More than numbers : church growth in South Korean churches

Jang, Hyun Woo (2009-03)

Thesis (MTh (Practical Theology and Missiology))--University of Stellenbosch, 2009.


The church as a living organism is expected to grow. In the Great Commission in the book of Matthew 28:19-20 it is revealed that the desire of Jesus is that His church should increase. Growth therefore is an integral part of the church. There has been an incredible obsession with church growth strategies and methods that churches have never experienced before. South Korean churches have not been left out in this quest for church growth models. Church growth theories from the Fuller Seminary in America were introduced and applied between 1970 and 1980 and strongly affected many South Korean churches. The question for discussion here is not whether the church should grow, but in what ways growth occurs and by what means. It is God’s desire that his church grow. This is clearly demonstrated in scriptures. Various models have been put forward to examine the growth of the church, but as with all models, they have their limitations. This study focuses on Loren B. Mead’s model of church growth and its application in Korean churches. The aim of this study is to analyze and evaluate church growth theories found and followed in South Korean churches, which have affected the church in order to provide a more valid understanding. It seems that the Korean church’s failure to understand the balance between quantitative and the qualitative growth could be attributed, at least in part, to a misunderstanding of church growth theories. This study presents a desirable church growth model which promotes not only quantitative growth, but also effective and continual growth. Loren B. Mead’s model of growth is introduced which deals with four different forms of growth: numerical growth, maturational growth, organic growth, and incarnational growth. Chapter one of this study covers the background to the entire study and lays the conceptual framework of the study. Background of the Korean churches is surveyed, the aim of the study is highlighted, and the problem statement outlined, the motivation of the study introduced, and above all the hypothesis is spelt out. The methodology and the delimitation of the study are also covered in this chapter. Chapter two presents an overview of church growth models. A working definition is offered after considering various definitions of church growth. This chapter also considers the different backgrounds of major church growth movements. A theological and biblical basis of church growth is also covered in this chapter; types of church growth and the factors that contribute to the various types of church growth are also covered in this chapter. The chapter concludes with an evaluation of the strengths and weaknesses of the various church growth models. Chapter three covers the empirical study. Qualitative data collected through the means of questionnaires from three South Korean churches is analyzed; laying the foundation for further work in Chapter five. Chapter four is an intensive study of Loren B Mead’s church growth model, namely numerical growth, maturational growth, organic growth, and incarnational growth. The uniqueness of this model is also discussed in a comparative form with other church growth models. Chapter five presents practical guidelines for South Korean churches for church growth, drawing inspiration from the literature study, the empirical data and primarily from Loren B. Mead’s model of church growth “More than Numbers” outlined in his book (1993). Chapter six forms the conclusion of the study. The major contributions of the study are highlighted and several suggestions are offered for practical applications of church growth in South Korean churches, and some suggestions for further research are also offered.

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