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Church Growth Theology Project

Church Growth Theology Project

The Centre for Church Growth Research is partnering with the noted academic publishers, Ashgate, to research the theology of church growth.

Church growth is widely discussed in the currently climate. Many churches in western nations have pragmatic reasons for seeking to grow, for otherwise they may die. However a  good number of western churches – and a great many non-western churches – are experiencing church growth. For all such communities, western and non-western alike, the question is what constitutes healthy growth and how can it be sustained for the long term.

Such questions have been little studied in academic theology. However, academic theology (and much thinking within the wider church) is heavily conditioned by assumptions about church growth and decline – assuming churches usually decline, seeing discussion of church growth as some how ‘suspect’ compared to other aspects of Christian witness, or assuming that church growth is a mysterious, unfathomable process.

The Church Growth Theology Project aims to offer a vital resource to examine what healthy church growth is. It will weave together Biblical studies, dogmatic theology, historical study and extensive fieldwork on the contemporary church to delineate a theology of church growth.

The project entailed a major conference Towards a Theology of Church Growth in Durham on 12 – 13 September, 2013, which has now been published as a single volume by Ashgate (available for purchase here) with the following content:

Forward: The Most Revd Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury


Chapter One
David Goodhew -Questioning Church Growth:
How can it be a Legitimate Subject for Theological Enquiry ?

Chapter Two
David Marshall – Humble Confidence: Church Growth in a Pluralist Culture


Chapter Three
Mark Bonnington – Church Growth and the Kingdom of God

Chapter Four
C. Kavin Rowe – Acts: an Ecclesiology for Church Growth

Chapter Five
Jo Bailey Wells – Church Growth: Lessons from Beyond the Western World


Chapter Six
Martin Warner – Incarnation, Atonement and Church Growth

Chapter Seven
Alister McGrath – An Eschatology of Church Growth

Chapter Eight
Graham Tomlin – The Trinity, the Prodigal Spirit and Church Growth


Chapter Nine
Ivor Davidson – Church Growth in the Early Church

Chapter Ten
Benedicta Ward – Being Apostles: Aidan, Cuthbert and a Theology of Church Growth

Chapter Eleven
Miranda Threlfall-Holmes – Growing the Mediaeval Church

Chapter Twelve
Ashley Null – Thomas Cranmer and a Theology of Church Growth

Chapter Thirteen
Dominic Erdozain – Church Growth in Britain: 1750 to 1950

David Goodhew – Towards a Theology of Church Growth

This volume has attracted the following commendations:

‘This book is a treasure store which I commend happily, and with delight at the excellent timing that has bought it into being at this point in the Church’s life.’
From the foreword by The Most Revd Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury

‘These essays offer a timely word of bracing encouragement to a church that has lapsed into forgetful resignation to declining membership .’
Professor Richard B. Hays, George Washington Ivey Professor of New Testament and Dean of the Divinity School, Duke University

‘The bold claim of this far-reaching set of essays on Church growth is that it is when our understanding of God is small and fearful that we are uneasy about the idea of Church growth.’
Dr Jane Williams, Senior Tutor, St Mellitus College, London

‘This wonderful collection illuminates and stimulates from many angles….I recommend the book to all theologians, pastors and Christians seeking resources for reflection on the future of the Christian community.’
Professor Lewis Ayres, Bede Professor of Catholic and Historical Theology, Durham University and Distinguished Fellow at Notre Dame’s Institute for Advanced Study

‘This is a very timely volume which will contribute significantly to the reconstruction of confidence in church growth as sanctioned by scripture, doctrine and church history.’
The Rt Revd John Pritchard, Bishop of Oxford (ret’d)

‘This book provides the beginnings of a serious theology of church growth.  That is badly needed and highly significant, and needs to be pondered and carefully evaluated by theologians and church leaders alike.’
Revd Dr David Cornick, General Secretary, Churches Together in England

‘This book provides the theological depth which will equip wise leadership and openness to the Spirit across the diversity of a growing church’.
Revd Professor David Wilkinson, Principal of St John’s College, Durham University

‘Growing churches in number has been regarded with suspicion in far too many circles, including within the church. The wide ranging contributors to this excellent volume tackle such suspicion head on….May many read, act and see churches grow because of the work.’
The Rt. Revd. Paul Butler, Bishop of Durham

‘…our theology of growth often lags behind our practical strategies for growth. The contributions in this book…begin to put this right. Everyone with a positive interest in the growth of Jesus’ church will want to read this book to help them see how the theological dog can wag the church growth tail rather than the other way round!’
The Ven. Bob Jackson, former Archdeacon of Walsall and Visiting Fellow, St Johns College, Durham

For more details, please contact Revd Dr David Goodhew at [email protected]