Moving beyond Church Growth: An Alternative Vision for Congregations

Moving beyond Church Growth: An Alternative Vision for Congregations

Moving beyond Church Growth: An Alternative Vision for Congregations

Moving beyond Church Growth: An Alternative Vision for Congregations


Character development for communities of faith

Mark Olson believes that trying to meet unrealistic expectations for church growth, along with expectations that pastors be all things to all people, has resulted in low morale, even burnout, among clergy and dissension within congregations.

Olson's book argues that church-growth models exemplify and exacerbate the tendencies of the modern age and Constantinian Christianity, holding the church hostage to technique and marketing. These assumptions set up pastors and churches for disappointment and failure. But they also, in his opinion, miss an opportunity to envision a faithful alternative to the consumeristic church.

Olson's valuable book calls church leaders to faithful, bold, and courageous rethinking of congregational life and witness in substance, purpose, and style. His own 20 years of ministry in rural, suburban, and urban congregations inform an alternative rooted deeply in the past and anchored in strong leadership and worship, but also profoundly compassionate and engaged in the surrounding community. In this model, pastors' primary responsibilities are not to fix everything and everybody but to enable people to be present to each other and to provide hope.


Moses stood on a hill overlooking the Jordan River. the time of wandering in the wilderness was about to end. God’s people would soon cross over and become a landed people. Moses had just finished a long sermon (Deuteronomy). He had reminded the people that things would soon be different. He told them they must imagine a new way of living faithfully, consistent with a core story of the past yet imaginatively open to the future. Sabbath was to be kept as it was in the wilderness. But now, as a landed people, Sabbath would involve more than worshiping God. It would mean spending one day trusting that God would provide all that was needed. Such a concept of a Sabbath was not needed in the wilderness, but when people started “making a living” on the land, it would be easy to forget who truly makes life. If Moses were to title his sermon, he might have called it “Moving beyond Wilderness Wandering.”

Earlier, Abraham and Sarah heard God’s call and obediently journeyed into a promise. They left their home and family and trusted God to bless them with a future. This future could not be described in detail. It was a mystery, a vision that called forth radical faith. a memoir about the life of Abraham and Sarah might be given the equally mysterious title “Moving beyond Ur of Chaldees.”

Jesus appeared to the disciples after his resurrection: on the road to Emmaus, in the locked room with Thomas, on the shore while they were cooking breakfast. These appearances announced a new day, a new way of living, a new vision of hope. the disciples . . .

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