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Literature on Church Growth

Hover over a book to see the title,
and click on it to view the
literature index


How to Use

To navigate around the book there are a number of ways to travel. You can link to a page from the main index simply by clicking on a link.

To turn to the next page in the book, you can click the right or left edge of the page. You can also use the controls on the bookmarks, or my favourite is to grab a page corner with the mouse and turning.

You can quickly link back to the index from the link in the book listing. When linking back to the index the book only turns a single page to speed the return.

You can save or share the exact book page by simply copying the unique URL from your browser address bar.

Hope you enjoy reading the reviews!

Shaping the Church: The promise of Implicit Theology

  • Author: Percy, M
  • Date of Publication: 2010
  • Origin: UK

This book seeks to dynamically alter the way that theologians, ecclesiologists, students of religion and ministers look at the church. Taking the ideas of composition, formation and vocation as basic ecclesial categories, Percy explores how apparently innocent and incidental material is in fact highly significant for the shaping of theological and ecclesiological horizons.

Chapter 4 of the book focuses on Fresh Expressions. Percy looks across the breadth of Fresh Expressions, asking more specifically what they are, taking a broad scope of their current forms, and attempting to extrapolate how they may affect church growth in their current state. Percy states that FXs have many shapes and forms in order to “fit” the shape of particular groups and individuals for whom they are intended. As a number of authors on this subject point out, Percy states it is important not to have this group in mind in a premeditated strategic move: rather, that the accepted shape of the church will find its audience. Chapter 5 examines the question of whether there can be 'Liberal' Church Growth and Chapter 6 is titled 'Organic Church Growth: Some possibilities. 

For the Parish: Critique of Fresh Expressions

  • Author: Davison, A.
  • Date of Publication: 2010
  • Origin: UK

Fresh Expressions (FXs) of Church are one of the most significant developments in the Church of England in recent decades. Parishes are the mainstay of the 'inherited church'. Frequently they are belittled and cast as either unhelpful or irrelevant. The authors argue for the vitality of the parish, both for mission and for discipleship. The authors also argue that the forms of the church are to be an embodiment of her faith. They should therefore be more determined by our theological traditions than by the surrounding culture.

They show that the traditions of the parish church represent ways in which time, space amd community are ordered in relation to God and the gospel.

The text is divisible in two parts: first chapters 1-5 set out the criticism of FX. Chapters 6-9 set out how the local church is amply placed to perform as well as FXs.

Encounters on the Edge series: Cafe Church

  • Author: Lings, G
  • Date of Publication: 2007
  • Origin: UK

This sets out a pair of case studies of cafe churches: one which succeeded and one which failed. Crucially the study includes attendance numbers and addresses some of the criticisms of this particular Fresh Expression. Lings’ contention that cafe church is “relational rather than attendance-based” is evidenced throughout.


Multiplying Churches

  • Author: Jenkins
  • Date of Publication: 2008
  • Origin: UK

This text approaches church plants, and attempts to address some of the criticism levelled at them. The criticisms explored include:

  • Disunity with the rest of the church.
  • Consumerism.
  • Homogenous Unit Principle.
  • Lack of Need.
  • Lack of Resources.

Two Church of England church plant case studies are outlined within the study to illustrate the author's points.

Church Planting

  • Author: Lings, G. & Murray, S.
  • Date of Publication: 2003
  • Origin: UK

This text gives an assessment of the UK church planting initiative in the 80s and 90s, making four key conclusions:

  • Fell below target (approx. 1897 net churches planted, target 20,000).
  • Few churches had impact.
  • Overall decline of the church continued and indeed accelerated.
  • Planning relied heavily upon entrepreneurial leaders and laity.

Perceived lessons for church plants are detailed by the authors that include:

  • Mission priorities not purely resources must decide where and how to plant church in particular places:Balance between top-down (which may result in poor goal setting) and bottom up (less strategic) planning.
  • Leadership and training was a decisive factor in those denominations successfully planting (but unclear who should be trained and how though).
  • Setting plant goals at national level does not facilitate planting. 

Emerging Church and Fresh Expressions of Church

  • Author: Mobsby, I.
  • Date of Publication: 2008
  • Origin: UK

This paper takes the approach of measuring fresh expressions against the qualities and policies set out in Mission-Shaped Church. This is specifically to test the criticism that Fresh Expressions (FXs) are not part of the church, nor are they distinctively Anglican.

The study looks at four FXs, one of which is based in the US. The qualitative method includes interviewing three members from each project (one was the leader of the project, and the other two were members). The UK FXs selected were Sanctus1 in Manchester, B1 in Birmingham and Moot in London.

Mission-shaped Church: Building Missionary Values

  • Author: Bayes, P.
  • Date of Publication: 2006
  • Origin: UK

This report encourages a particular reading of the seminal text Mission-shaped Church which was published by the Church of England and advocated, amongst other initiatives, fresh expressions of church. Bayes seeks to comment upon the text of mission-shaped church tying it all together through the presence in successful churches of missionary values; and stipulating that these precede missionary actions.

Throughout there is  reference to 5 core missionary values (mentioned in the original text) that successful churches exhibit:

  • Coming to love and know God is at the heart of missionary church;
  • Listening to God and listening to cultural context;
  • Existing for the transformation of the community which it serves (the key word here is community, and Bayes draws attention to the parish and the "invisible" parish);
  • Missionary church is relational (leaders relate to the laity, the diocese relates to the leaders);
  • Missionary church is disciple-making.

FX Church reimagined

  • Author: Corbett, S
  • Date of Publication: 2008
  • Origin: UK

This paper discusses fresh expressions. In the main it seeks to chart the different kinds of FX, how they operate and why. A few case studies are given, along with an in-depth explanation of cell and cluster church structures, wherein the author distinguishes between the states and activities of Emerging church and Inherited church.

The final section of the paper addresses resourcing issues.

Basic Ecclesial Communities: A New Way of Being Church for the Urban Priority Areas of Britain?

  • Author: Garner, R.
  • Date of Publication: 1997
  • Origin: UK

Garner compares 'Basic Ecclesial Communities' in Latin America with ones in Britain, looking to learn lessons from each. The case studies are of several different kinds of BEC, all of which have resulted in growth. Garner suggests that these are particularly successful in Latin America due to the pyramidal structure of social inequality there, where the vast majority of the population are impoverished and that small, mutually-supportive ecclesiastical communities are a particularly effective way of relieving the circumstances of poverty. By way of comparison he points out that British society does not share this structure ( the UK is a rhombus with a prevalent middle-class) and hence does not share the same volume of growth. However across these vastly different socioeconomic contexts, Garner identifies 3 key things for BECs to flourish:

  • Smallness of group.
  • Every-member ministry is crucially important to the “quality” of BECs
  • BECs do not commence spontaneously. Garner suggests that “non-directive pastoral agents” are required to unlock the cohesive potential of the group.

The impact of church planting on the local community

  • Author: Bing, A.
  • Date of Publication: 1998
  • Origin: UK

The text of this Masters Degree dissertation can be downloaded from the Church Army's Sheffield Centre's online library by clicking here.

Mission-Shaped Church: Church Planting and Fresh Expressions of a Church in a Changing Context

  • Author: Cray, G
  • Date of Publication: 2009
  • Origin: UK

Society in Britain has changed dramatically in the last 30 years, especially in terms of our understanding of community and how we relate to one another. One of the responses of the Church has been to plant new churches and create fresh expressions of church; churches that relate to our changing context.

This book gives:

  • an overview of recent developments in church planting;
  • describes varied and exciting 'fresh expressions' of church;
  • offers practical help and advice;
  • looks candidly at where lessons can be learned;
  • proposes a framework and methodology for good, effective church planting;
  • includes recommendations to make possible the visions of a vibrant future Church.

Each chapter has a set of questions and challenges to help local parish churches engage with the issues.

Dynasty or Diversity? The HTB family of churches

  • Author: Lings, G. and Perkins, P
  • Date of Publication: 2002
  • Origin: UK

As well as Alpha, Holy Trinity Brompton in London is a church well-known for its long-standing commitment to church planting. However, an inaccurate stereotypical image of a large transplant of yuppies with a leader curate to an empty or struggling church elsewhere in London has often prevailed and, as such, their way of planting has been deemed irreproducible in any other context but London.

This issue, from the 'encouters on the edge series', reflects on facts gathered from each of the churches planted by 2002 to challenge this image. The majority of plants are not actually transplants. Planting does not always involve HTB people moving in a new area. Not all plants are network churches. They are not as culturally homogeneous as some might think. The evidence shows that the myths surrounding HTB planting turn out to be just that. The issue highlights how their planting stories have been wider and more diverse than is often assumed. Reflection is also offered on how other these instincts of partnership with the wider church and generosity of giving away what God has given you, can be reproduced by large churches in other large towns and cities in the UK.


New housing, new partnerships?

  • Author: Lings, G.
  • Date of Publication: 2004
  • Origin: UK

This Encounters on the Edge issue was written to tell the stories of two highly effective multi-denomination plants and thereby redress the undue negativity perceived correctly by some. These two stories show how it is possible for such fresh expressions of church to thrive and the booklet takes time to reflect on why they have worked so well.

Both stories happen to share a similar context. They are new churches planted in areas of new middle-class housing. The Government's commitment to building so many new homes for the foreseeable future is an important opportunity for the wider church to make a contribution to by releasing resources to plant new churches for these new communities. In both these stories, multi-denomination planting was the best way to do this.