How the Church Grows

Church Growth and Christian Mission, by Donald Anderson McGavran, editor, Robert Calvin Guy, Melvin L. Hodges, and Eugene A. Nida (Harper and Row, 1965, 252 pp., $5), is reviewed by Harold Lindsell, associate editor, CHRISTIANITY TODAY.

This impressive work treats the problem of church growth from four vantage points: theology, sociology, methodology, and administration. The contributors are representative: one is a Southern Baptist missions professor, another an Assemblies of God missions executive, another the director of the Institute of Church Growth in Oregon, and the last a foremost linguist with the American Bible Society.

Section 1 on theology and church growth surveys the foundations on which missionary work is built. Hodges stresses the need for a “New Testament climate.” This means New Testament Spirit-filled men who are eager to plant churches and who are undergirded by prayer. A spiritual enterprise demands spiritual people. Guy writes about an adequate theology in which Christ the Lord is exalted, sin is recognized as rebellion against God, salvation is preached through the Gospel, and missionary methods are oriented properly to the message. Nida discusses numerical increases versus maturation of converts and warns of the ideological conflicts faced by missions interested in church growth. He is less enthusiastic about church growth than McGavran. He sees the need to weigh carefully such opposing forces as nationalism, indigenous non-Christian religions, secularism, and the population explosion. He warns against the dangers of the ecumenical movement when it becomes “a functional substitute for growth.”

In the section on sociology and growth, McGavran points out that growth occurs among people and in societal structures. Homogeneous groups make up the mosaic of society. Sociology cannot be ignored in the preaching of the Gospel, and man must be understood and approached in terms of his environment. The study of applied anthropology is essential. While these subjects ought not to become ends in themselves, they are essential as means by which the Gospel is made relevant to men in their own cultures. Nida forcefully shows why groups of people leave their indigenous religions and adopt new ones. He also traces the changes that occur in groups that turn to Christianity and notes how their economic and social life alters. Often they then become new and fixed classes, resistant to change and out of contact with the kind of people they once were. He deals with the external and internal factors that influence church growth and with the mistakes that missionaries often make when they try to structure new churches after Western likenesses.

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In the discussion on methodology and church growth, Hodges argues that the good seed sowed in the ground in Christ’s parable is men; that there must be a harvest; that the harvest will produce its own kind. Indigenous churches should be planted, churches that become granaries from which more seed is sowed. In order for churches to grow they must be self-supporting, truly indigenous, self-governing, self-amplifying, and self-teaching. Programs must be tailored to fit needs, and the men who are the seed must regard sacrifice and death as essential to productivity. Guy brilliantly discusses the problem of underbrush, the dispensable, non-fruit-bearing weeds that hinder the discipling of men, which is the missionary’s prime business. Among the weeds are sentimentality that continues useless forms and shopworn, antiquated ideas that won’t be surrendered. Get back to basics, to essentials, is the plea.

McGavran traces the kinds of growth: biological, transfer, and conversion growth. Biological growth derives from the children of believers, transfer growth from the movement of Christians from one church to another, and conversion growth from the bringing in of unbelievers through regeneration. This chapter should be read by every minister and layman in every American church. He demonstrates that statistics are often misleading: unless they are “read rightly” they may all too easily be misunderstood. Nida discusses the dynamics of church growth from the divine and human sides, including such topics as who communicates the Gospel, how he communicates it, the verbal and non-verbal factors in communication, the four roles in communication, and patterns of support and leadership.

The fourth section of the volume has to do with missionary administration. Guy describes the functions of the administrator, the rules that should govern his thinking, and the need for making and carrying out difficult decisions that will upset the apple cart. His discussion of conserving the fruit of evangelism is exciting and compelling. His point that the back door of the church is equally as important as the front door applies to all church work. New converts must be nurtured, instructed, and given work to do; the momentum of their new zeal must be preserved. Hodges has an excellent summary of the role of the administrator, particularly in terms of leadership. He tells of the specific problems an administrator faces and the choices he must make.

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McGavran closes the volume with a splendid overview of the book. He is aware that the work of men like Roland Allen who have pioneered in church growth has been left untouched by most missionary agencies, in practice if not in theory. He knows that his own efforts to study church growth, to advocate important changes, and to alter present trends are meeting resistance as well as acceptance in many quarters. But he sees evident gains and is sufficiently optimistic that this new emphasis has borne, and will continue to bear, fruit.

This book should be made required reading for every missionary, every missionary administrator, and every pastor. Most laymen would also profit by reading it. It is accurate, well written, scholarly, and thought-provoking.


Not Loud And Clear

The Meaning of Christian Values Today, by William L. Bradley (Westminster, 1964, 176 pp., $4.50), is reviewed by D. W. Jellema, professor of history, Calvin College, Grand Rapids, Michigan.

The problem of communicating the mean-of the Word to today’s “post-Christian” world is a major one, and evangelicals have done little about examining it. To call for “orthodox” or “Spirit-filled” preaching in the tradition of the eighteenth century is to evade the problem. The author of this short (and over-priced) book presumably tries to grapple with the problem, but he never gets very far. This is perhaps because the book is not an incisive and clear-thinking consideration of the problem of communication but rather a collection of loosely organized thoughts arranged vaguely around the theme of communication.

The bulk of the book deals only indirectly with the problem and is devoted to short summaries of Graeco-Roman ethical thinkers and to the ethics of the Old and New Testaments—in brief, to a superficial overview of Western ethical traditions. In conclusion, it is said that contemporary man is difficult to reach because the churches often preach a gospel stressing escapism (avoidance of social problems, concentration on the world to come) and old-fashioned capitalism (thrift, saving, hard work). Perhaps, suggests the author, we should concentrate on reaching the elite groups of our society (e.g., businessmen) and work to communicate with them.

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The book’s main value may be for discussion groups looking for an introduction to the problem of communication and for a quick survey of Western ethical tradition. Occasional paragraphs show insight. The book is readable and the style, though it often makes one think of lectures for college freshmen hastily done over into book form, is adequate.

The informed reader’s reaction is likely to include some irritation mixed with bafflement. Hasty generalizations abound (among them: it is suggested that both Greek and Hebrew ethics have a sense of guilt because of patriarchal societal structure; that the individual comes to full self-consciousness at the beginning of the Christian era; that Eastern Orthodoxy holds that God is not present in the world; that for Augustine, the good man is one who lives in moderation and humility; that private property as a value has little meaning in today’s society; that medieval civilization was “created by the church”). There are also frequent statements that are simply not clear. What is “the middle-class way of life” of which New Testament ethics is a reflection? In what sense did Augustine “actually belong to the two cities” of which he wrote (they do not refer to the Church and the world of affairs, as the author seems to assume)? What can be meant by the statement that Luther did not favor obedience to authority in the Church? What does it mean to say that “large numbers of sophisticated Christians are content to remain agnostic”? How can nationalism be seen as a social reform which shows how the rich often try to help the poor? Such statements, if not necessarily betraying confusion in thought, do seem to show that the manuscript should have been checked more thoroughly.

For the ordinary reader interested in a survey, the book will be of value. Though it gives evidence of occasional carelessness, it also shows genuine concern with the problem. And there would seem to be all too much point to the author’s charge that the churches have avoided problems of social justice and that this is one reason why the best of the young are losing interest in it.


It’S Hard To Swallow

Catholics and Birth Control: Contemporary Views on Doctrine, by Dorothy Dunbar Bromley (Devin-Adair, 1965, 207 pp., $4.95), is reviewed by C. Everett Koop, surgeon-in-chief, Children’s Hospital, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Although many Roman Catholics, laymen and theologians alike, have new attitudes toward the morality of birth control, the need for population control, and the dilemma faced by married couples who wish to space children as part of their concept of responsible parenthood, no theologian is at liberty to free Roman Catholics from the obligation to accept papal teaching.

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Miss Bromley takes no stand on birth control but rather reports on the conflicts within the Roman Catholic Church between papal authority (that of Pius XII) and the newer attitudes expressed by Roman Catholic theologians and moralists who seek a reinterpretation of marriage, sexual love, and birth control within the framework of Catholic theology. Her presentation is by means of innumerable quotations from public statements and published papers, and there is essentially no reference to the subtle pressures felt by the non-Catholic community as the lower echelons of the church have sought to impose on Catholic and non-Catholic alike the church’s teaching on birth control. The technique, though at times fatiguing to the reader, is generally well handled.

Readers will perhaps be surprised to learn that in a church thought to be monolithic in doctrine and teaching there is so much concern among theologians, philosophers, and moralists over the necessity for a more liberal interpretation of the goal and the meaning of marriage. A touchingly written chapter entitled “The Married Speak” explores the problems raised by the need for obedience to the church on the one hand and the desire for some freedom in non-procreative sexual relationship on the other. The long discussion on the morality of “the pill” provides an insight into the devious paths the Roman Catholic follows as he attempts to justify contraception under the papal teaching that condemns it.

This book purports to have been written in the hope of fostering mutual understanding. It does this. But the evangelical will find it more profitable for its look behind the scenes at possible courses of action open to the Roman Catholic Church in its effort to solve a perplexing spiritual, social, and moral issue without reversing papal teaching.


Critical Scholarship

The Anchor Bible, Volume 37: The Epistles of James, Peter, and Jude, introduction, translation, and notes by Bo Reicke (Doubleday, 1964, 221 pp., $5), is reviewed by Leon Morris, principal, Ridley College, Melbourne, Australia.

This new commentary series, The Anchor Bible, has an unusually wide range of contributors. It is a sign of our ecumenical climate that for such a project a team can be assembled that includes top-ranking Protestant, Roman Catholic, and Jewish scholars. The general editors are William F. Albright and David N. Freedman. From the list of contributors it is plain that the highest standards of scholarship have been enlisted, a fact amply demonstrated in this volume.

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Professor Bo Reicke (of the University of Basel, an ordained member of the Church of Sweden) begins with a general introduction to his group of Epistles. In outlining the historical setting, he emphasizes movements of a “zelotic” type, which were found fairly widely in the first century and are too often overlooked by those seeking to understand the New Testament. Reicke leaves us in no doubt that this background is very important for these Epistles. In another valuable section he deals with the form and content of these writings. He sees these Epistles not as substitutes for conversation, as private letters are, but as ways of speaking to congregations; that is, they are like sermons. He finds their background to be the New Testament tradition rather than Judaism or the like, and he thinks that these Epistles, along with Hebrews and First Clement, form a specific branch of early Christian literature, distinct from the Pauline corpus. He sees all four Epistles as inculcating essentially the same attitude as that of Paul toward the state, an attitude brought out in his statement that “the exhortations to a peaceful and patient Christian life in loyalty to state and society are to be understood in an eschatological perspective” (p. xxxviii). This is further brought out in his comments on the individual Epistles.

These comments are very valuable, though the evangelical reader must be warned that the author is far from conservative. He sees James, for example, as having been written around A.D. 90 by someone who was possibly a disciple of James the Lord’s brother and who wrote in the name of that James. A similar dating and a similar kind of authorship are assigned to Second Peter and Jude. Reicke sees First Peter as written by Silvanus at the instigation of the Apostle Peter not long before Peter’s death, i.e., about A.D. 64.

The scriptural text is translated into English, and the commentary is based on that translation. For purposes of comment the text is split up into short paragraphs. Then at the end of each Epistle there are “textual notes” which comment on the Greek text. These are usually quite short, and I found myself wishing that a scholar of Reicke’s caliber had let himself go a little more in this section. This was probably impossible, however, since the series is expressly designed for “the general reader with no special formal training in biblical studies.”

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This volume is a very welcome addition to our commentaries. It is clearly written, its scholarship is impeccable, and many of its discussions are penetrating. Conservative evangelicals will find much that they cannot accept. But they could scarcely do better if they are looking for a non-technical commentary written from the standpoint of the modern critical scholar.


How Time Was Counted

Handbook of Biblical Chronology, by Jack Finegan (Princeton, 1964, 338 pp., $8.50), is reviewed by John M. Bald, associate professor of Christian ethics, Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Dr. Finegan, professor of New Testament history and archaeology and director of the Palestine Institute of Archaeology at Pacific School of Religion, Berkeley, California, has gathered together in this volume a vast amount of complex material concerning the measurement of time, the literature devoted to the recording of time, and the science of time as found in the ancient Near Eastern and Mediterranean cultures and in the biblical record contemporary with them. He has organized this material into a readily accessible form in which relevant data are presented, complexities and problems noted, and conclusions adopted.

The first of the two major parts of the book is concerned with the various systems of chronology used in the ancient world, primarily those of the Egyptian, Babylonian, Hebrew, Greek, and Roman civilizations. The manner of reckoning the basic units of time—the day with its subdivisions, the week, the month, and the year—is noted and is followed by a description of the development of several of the calendars that were used in early times. The methods by which the years were counted—the association of time with the reigns of kings and public officials and with certain eras having various distinctions in the ancient cultures—are also fully described. Finegan concludes his discussion with an outlined critical treatment of the chronologies developed by early Christians, particularly those of Africanus and Eusebius.

The second part of the handbook is concerned with a number of problems of chronology found in the Bible itself. Not all such problems are treated. Pre-Abrahamic chronology, for example, is not dealt with specifically, although the dates given for the creation of Adam and the Flood appear in tables that illustrate the chronologies of Africanus and Eusebius, as well as the Hebrew manner of reckoning time back to the founding of the world. Dr. Finegan does not comment upon this aspect of chronology. The problems of chronology in the Old Testament that are presented are those concerned with Abraham, the Exodus, the kings of Judah and Israel, the fall of Samaria and of Jerusalem, and the period following the exile. The problems of New Testament dating center in the events in the lives of Jesus, Peter, and Paul.

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Throughout the work the biblical data are compared with extra-biblical data as these have become known in archaeological research. Many helpful suggestions are made in the attempt to work toward solutions of chronological problems met in the Bible on the basis of the possible use of different principles of time-reckoning that the biblical records may reflect. Thus, the author notes that the passion chronologies in the Synoptic Gospels may reasonably be harmonized with the record as found in the Fourth Gospel (pp. 290, 291, R452).

Finegan writes positively without falling into the temptation to make dogmatic claims to certainty where the evidence is not wholly clear. The book is exactly what its title claims—a handbook, not a thesis. Its concise style, arrangement by topics and numbered paragraphs, many chronological tables, listing of primary and secondary sources within the text in conjunction with section headings, and full indices and table of contents make it a very valuable and reliable reference tool.


One Thing Lacking

The Rector of Justin, by Louis Auchincloss (Houghton Mifflin, 1964, 341 pp., $4.95), is reviewed by Frank E. Gaebelein, co-editor,CHRISTIANITY TODAY.

Months on the best-seller list and very favorable reviews have brought this novel, dealing with an important part of American education, wide attention. It is not generally recognized among evangelicals interested in Christian education that the independent boys’ schools of the nation, particularly those in the New England tradition, have exercised a significant influence upon America, and indeed upon the world. The kind of schools that molded the formative years of men like Franklin D. Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy, Adlai Stevenson, Averell Harriman, Thomas Lamont, Henry L. Stimson, and many other leaders are, despite their comparative insignificance numerically, no mean educational force.

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Mr. Auchincloss, himself a product of this kind of education, has attempted a full-length fictional portrait of Dr. Frank Prescott, the distinguished rector (headmaster) of an Episcopal school for boys that he calls Justin Martyr. He has chosen as his medium the intellectual novel. Comparison with Henry James, whose work is so greatly admired by many contemporary critics, is inevitable. There is little question of Mr. Auchincloss’s literary competence. He knows how to delineate character. He knows how to keep narrative moving. And his picture of Prescott, as seen through the eyes of those who knew him well, has a virtuoso quality like the painting of Sargent. Yet Auchincloss is no Henry James. For one thing, as the reviewer in the Washington Post observed, the occasional excursions into coarseness are quite alien to the James tradition. For another thing, with all his concern for motivation, Auchincloss lacks James’s indefatigable probing of the inner man and his meticulous analysis of moral conduct.

Out of a lifetime spent in an independent school for boys, this reviewer finds The Rector of Justin disappointing. Strong and even overwhelming though the character of Frank Prescott is, the picture of him, despite its remarkable verisimilitude, is disillusioning. Whatever else Frank Prescott was, he was far from a great headmaster. Nor was he, as portrayed by Auchincloss, authentically Christian. Indeed, it is in the passages dealing with Prescott’s spiritual pilgrimage that the book is particularly weak. The author has evidently read a little theology, but little of the redemptive heart of Christianity shines through the character of Prescott. There is rather the fatal flaw of compromise at the heart of the man, so that in the end the school is seen as based not upon principle but upon subserviency to wealth and social position.

Although the book has been widely heralded as revealing “the inner workings of a boys’ school,” it contains surprisingly little about the school itself. Prescott is the giant who walks through these pages. But he is no Olympian like Endicott Peabody, to whom he has been unfortunately and irresponsibly compared by some reviewers. Nor is he, for that matter, of the stature of other great American headmasters. This is not surprising, for no man who is lacking in integrity could achieve greatness as a headmaster.

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Louis Auchincloss has written a readable and in some respects a fascinating intellectual novel. Yet he does less than justice to a kind of education that has produced both great headmasters and great schools. Evangelical educators will find the book compelling reading, even though spiritually it never rises above the level of churchianity. Let them be assured that neither Justin Martyr nor its rector is typical of the New England school at its best.


Book Briefs

1400 Ideas for Speakers and Toastmasters: How to Speak with Confidence, by Herbert V. Prochnow (W. A. Wilde, 1964, 162 pp., $2.95). A surprising amount of wit and wisdom.

Objections to Christian Belief, by D. M. Mackinnon, H. A. Williams, A. R. Vidler, and J. S. Bezzant (Lippincott, 1964, 111 pp., $2.50).

The Soul’s Anchorage, by Robert Hampton Mercer (Christopher, 1964, 209 pp., $2.75). Sermons with a touch of freshness and, though praised by bishops, with much theology of doubtful pedigree.

Prayers for a New World, compiled and edited by John Wallace Suter (Scribners, 1964, 244 pp., $4.95). A collection of short Christian prayers from many sources. The title is rather misleading.

Preaching and Pastoral Care, by Arthur L. Teikmanis (Prentice-Hall, 1964, 144 pp., $2.95). A small book.

Congo Drumbeat, by Alexander J. Reid (World Outlook Press, 1964, 158 pp., $2). A history of the first half-century in the establishment of the Methodist Church among the Atetela of Central Congo.

Interludes in a Woman’s Day, by Winola Wells Wirt (Moody, 1964, 160 pp., $2.95). The author puts a religious glow on the little things of a woman’s life.

Called unto Liberty: A Life of Jonathan Mayhew 1720–1766, by Charles W. Akers (Harvard University, 1964, 285 pp., $6.50). A biography of a Boston minister who fired up rebellion against the British and no less against Puritan theology; his Arminian theology helped prepare the way to Unitarianism.


The Formation of Christian Dogma: A Historical Study of Its Problem, by Martin Werner (Beacon, 1965, 352 pp., $2.45). Accepting Albert Schweitzer’s thesis that Jesus was in error about an eschatological Second Coming, Werner contends that a disappointed Church developed its dogma to accommodate this failure.

In Quest of a Kingdom, by Leslie D. Weatherhead (Abingdon, 1965, 272 pp., $1.25). A general discussion followed by a study of the kingdom parables. First published in 1944.

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Spiritual Values in Shakespeare, by Ernest Marshall Howse (Abingdon, 1965, 160 pp., $1.25).

The Biblical Image of the Family, by Webb Garrison (Tidings, 1965, 64 pp., $.60). A pointed treatment that throws considerable light on the biblical understanding of the family, marriage, divorce, children, and the like.

Glossolalia in the New Testament, by William G. MacDonald (Gospel Publishing House, 1964, 20 pp., $.50).

The Revelation of Jesus Christ: An Interpretation, by Donald W. Richardson (John Knox, 1965, 144 pp., $1.45). Brief, informative, and very readable.

After Death, What?, by William B. Ward (John Knox, 1965, 96 pp., $1). A very fine discussion of death, the funeral, and what comes after.

Be Perfect!, by Andrew Murray (Bethany Fellowship, 1965, 171 pp., $1.50). Short essays on the biblical demand for perfection. First printed in 1893.

Instead of Violence, edited by Arthur and Lila Weinberg (Beacon, 1965, 486 pp., $2.75). Writings by the great advocates of peace and non-violence throughout history.


The Bible Basis of Missions, by Robert Hall Glover (Moody, 1964, 208 pp., $2.50). Just what the title says. First printed in 1946.

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