Church growth theories and the Salvation Army in the United Kingdom : an examination of the theories of Donald McGavran and C Peter Wagner in relation to Salvation Army experience and practice (1982-1991)
The Church Growth movement, originating with Donald McGavran in 1955 and popularised principally by C Peter Wagner since 1971, has influenced evangelical mission internationally. Though originating in the context of cross-cultural `missionary' work, it is perhaps now identified as a typically American approach, apparently relying on method and technique to accomplish its objective, which as the name implies, is the growth of the church, both locally and world-wide, since this is understood as the requirement of the `Great Commission' (Matthew 28: 18-20). The Salvation Army (founded 1865) has been in decline in Britain certainly since the Second World War, and probably since the 1930s. In 1986 the Army formally Espoused the Church Growth approach to mission. There has been little published research into the effectiveness of Church Growth methods, especially in the UK, despite voluminous outpourings of inspirational and motivational literature. Virtually the only test of the principles (Turning the Tide) was produced in 1981 by Paul Beasley-Murray and Alan Wilkinson, investigating the reliability of Wagner's` Vital Signs' in larger Baptist churches in England. This thesis follows Beasley-Murray and Wilkinson by testing the principles in the specific context of The Salvation Army in the UK. The approach adopted, a questionnaire survey with reference to statistical trends, follows the pragmatism of Church Growth itself, asking whether the approach works, rather than whether it is theologically sound, though such issues are considered where relevant. The opportunity has also been taken to consider specific Salvation Anny issues (uniform, music etc. ) and their effect on growth and decline. The work falls into four sections: - The Salvation Army; - The Church Growth Movement; - The Questionnaire Survey; - Conclusions and Recommendations.