…numerical growth and decline do matter. They matter theologically. Scripture, doctrine, and church tradition place a high value on growing congregations and starting new ones. They matter experientially: there is much evidÂ¬ence that congregations enhance individual and community well-being.
And they matter also because churches, like individuals, live out of the narratives that they tell about themselves ”” and narratives of numerical growth or decline mould how churches understand themselves. Churches and provinces see themselves as “major” or “minor” players, are fearful or confident, because of whether they see themselves as growing or shrinking. Often, the stories that churches tell of themselves are not wholly based on reality, or they are based on past realities, ignoring what is happening now. So it matters that narratives of growth and decline tell the truth.
Besides, the Church of England (like many other Anglicans in the global North) has hardly been guilty of excessive concern for numerical growth in recent decades. There is much inverse snobbery about numerical growth, as something “just not done” in polite ecclesial circles. This feeds into a widespread “decline theology”. Decline theology sees church decline as unproblemÂ¬atic, or even to be accepted as “inevitable”. Decline theology is an internalisation of the secularisation thesis. It creates an ecclesiology of fatalism. Perhaps God has other ideas.
Read it all from the long list of should-have-already-been-posted material.