We seek to keep our readers informed about crucial issues facing church leaders. We want to help them understand such issues, point out pros and cons on each side, and, when we can, provide the facts and biblical data to enable them to make wise decisions.

Few questions are more important to evangelical decision makers than the proper strategy for evangelism and church growth. Unfortunately, the “specialists” themselves provide conflicting advice. In the minds of some, at least, the issue appears to be a flat-out disagreement between the “church-growth people” and the “mass-evangelism people.” In this issue we present Randy Petersen’s analysis of the church-growth movement and its principles, a sociologist’s assessment of a scientifically conducted survey testing the results of a major mass-evangelism crusade, and responses from experts Donald McGavran, Win Arn, Vergil Gerber, and Terry Hulbert.

As we see it, it is not a clear case of either/or but of both/and. Mass evangelism does a great deal to build up the spiritual life and effectiveness of those who are already Christians. But to win the lost—those outside the church or uncommitted church members—mass evangelism is most effective when Christian people recognize their individual responsibility to share the gospel, and when local churches take seriously their duty to follow up mass evangelism by careful nurture of those who have made decisions during a campaign. That is why the Graham crusades stress training Christians in witnessing and personal work before a campaign and urge involved churches to follow up decision card signers afterward.

Church growth and mass evangelism cannot work against each other. They are complementary means to the end commanded by our Lord in his Great Commission: preach the gospel and make disciples. Real church growth, biblical style, not only reaches out for numbers of new members; it also patiently instructs those who are already members on how to become mature, reproducing Christians.

But read the articles for yourself. They will help you plan a strategy for your church.

Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.

Our digital archives are a work in progress. Let us know if corrections need to be made.