The term healthy churches has become a buzzword in recent years. Discussions about healthy churches often gravitate toward debates over what constitutes “healthy church growth.” Eventually someone will stand on a soapbox and ask whether a church should grow from internal or external sources. In truth, healthy church growth results from a combination of both.
What Is Internal Church Growth?
Church growth experts define internal church growth variously. One scholar recently defined internal church growth as “an increase in sub-groups within existing churches, i.e., increase of competent Christians … who know the Bible and practice the Christian faith. They move from marginal to ardent belief.”Others use terms such as quality and quantity. Congregational developers are often called in to assist with church “revitalization.” When the term quality is used, the common understanding is that individual Christians are growing in spiritual maturity and actively participating in mission and ministry. Quality growth applied collectively would refer to the growth in Christian discipleship, mission, and ministry of a local congregation.
What Is External Growth?
External growth (commonly called expansion growth) occurs in two primary ways. The most common way is transfer growth. Transfer growth occurs when a church receives members from another Christian church who “transfer” their church membership. This type of growth may increase the rolls of a local church but it does not enlarge the kingdom or reign of God.The second type of external growth is conversion growth. Conversion occurs when a church receives “new Christians” — individuals who have made first-time professions of faith. Some include individuals who have been restored to the faith and were without a church home.The current 21st-century context in the United States presents a constant challenge to churches. statistically, “In the USA, only about 20 percent of the nation’s 360,000 churches are growing, and 19 of the 20 are growing mostly by biological growth … or transfer growth.”More than ever, churches in the United States must decide to grow internally and externally.Southwest has developed missions to lay the ground work for both internal and external growth. We invite you to take a moment to review our missions. During your review you may come up with questions. Please contact one of our Deacons or Elders to learn more or for help with any questions that may have arisen.