed. Wilbert R. Shenk; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1983), 152.

[59] Ibid., 151–52.

[60] DeYoung et al., United by Faith, 143. See also Sidney H. Rooy, “A Theology of Humankind,” in Exploring Church Growth (ed. Wilbert R. Shenk; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1983), 203–04.

[61] DeYoung et al., United by Faith, 143.

1 David Rogers January 8, 2014 at 11:46 am

This looks interesting: “The purpose of the Kainos 2014 is to gather leaders who either seek to start multi-ethnic ministries or churches, or who aspire to transition their current homogenous ministries into a multi-ethnic trajectory.”

http://www.kainos.is/

2 Todd Benkert January 8, 2014 at 11:48 am

David, you bring up many of the evidences that I would give that a certain degree of homogeneity is inevitable in any context and that in some cases, a homogeneous strategy may be warranted. I find it hard to disagree with your assessments in this section. What I do not see in your article so far, however, is any evidence that those who support the HUP are “excluding people from full fellowship with other members of the Body of Christ” or using the HUP as an “excuse for exclusivistic racism or intentional isolation from the broader Body of Christ.” Whether the HUP should be used as an evangelistic strategy is certainly a matter for discussion. What evidence do you have, though, that church growth proponents have used it to justify division and racism?

3 David Rogers January 8, 2014 at 12:30 pm

Todd,

I want to be careful here, because I am conscious that throwing mud at others in the name of unity is one of the main ways the enemy sows seeds of discord. For that reason, I choose not to be very specific in my negative examples.

That being said, I think it is self-evident that in the United States, for example, while there are many, many churches that are not overtly racist (along with a few that are), we as evangelicals are clearly divided along racial lines. Martin Luther King was not just imagining something that was not true when he said, “Unfortunately, most of the major denominations still practice segregation in local churches, hospitals, schools, and other church institutions. It is appalling that the most segregated hour of Christian America is eleven o’clock on Sunday morning, the same hour when many are standing to sing: ‘In Christ There Is No East Nor West.’” ~Martin Luther King, Jr., Stride Toward Freedom: The Montgomery Story, 1958

Though there has certainly been some progress in this area since 1958, it seems evident to me that evangelical churches as a collective continue to be more segregated today than American society in general.

Another example is that of the various Insider Movements in Asia. Muslim Background Believers are often intentionally encouraged to remain separate and detached from the broader Christian communities in the locations where these Insider Movements take root. The unity of the Body of Christ at large is intentionally de-emphasized for the purpose of reaching otherwise resistant Muslims for the gospel. Though the motives in themselves may be admirable, I am afraid in many cases what is being sacrificed is not worth the exchange from a biblical gospel perspective.

In my personal experience in Spain, there are those who emphasize planting churches that target native Spaniards and intentionally bypass more spiritually receptive immigrants due to the fact they might be a “stumbling block” to the native Spaniards. Though from a sociological point of view, this may well be the case, I believe from a gospel perspective, we must preach the gospel indiscriminately and seek out full fellowship with all those who respond, not just those from the target group we are hoping to reach.

I am also concerned that current IMB strategy which groups missionaries and missionary strategy according to “Affinity Groups” instead of geographically is in many ways a tacit capitulation to the HUP. I could give more specific details, but choose not to.

4 Todd Benkert January 8, 2014 at 1:11 pm

Both of your international examples, while unfortunate, are also out of step with McGavran’s views because they ignore the factor of “receptivity” and McGavran’s theology of Harvest.

As for the US, I believe there are great strides being made to break down racial barriers among believers in many areas. Anglo, African-American, and other ethnic churches are working together more and more and enjoying one anothers’ fellowship. I am part of such an effort here in NW Indiana. The goal of heterogenous churches, however, proves to be a challenging task — not because of attitudes of racism among believers (which do at times remain), but because of the wide cultural differences between white and black church culture and worship preferences. Church plants have an easier time, but for those who are pursuing a multi-ethnic/multi-cultural vision, the task at times seems insurmountable.

5 David Rogers January 8, 2014 at 4:33 pm

Working toward multi-ethnic unity is indeed a challenging task. In many ways, it cuts across human nature. My argument here is that the gospel itself, in many ways, also cuts across human nature. While it would likely be counterproductive and even in some ways destructive to tear down all Christian ministry built primarily along homogeneous lines, I think that efforts such as the Kainos conference I link to above are moves in the right direction, and any little step toward greater practical unity, and toward practical solutions for ironing out all the complex issues along the way, are steps in the right direction.

6 David Rogers January 8, 2014 at 12:51 pm

Then, there is this perspective from India as well:

http://www.josephdsouza.com/2007/05/what_next_for_dalit_christians.html

7 Mark Terry January 8, 2014 at 1:29 pm

David,
I’m sure you and I agree that Galatians 3:28 and Revelation 7:9-10 are the ideal and Kingdom goals that all missionaries should acknowledge and strive to achieve. The pressing questions, though, are: How do missionaries contribute to the accomplishment of these? and How can missionaries work to see more folks from varied backgrounds gather around the throne of God? McGavran acknowledged the ideals of these verses, and he believed the HUP could help missionaries win more to Christ. I’ve heard CGM advocates say, “You cannot expect folks to exhibit a kingdom ethic until they become citizens of the kingdom.” By this they mean that the kingdom ethic expressed in Galatians 3:28 is exhibited by mature believers in Christ. It seems unreasonable to expect that nonbelievers would embrace such an ethic until they had been taught to “observe all things,” as Jesus stated in Matthew 28:20. The import of this is that it is unreasonable to say to unbelievers–Believe in Jesus Christ and reject your prejudice, and you can be saved. Surely, belief in Jesus is primary, and the rejection of racial/cultural prejudice comes through faithful biblical teaching and the sanctification of the Holy Spirit. In McGavran’s Indian context many foreign missionaries rejected the caste system and insisted on casteless churches. From the standpoint of biblical ethics we would agree that Indian believers should reject caste prejudice; however, to an Indian nonbeliever the message communicated would be–One must reject caste and believe in Jesus in order to become a Christian. McGavran’s research showed that casteless churches were not growing, while HUP churches that focused on one caste did grow, at least generally.

I sadly agree that we still have far too many segregated churches and racist Christians. I do not believe those churches and Christians know about the HUP, nor do they base their behavior on the HUP.

Todd’s comments are well taken. He was my student (and a good one) at Southern Seminary, and his comments reflect the quality of his training there. :)

8 Todd Benkert January 8, 2014 at 1:44 pm

You jest, Dr. Terry, but I learned much from you! Thanks for your investment in me and so many others at Southern.

Coincidentally, I was thinking of you last night as I finished a writing project on McGavran. My wife remarked how much she hated writing. I replied that I hate writing too, “but I love having written.”

9 David Rogers January 8, 2014 at 4:38 pm

I think we must differentiate between the valid and important need to extend grace and patience toward struggling sinners and the temptation to accommodate sinful lifestyles and patterns within the Church. In actual practice, I admit it can sometimes be very hard to discern correctly the difference between the two.

10 Greg Harvey January 8, 2014 at 2:43 pm

One of the thoughts I considered bringing up was that Paul’s evangelistic work had the benefit of reaching a region that had common cultural elements in both Asia Minor and in Greek Macedonia (which is different than the modern split from Soviet Yugoslavia named Macedonia.) The language he presented in to both Hellenistic Jews and “Greeks” was–drumroll please–probably Greek. His familiarity with the surrounding culture was evident at Mars Hill and he handled these consistent cultural elements in many of the epistles to the churches.

The churches also were known to have read the epistles so one wonders how often translations to other languages occurred and when those began? If there was a fault in the emergence of the Western Roman Catholic “church”, it might have been its intended break towards Latin and away from the Greek that has been continuously employed in the Eastern Roman Catholic “church” and its successors (i.e. the Orthodox world.)

The story of Swahili as a common language probably is a close analog to Greek in Paul’s ministry. In Indonesia, the national language “Bahasa Indonesia” is a trade language which is buttressed by efforts to incorporate new words from Sanskrit (and is under constant pressure from Bahasa Malay both from Malaysia and Singapore and especially Singapore tends to adopt internationalisms and English expressions.)

But some of our missionaries emphasized local language over national language and were received better when they did that for all of the obvious reasons (and thereby confirming the sociological portions of HUP.) This included Sundanese in West Java and Javanese in Central and East Java and the associated people groups–tribes–that used those languages. But Indonesia is one of the more pluralistic societies–in spite of being Muslim majority–and includes MANY ethnic groups such as island tribes, Chinese emigrants, as well as other Asian groups.

Some of the regional areas have traditionally had far more pronounced resistance to the Gospel largely based on closer adherence to other religions such as the strongly Muslim Aceh region in northern Sumatra and the strongly Hindu Balinese on the island of Bali (a culture that is somewhat protected from intrusion by the Indonesian government as a matter of protecting the highly valuable tourist attracting cultural aspects of Bali.)

I mention all of this because I think we might not read the Bible as clearly as we think we do regarding Paul’s ministry. While it certainly was a heterocultural region, the Greek cultural dominance due to the imperial work of both Alexander and the Romans was pronounced and probably pervasive in the region of the Pauline journeys that we have history (Acts) and epistles from. Even the epistle to the Romans–as far as I am aware–was originally penned in Greek?

We don’t have tales of Paul’s presumed visits to Spain, India, or England. Perhaps those visits were more in line with HUP? But I don’t see how we could reach that conclusion about the recorded journeys. The only obvious language distinction, in fact, was probably use of Hebrew with some Jews in synagogues. And the appointment of the deacons in Jerusalem demonstrated a pattern of distinction between Hebrew and Hellenized Jews that suggests that might have been one of the most heterocultural churches…at least from a language perspective.

Anyway: just more digression on my part. No real point to my comments.

11 David Rogers January 8, 2014 at 4:43 pm

Interesting thoughts. Thanks for sharing them. Though I agree that the cultural diversity Paul had to deal with in his missionary ministry was likely not of the same degree many modern-day missionaries must deal with, I think we must base our missiology primarily off of the examples we have of how he dealt with the circumstances he did encounter, and, even more importantly, the theological principles he carefully lays out in his epistles, which I reference in Part 3.

12 Roger Simpson January 8, 2014 at 6:19 pm

David:

I’ve been thinking about your posts quite a lot for the last several days.

My concern is right here in the USA. What, if anything, is the “key” to church growth. Is HUP (or non HUP) even the relevant issue?

In our society today, at least in the USA, I’d argue that “family wealth” is the main demographic dividing line — not ethnicity. As a result of the progress made in the civil rights era, people are able to migrate to the “best” neighborhoods they can afford — regardless of race or ethnicity. Here the term “best” being defined in terms of low crime rate, good schools, etc.

However, this becomes less true for neighborhoods with a lower per-capita median income — because various ethnicities seem to cluster together. This can be seen by looking at the racial makeup and median income of various zip codes in American cities.

The bottom line is that the poorer neighborhoods are more segregated than the richer ones — not only economically but also racially.

Or to put this another way, economic + racial segregation has replaced racial segregation in the USA today. Economic segregation is tough to solve because it is a function of a low level of family formation, children born out of wedlock, parents in prison, juveniles in gangs, which in many cases is a trans-generational problem.

What does all this mean to churches? I am not sure. But reaching out to target age groups or target ethnicities is missing the point. Because in the last half century in the USA, society it is not dividing itself along those lines. It is dividing itself more and more along “income inequality” or more accurately “wealth inequality”.

I am not a flaming liberal. However, I think the biggest challenge for the Evangelical Church in America today is how to reach out to both halves of the “wealth inequality divide”. Or put more succinctly, who is going to foot the bill to setup churches and/or do outreach in neighborhoods who are too poor to foot the bill themselves for themselves?

There are some SBC congregations that have taken up this mantel. We need more to follow suit.

13 David Rogers January 8, 2014 at 7:32 pm

RE: “In our society today, at least in the USA, I’d argue that ‘family wealth’ is the main demographic dividing line — not ethnicity.”

Right on target. In my Part 5 I reference a quote that pretty much says the same thing.

14 Mark Terry January 9, 2014 at 11:05 am

Roger,
You raise a good point. Most churches minister to people of a narrow socio-economic profile. Once Southern Baptist churches ministered to the rural poor; now we primarily minister to the middle class. We’ve, in the main, abandoned the poor, leaving them to the charimatic and Pentecostal churches.

15 Roger Simpson January 9, 2014 at 1:19 pm

Dr. Terry:

The situation we are both seeing, namely, the gentrification of the SBC, is going to lead a huge change over time for us.

I might be going overboard but I think that over time, the shrinkage of the SBC if inevitable if we keep on the same course. The reason is that while the SBC is becoming mostly middle class there is evidently not too much growth in the middle class demographically.

We are seeing Pareto’s rule in operation in regard to wealth: something like 80% or the wealth is in the hands of maybe 20% of the total population. It could be more extreme than this.

In any case:

(1) The percent of all people in the “middle class” (using whatever definition you want to use for middle class) is shrinking
(2) And also the percent of all national wealth in the middle class relative to all wealth in the USA is shrinking

Demographically, money [aka people's ability to give] is flowing uphill to fewer people; while more and more people are sliding downhill. This growing demographic divide in the USA has HUGE repercussions for the SBC.

So we in the SBC have a double demographic problem: there are less of us and on average we are less affluent. Plus maybe each of us is not as committed as our parents.

I believe that these are among the factors that are at work which are causing our baptisms and cooperative program gifts to slide. Notice that the IMB receipts for 2013 are at 91% of budget. If the IMB budget shrinks by 10% year after year this will lead to thousands of missionaries being sent home in a decade. And, this in a year when the economy is picking up at least relative to the recent five year period.

I am interested in “church growth” in the SBC for two reasons:

A. I am interested in the survival of the SBC because of the fact that we run the six seminaries and the IMB and the NAMB. What other USA Evangelical denomination or network has the financial muscle to do all of this?

B. We spent a lot of capital on shaping up our agencies so that they would be solidly based upon God’s inerrant word. Most seminary profs sign off on the Chicago Statement or it functional equivalent. Somehow we need to bring in the next generation to keep Christianity alive and well both doctrinally and financially. I think “church growth” is crucial to the survival of our whole enterprise.

Of course, the SBC does not have a corner on Evangelical Christianity in the USA. However, I don’t think we can assume that if the SBC slides into obscurity that there will necessarily be some other network to take up the slack.

Some decades ago the SBC shut down the Radio and TV commission and the Brotherhood commission. Maybe those agencies were no longer viable. But going forward, I don’t know where the fat is that can be cut.

Something has to give. We have (a) associations, (b) state conventions, (c) national agencies. We have six separate seminaries. The last time I checked each of these entities requires financial undergirding.

Church growth is crucial —

1. Because we need places (typically brick and mortar places — but not necessarily) where people can be introduced to Christ and grow;

2. And also because we someone to pay the freight for the agencies we are running.

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