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Church Growth Modelling

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A leading "contemporary" church 1960s-1990s.

Contemporary Revivals

A more in-depth description of modern day revival movements, and social movements within church.

Links to publications where such movements are used as evidence for church growth models.

Alpha Course

Article on the application of church growth models to the Alpha Course.

Cwmbran Outpouring 2013

Collection of 6 blogs written during the course of outpouring, relating personal experiences and evaluation.

Contemporary Revivals

A revival is an outpouring of the Holy Spirit that makes salvation in Christ, and the presence of God, real in the experience of people. It spreads in an epidemic-type fashion because revived Christians are so changed that they "infect" others around them. Unbelievers are converted and believers are renewed and revived.

Such revived Christians are an example of enthusiasts in the Limited Enthusiasm model of church growth. The rapid growth follows from the attention that the revived Christians have in their social networks. However there is a downside, as revivals have opposition; people who do not approve of this behaviour. These people are often other Christians, and as such revivals are very controversial in church circles. In past revivals those controversies have faded and the revivals are often seen in heroic terms, accepted by most evangelical Christians. Revivals that are in living memory, or that had wide exposure through the media, are treated more harshly, and many get rejected as revivals.

The following is a review of candidates for revival since the 1960s in the West. Each has their supporters and their opponents, and are not universally regarded as revivals by all believers in historic revival. Nevertheless all have spread in a similar fashion to revival and could, in principle, have their dynamics analysed using the Limited Enthusiasm church growth model.

Toronto Blessing

This started in a church in Toronto in January 1994. Initially people travelled to the Airport Christian Fellowship to be blessed and take the blessing home with them. However by summer it came to the attention of the media and, with the Internet, the spread of the phenomena multiplied rapidly.  It was this phenomenon that initially inspired the first Church Growth Model, when someone said to me “This is spreading like an epidemic”, and then I decided to see if an epidemic model could explain the pattern of behaviour.

The Toronto Blessing has proved very controversial. In the search engines the opponents heavily outnumber those in favour. Its influence on the church has been enormous, seen by a significant number as a revival movement. Numerous churches across the western world and developing countries have been affected and it gave a new lease of life to charismatic renewal. In addition it affected the church where the Alpha course started. Although it is not the influence it was in the 1990s, the Toronto church is still packed with visitors for numerous conferences each year. In addition it has a network of like-minded churches, those affected by the blessing.

Alpha Course

The Alpha Course originally started as an evangelism course at Holy Trinity Brompton, London.  It is now used extensively in many churches across all denominations and most countries. It is an excellent example of the Limited Enthusiasm principle, as the participants on the course are encouraged to bring their friends along to subsequent courses. The participants who get converted, or renewed, are the enthusiasts who are then seeking to make new enthusiasts from their friendship network.

The course is evangelical and charismatic, both of which attract criticism from different quarters. Nevertheless over 2 million people in the UK have been through the course. It is difficult to think of any other evangelistic method that has involved numbers in this scale, especially in under 20 years.

See article on Alpha Course.

Charismatic Renewal

This has been a movement from with the Christian church that has brought new life to believers and as a result growth to their churches. It is generally taken that it started in California with Dennis Bennett, an Episcopalian priest, being baptised with the Spirit. Though there had no doubt been instances of this in non-Pentecostal denominations prior to that date, this event was significant because it was in a high profile “establishment” denomination.  Through the 60s and 70s it spread throughout non-Pentecostal churches, including the Church of England. It has brought about a massive change in the culture of protestant Christianity in the West, especially in the areas of worship, prayer and evangelism. It had a significant influence on Roman Catholicism in the West and helped break some barriers between that church and Protestantism. Various smaller movements have kept the renewal going and it has benefited greatly from its contact with Restorationism. Although not as powerful as it once was it nevertheless continues to re-surface from time to time.

Part of the renewal was the Vineyard church, founded by John WImber in the USA. This church helped initiate a "third wave" of charismatic renewal, brining many evangelicals into the movement, and transforming their worship culture to the current "band" led format.

Restorationism (UK)

In the UK this has been a parallel movement to charismatic renewal, led by Christians outside the existing denominations. Although charismatic its primary aim has been to restore the church to its New Testament roots so that it could be restore to the church God has always intended. Initially they were called house churches but have since become known as "new" churches and refer to the different groupings as streams rather than denominations. They grew rapidly through the 80s and 90s although the last English Church Growth survey has shown their numbers have fallen back. Some of this is due to some streams changing their nature as leadership changes hands and some have refused to stay together and be a denomination. The largest stream, New Frontiers, continues to grow.

Jesus People

The Jesus People or Jesus movement started in California among the hippy culture and was thus a predominately young people movement. It grew rapidly through the 60s and 70s until it became part of mainstream church life. With its emphasis on contemporary music it had an influence on Christianity much wider than the denominations that it spawned like Calvary Chapel. It influenced Charismatic renewal and the Vineyard church.

Worship-Evangelist Revivals

This is a generic name for revivals which are propagated by the combination of intensive worship and evangelism. They are driven by the named worship leader and evangelist and usually have large events in a fixed location. Although this style can be seen in both Vineyard and Toronto movements it was more clearly defined in the Brownsville revival of 1995 onwards, which had the combination of worship leader Lindell Cooley and evangelist Steve Hill. The Lakeland Outpouring, 2008, had worship leader Roy Fields with evangelist Todd Bentley, a movement that also included a healing ministry with the evangelism. Both had wide exposure over the internet.

The Brownsville revival lasted for almost 10 years with various changes of personnel. It reoccurred with the same pastor at the Bay of the Holy Spirit, 2010-2011, now with worship leader Lydia Stanley and evangelist Nathan Morris. Initial exposure was through YouTube, but later GodTV broadcast many of the revival services. The key that has made them deem it a revival rather than just powerful services is the "glory", i.e. the "presence of God". Eventually the revival was taken out on the road, rather than staying at its home in Mobile Alabama.

The Lakeland Outpouring resurfaced with Roy Fields as both evangelist and worship leader. With a strong emphasis on worship and the "presence of God", this revival ministry has moved from place to place. In January 2011, a planned 4 day visit to Cardiff was extended to at least 15 days, with visits to other parts of Wales. It became known as the new Welsh Outpouring.

Independent of the above a series of meetings started at Victory Church Cwmbran on April 10th 2013. Known as the Cwmbran Outpouring, or Welsh Outpouring, the church meet most nights to experience the presence of God, with people travelling from all over the United Kingdom. There was no one named worship leader or evangelist, however meetings followed the same pattern as other worship leader evangelist revival. The then pastor, Richard Taylor, became a powerful advocate for the outpouring, however most meetings were led by other members of the church team. The church has a heart to see churches planted all over Wales, which it is still pursuing in the post-revival phase.

See collection of blogs on the outpouring.

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