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Fall 1991 · Vol. 20 No. 2 · pp. 69–71 

Response to Herb Kopp

Response to “Biblical Perspectives of Church Growth Which Mennonite Brethren Should Embrace” by Herb Kopp 20/2 (1991): 50–65.

Vern Heidebrecht

Herb Kopp has presented a clear and fair treatment of the Church Growth Movement (CGM). His analysis is helpful; he puts this movement into perspective for our churches. My response will address a number of issues.


The CGM was birthed out of the experience of Donald McGavran whose frustration with the lack of effectiveness in missionary work stimulated him to research. His research led to pragmatism; he treated church growth from the practical point of view and developed church growth principles.

The lack of church growth in the Mennonite Brethren Churches was similarly frustrating and formed a vacuum for the CGM to enter. The tension we felt arose out of the expressions of a strong church mission theology coupled with an inadequacy to penetrate our community effectively. For example, conference wide we are growing less than two percent annually. We have had few mentors and models in church growth. Because of our commitment to church growth, the CGM has had great appeal. The principles taught by the CGM have been beneficial in terms of coming to grips with many of {70} the key sociological and strategic issues in church growth. As Kopp correctly warns, these principles and task-oriented helps should never override our spiritual dependency upon the Holy Spirit and God’s sovereign purposes.


There is the balance and tension regarding, “presence, proclamation, and persuasion.” Here Kopp may be oversimplifying CGM. The CGM’s strong emphasis on “persuasion” does not and cannot exclude “presence” and “proclamation.” The latter are still present but balanced by measuring receptivity. Paul declared, “Since, then, we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade men” (2 Cor. 5:11). CGM people teach that this involves a sensitive, listener-oriented message. The emphasis of caring for the complete person is also strong. I see the CGM moving more to a holistic approach as it takes root in the church.


The CGM is one of many significant influences on the church scene today. A. W. Tozer made a call in the early 1960s to restore worship in the church, for it is “. . . the missing Jewel in the evangelical church.” Today there is a renewed focus on worship. A worship which lifts up the majesty of God (cf. “Majesty, Worship His Majesty”) and calls us to worship Him with our lives is ushering in a renewed awareness of the transcendent God in our midst. The “small group” and discipleship movements are also making an impact on our churches toward a renewed sense of accountability and mutual ministry. Furthermore, Campus Crusade has become much more church oriented and so is serving in building up the local fellowship. God is using other churches and leaders to restore prayer and spiritual formation to their rightful high priority in church life. My claim is that God in His sovereignty has given us the opportunity to gain insights from various movements, including the CGM, to grow the church today. The CGM is only one of the many streams of energy the Lord is pouring into the church today.

I applaud the emphasis in Kopp’s paper that church growth is both the result of a spiritually healthy congregation {71} and of careful planning. The church planter, the Apostle Paul, put it this way: “I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow” (1 Cor. 3:6). This Scripture begins with God, speaks of strategy, and recognizes the unique giftedness of Paul and Apollos. As we focus on the Lord and test practical principles of ministry, we will better understand Paul who declared: “I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings” (1 Cor. 9:22b, 23).

Vern Heidebrecht, Pastor
Clearbrook, British Columbia

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