An Exploration of Gospel-Based Missional Activities in Numerically Growing and Non-Growing Congregations in the Church of God in the United States
The church in America has witnessed a marked decline in worship attendance over the last two decades. For those interested in being faithful to the evangelistic mandates of Scripture, this reality is problematic. The researcher was intrigued by the dissonance between the large numbers of U.S. congregations in decline and the missionary mandate of the Biblical text. Put another way, the lack of numerical growth of the church seemed incompatible with the Great Commission of the church.
The hypothesis in this study theorized that numerically growing churches would more closely mirror the missional practices of Jesus. To this end, numerically growing churches were compared against numerically non-growing churches in the Church of God, with national offices in Anderson, Indiana to discover how these churches differed. The researcher developed the categories of comparison after very careful examination of the missional practices of Jesus.
Churches selected through random sampling completed a forty-question survey entitled Discovering the Missional Church. In addition to this survey, the lead pastors of each qualifying church were interviewed and themes were generated to further unpack congregational life in the area of missional behavior. A number of statistically significant findings emerged. From a demographic standpoint, members in numerically growing churches were more educated and their believers had been Christians for less number of years. Members of numerically growing churches also reported a greater number of relationships with unchurched persons than the numerically non-growing churches. The study also revealed the training patterns of numerically growing churches included more opportunities for members to grow in their perceived abilities to reach unchurched persons. In contrast, numerically non-growing churches reported their pastor was not concerned enough with helping church members grow in their faith. The same group also indicated they have considered leaving their church because it wasn't missional enough.
In response to the findings, the researcher formulated thirteen inventories to help church leaders both assess and equip members in becoming more missional. Likewise, parallel inventories were also developed for church leaders to address the organizational structure of the local congregation in order to help it more thoughtfully organize around the missional way. These surveys are presented in the project.