Spencer: Growing and Flourishing
Growing & Flourishing: The Ecology of Church Growth
London: SCM Press, 2019. 140p.
In Growing & Flourishing, Stephen Spenser, Director of Theological Education for the Anglican Communion, investigates the substantial long-term church growth experienced among Anglican churches in the Mara region of Tanzania. The author identifies the nature of the growth and imagines how it can be experienced in other Anglican contexts, particularly in England. His purpose is to “encourage and inform church growth” (94).
Through personal interviews with church leaders and on-the-ground visits to the churches in Tanzania, Spenser identifies six dimensions of church growth: Organizational growth, Congregational relationships, Evangelistic communication, Sacramental expression, Community service and Discipleship. He asserts that each dimensions grows through three stages of development (93).
At the heart of church growth in Tanzania is intentional evangelism. Evangelistic outreaches present the gospel message in public events with lively expressions of the faith and then in private follow-up home visits with invitational conversations about the faith. He discovers that “the evangelism includes somehow bringing the gospel into effect in the lives of those being evangelized” (33). This flows from clergy and lay ministers working in concert to lead people to Jesus and pioneer new congregations.
Spenser accesses several church growth resources to elaborate on his findings and provide further insights into the above dimensions. He proves himself well-read and knowledgeable regarding dynamics of church growth in various settings. Case studies of these growth dimensions working at Church of England settings show some parallels between the English and Tanzanian churches, especially in areas of outreach ministries. Spenser shows that deficiencies in evangelism have resulted in a lack of new congregational growth in these English churches. He highlights activities that English churches must address to experience the substantial growth seen in Tanzania’s Anglican churches. Spenser provides six principles to put into practice to facilitate organic church growth for leaders in any setting (110).
Craig Stephans, Church of the Redeemer (Camden, NC)