KANSAS CITY, Mo. (BP)–The American Society for Church Growth re-examined church growth in the modern era at its 26th annual conference Nov. 2-4 at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.
Since the death of its founder, missiologist Donald McGavran, in the sixth year of its existence, the society has gathered every other year in Pasadena, Calif., where it originated. In ‘off-years,’ however, the conference travels to other cities, and this year was held in Kansas City, Mo., and Midwestern offered to host it.
“As the church growth movement concludes its golden anniversary celebration and enters into its sixth decade, Christian leaders from around the world are seeking more effective ways to fulfill the Great Commission of our Lord,” Midwestern Seminary President R. Philip Roberts said. “For some, this means revisiting the tried and true growth strategies of our forefathers. It is our prayer that participation in the 2006 meeting of the ASCG will result in a renewed vision for evangelism and mission.”
Ninety-two people registered for the conference, including 15 Midwestern doctoral students and four master’s level students.
“This year’s ASCG was significant for several reasons,” said Rodney A. Harrison, Midwestern Seminary’s vice president for institutional effectiveness and director of doctoral studies. “First, after several years of attendance in the 50s, this year’s conference demonstrated renewed vitality for the society. An excellent slate of speakers was one contributing factor. Another was the presence of our students, who, as a part of their assignment, interviewed the speakers. Through these interviews, both the presenters and students gained awareness and insights unique to such small group dialogues.
“In listening to students summarizing their experience, two themes emerged,” Harrison said. “One was an appreciation for what God is doing in evangelical circles beyond our Southern Baptist tradition. The other was how significant a role Southern Baptists are playing in the Kingdom cause of reaching every person with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”
The society was founded in 1984 by McGavran, who He established the society as a context in which Christian leaders could discuss and network about the quickly spreading church growth movement.
“It’s an academic society of networking professors, pastors, church growth experts and generally anyone who wants to come,” said Gary McIntosh, past ASCG president (1995-1996) and professor in the department of Christian ministry and leadership at Talbot School of Theology. “It revolves around evangelism, church planting and church growth -– specifically how to help churches grow.”
While much of the value of the conference lies in the discussions and networking over meals and coffee breaks, each year’s schedule provides time for a number of presentations revolving around a theme relevant to church growth chosen by the current president. Current society president Alan McMahan chose this year’s theme and also invited a number of authors to present at the conference. Among these authors were Bob Whitesel, Doug Pagitt and Elmer Towns.
“We hope they go away having encountered new thinking on how to be better and more strategic about winning people to Christ and helping them become part of a local church,” McIntosh said. “The bottom line is that we want to see lost men and women come to Christ and become responsible participants in a church.”