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John Calvin puts forward a very simple reason why love is the greatest gift: “Because faith and hope are our own: love is diffused among others.” In other words, faith and hope benefit the possessor, but love always benefits another. In John 13:34–35 Jesus says, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” Love always requires an “other” as an object; love cannot remain within itself, and that is part of what makes love the greatest gift.
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So, What Comes After Church Growth?

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Characteristics of the Church Growth Movement itself present challenges to church multiplication.

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The regrettable shortage of multiplying churches can be explained, at least in part, by the lingering implications of the wholesale adoption of business principles and pragmatic schemes that distinguished the church growth era. Today, we awaken to a church growth hangover that colors our thoughts on what we should do next.

While it’s easy to critique the outcomes of the Church Growth Movement, one need not diminish the hopeful aspirations of many of its courageous architects.

Driven by a zeal for Jesus and propelled by a deep evangelistic fervor, men and women sought to leverage their cultural ingenuity to create churches that appealed to the masses and made it possible for many to hear the good news of Jesus Christ. As with any culture-driven ecclesiology, the upcoming implications of these ideas were hard to predict, though we are now better able to appreciate the challenges that were created.

The Challenge of Faltering Methods

The reality is that many of the methods used during the church growth era are no longer producing the same results. As once responsive geographies become less susceptible to the skillful merchandizing toward Christian memory, we find our tools feeble, ineffective, and dull.

And when our tried-and-true methods stop producing, many are propelled toward greater pragmatism—thinking that a procedural change is all that’s needed to get the old machine revving again. A sacred silver-toned bullet.

Change is difficult, particularly among churches that have internalized corporate pragmatism to such a degree that their foundations are the unspoken and unquestioned basis for most metrics of success. Pragmatism tends to skip the messy grind of disciple-making for a more untroublesome operation of ...

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