I have presented in this chapter four varieties of congregational growth--numerical, maturational, organic, and incarnational. Underlying this framework is the message that congregations need to grow and they can grow. I am arguing here for as wide a definition of growth as possible and an appreciation of the importance of many kinds of growth. Each congregation is asked very simply to become more of what God calls it to be; each one will have its own path. I do not believe that all congregations can grow simultaneously in all four ways. A congregation that makes a disaster of one kind of growth may experience another kind, and it may even come back several years later and succeed where before it had failed.
The congregation is one of the few places in society in which we as individuals can come together, restore our wholeness, recover our sense of direction, receive the power to do what we must do, and be assured of the community with God and with one another that makes life worth living. The congregation is the arena for the restoration of life and mission. That arena itself needs repair and restoration very critically at this moment in history. Those who care about the quality of life in our society need to care about the health of religious congregations and their ability to grow--not just in numbers, but also in faith, ministry, and mission.
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