Thursday, May 22, 2008

counting sheep (if you must)

“Is the emerging church a sell-out to contemporary culture?” was the moot for a 60 minute debate I spoke at today. (Using the wonders of technology, I spoke in Christchurch, while my sparring partner was in the city of Auckland). An audience question at the end asked about conversion rates. If I’d had time, I would have named the following:

– If you must count, it is interesting to do the stats on the reported baptisms at Mark Driscoll’s church last year, to divide the number reportedly baptised (200) against their attendance (7000). It was about the same percentage (2.8%) as the average of all the Baptist churches here in New Zealand, and 2007 wasn’t a flash year for NZ baptists (1040 divided by 42,000 attenders = 2.5%).

– In a similar vein from David Fitch: “Missional churches are so much smaller. 6 conversions from a group of 25 over ten years would match (or exceed) the percentage growth of a typical mega church.”

– and some wisdom from a shepherd “I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent. Luke 15:3-7

Posted by steve at 10:03 PM


  1. There’s some research by a guy called Rodney Stark doing some broad statistical analysis of growth in the early church. According to his numbers, the church grew from a few hundred at Pentecost (he has a somewhat ‘conservative’ reading of Acts) to around 30,000,000 or half the population of the Roman Empire at the time of Constantine. Which sounds huge until Stark points out that this equates to an average growth rate of 10% per decade.

    It’s not the speed at which the church grew that was remarkable about this period, but the 300 odd years of consistent growth.

    The numbers don’t really bear being broken down like this, but for a congregation of 300, that’s 3 new faces in a year. For house-church sized congregation of 25, that’s one new face every four years.

    It’s a pretty sobering indictment on our “Must GROW NOW!” culture of instant gratification.

    I could look up the reference if you’re interested…

    Comment by Rory — May 23, 2008 @ 5:00 pm

  2. thanks for this steve, i hear you…

    Comment by LauraHD — June 6, 2008 @ 1:11 am

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