Church Growth through Start-Ups and Satellites

Journal of Unification Studies Vol. 5, 2003 - Pages 17-42

The primary theological text of the Unification Church, the Divine Principle, sets forth dual prophecies about the future of Christianity. On the one hand, it states that Christianity is dying. On the other hand, it teaches that Christianity is the central religion that will create a society imbued with Christian ideals, unite all faiths, acclaim Second Advent of the Lord and usher the Kingdom of God to the earth.[1] There is ample evidence to the truth of both horns of the dual prophecy. Mainstream Christianity is declining in numbers and vitality. Other sectors of Christianity are multiplying rapidly. For example, in 1970 the United States boasted 10 “mega-churches” with over 2,000 members. By 1995 there were 300 mega-churches, with a combined membership of 1 million. By 2002, USA Today reported that there were 700 such churches, with a combined weekly attendance of some 3 million.[2]

Different outcomes arise from different causes, and church growth has identifiable causes. The growing churches are going about their work differently than the dying churches. They know what is causing their growth. They know the dying churches are in trouble, and they reject their ways. Any church that desires to grow would be foolish to ignore this.[3]

I believe that the starting point is the understanding that the growing churches are able to separate doctrine from culture. Culture is constantly transforming, and growing churches are able to mesh the teaching and application of their message with a variety of cultural environments. Some go to great lengths to defend themselves against the accusation (from the dying mainstream) that they have compromised the gospel in doing so. Such people are from the old culture adapting to fit the new culture. Others don’t care about apologizing or defending their cultural style; they just express their faith in a way that is natural to them. This is a case of people in the new culture taking ownership of Christianity.

So there is both adaptation and ownership taking place. For a faith tradition to move successfully into a different culture, first the people of the old culture adapt to the new, then the people of the new culture take ownership. Any church that can separate its teachings from its culture and allow the folk of the new culture to take ownership of its message in their cultural context will succeed in America. By old culture I mean the denominational, hierarchical model that characterizes the old American mainstream, created out of white society and created largely by whites and inhabited by multi-racial members of that “builder” generation, the World War II generation. I have no intention of criticizing that generation; it is worthy of our most profound respect. At the same time, the values, expectations, needs and wants of people have changed, and the religious methods and structures of the former era are no longer effective.

To minister to the contemporary world, the old style churches have to cross two types of barriers. One is ethnic and the other, which is more fundamental, is generational. The thriving churches have separated from the culture of an older generation. It is not a matter of East versus West; it is a matter of old versus new. There are people from the East who are new in thinking, and people from the West who are old. The successful new religious forms are the cultural outplaying of a generational shift that is taking place East and West, with the East having started later than the West, but catching up rapidly. Churches have to identify and separate from the dysfunctional practices of the old, dying churches in order to get their message across to the American society.[4]

This assertion leads to an immediate follow-up: to adapt sensitively to local cultures, to indigenize, a church must be local, on-the-ground and in touch. Creative adaptation cannot happen at a national or world headquarters. Therefore, church growth happens only when the local church and local members are empowered and released to carry out ministry in local settings, meeting local needs and experiencing the power of God at first hand, without constraint. Ownership will lead to church growth.


The Indigenous Principle

Culture, in the view of Timothy Ahlen and J. V. Thomas, refers to a group’s values, codes of conduct, dress, language, views on family and familial behaviors, and attitudes. Culture is important because it is the environment in which a person lives. People do best when they are in an environment that they can grasp and assimilate. Within one’s familiar culture, one can cope with what’s going on around one, adjust and feel comfortable.[5]

A Mexican farm laborer is not going to feel at ease at a Wall Street cocktail party. Likewise, a stockbroker from Westchester County is going to feel out-of-place in a country bar. Similarly, there is a tension between a church of one culture and the unchurched people living in another. When a traditionalist believer walks into a dance club, much less a gay bar, s/he is a foreigner walking into a different culture. Those are ethnic and class barriers, and there are also generational barriers. A Westchester teenager, tutored by MTV and CNN, feels out-of-place in a dark sanctuary with a few scattered senior citizens listening to organ music led by a man in black robes. That is a generational barrier.

The responsive strategy is to view one’s local area as a mission field, as if it were a foreign country. It is to accept the fact that mass society contains diverse cultures. Modern market-driven consumerism creates segments that identify themselves over-against others, in particular over-against what is found in traditional churches.

The reality is that people invite to church others similar to them, and rarely transcend cultural barriers in their personal relationships. Thus, members will not get to know people who live near the church, if they are of another culture, i.e., of an age, vocation, income or race different from the church members. Ahlen and Thomas note that culture, not location, is the reference point for affinity among most Americans. This gap is often “Christian” versus “secular,” but it can also be one of race or ethnicity, economic class, age or religious background.

This is why it is extremely difficult to develop an evangelical spirit in a settled church. Without a gifted leader who can create a dedicated congregation, by the twentieth year of a church’s existence, “most members have placed taking care of the current membership far higher on their list of priorities than reaching unchurched people.”[6] Because of this, a gap develops between the culture of the people in the church and the culture of the people who live around the church.

In order to minister effectively, in order to take ministry beyond cultural divides, including to one’s own youth, the cultural barriers must be dismantled. To apply the indigenous principle, mission leaders must not base their strategy on their own cultural interpretations. The same scriptural principles must be applied, but in the context of the target, rather than the host, culture. That is adaptation. Then the people of the new culture have to express the scriptural principles in their own language. That is taking ownership.

Effective evangelists and healthy churches don’t wait for the neighbors to come to them, but take the gospel into the neighboring culture. They recognize that, like it or not, they intimidate their “foreign” neighbors by their cultural differences. They have decided that in order to reach their neighbors, or youth, it is worth it to shed some of their cultural baggage.

Ahlen and Thomas are Baptist practitioner-researchers in the field of church growth who have formulated a technique for applying the indigenous principle they call the “key church strategy.” They address what you do after you win your first two or three converts, how to build a new congregation that will sustain and grow. The principle can be stated, “Congregations are healthier and more productive, and require little or no outside support, when started and developed in the context of the socioeconomic conditions and culture of the people who are to be evangelized or congregationalized.”[7] Once they have made a base with a small group in the new culture, they allow the new church to develop within the indigenous culture. They don’t export the sponsor church’s culture into the target community. They expect the new congregation to differ from their own. They are separating, in other words, their beliefs and ideals from their culture.

The term “key” derives from the “keys to the kingdom” Jesus gave Peter. A key church opens the door for other churches to start. They point out that this was the way the Christian church began, with Jerusalem as the “key church” that spawned a movement crossing cultural, racial and national boundaries.

The New Testament churches were indigenous. They were self-propagating: they raised their own workers and spread using their own resources. They were self-supporting and did not receive funding from Jerusalem; in fact, Paul’s churches sent funds to Jerusalem. They were self-governing. The members were the owners. An indigenous church is “a group of believers who live out their life, including their socialized Christian activity, in the patterns of the local society, and for whom any transformation of that society comes out of their felt needs under the guidance of the Holy Spirit and the scriptures.”

According to their research, the most effective and often lowest cost way to reach new generations of American-born residents and recent immigrants is not by bringing them into an existing congregation, but by creating new worshiping communities. The basic key church idea is that “one congregation can meet in two different locations.” Transcending traditional parish line, property-based practices, they preach that a homogeneous congregation can reach beyond cultural barriers by setting up satellite congregations. After all, the church is not a building but a “collection of believers. When church is defined as people rather than as real estate, the ceiling on creativity is raised several notches.” They boil down two basic components of this strategy. One, go to where the people are rather than waiting for them to come to you. Two, cultivate, encourage and trust indigenous leadership.

Therefore the key church strategy begins with a small missionary team. (A large missionary group becomes an intrusion that overwhelms the target people.) The small team teaches locals to lead, and withdraws within a year. They let the people’s perceived needs determine the strategy, programs and ministries. They put the focus on what the locals think is important. In the process, the new group naturally plugs into local resources. They reject “the arrogant assumption that the people lack the capability, discernment, financial resources and leaders to minister to one another and start a church.”[8]

Further, they reject the view that “Until the daughter church can be trusted to behave just like the parent, the parent maintains tight control over the church’s finances and activities.” New churches that develop under such control, they contend, are sterile and out of touch. In the key church strategy, sponsorship is partnership. The sponsor provides doctrine, leadership and initial resources. The new congregation provides a cultural base and local relationships. In effect, the sponsor should work itself out of a job.

Indigenous start-ups take one of three different forms. There is the church-type, which becomes self-supporting, self-governing and self-propagating. Then there are the Indigenous Satellite Congregations (ISCs). Most ISCs are house churches that maintain a strong relationship with the mother church. The third type is the multi-housing congregation. It is an ISC with unique traits that emerge out of the apartment complex setting. This type garners most attention from Ahlen and Thomas, who state that it is the fastest growing type of start-up in America in the 1990s.

Growth comes when missionaries let the local leaders take initiative. Ask the new leaders what they will lead the congregation to do, how they plan to do it, and how much it will cost. This liberates energy, for, as Ahlen and Thomas put it, “no one is lazy except in the pursuit of someone else’s idea.” Of course, they counsel, “some initiative needs to be taken by the sponsor church in order to make progress, but too much initiative from persons outside the congregation takes away ownership. When ownership is taken away, local initiative stops.”

In the area of funding, Ahlen and Thomas advise that it is easy to help too much, in the name of benevolence. They say to never fund 100%. Never do anything for them that they can do for themselves. At the beginning, one might initiate fundraising projects, with matching gifts from the sponsoring church. But long-term monthly support communicates a welfare mentality. It removes the sense of ownership, responsibility, and incentive. And it makes the pastor accountable to the funding agencies, not to the community.

In terms of facilities, the new church will not look like the sponsor’s. The building should fit the culture and resources, “or the sponsor will be paying the bills forever.” Don’t build in a long-term debt by demanding that the new congregation maintain a building they cannot afford.

In terms of communication, Ahlen and Thomas point to the common problem is that it usually goes in one direction. The sponsor church tells the new congregation what to do. Instead of dialoguing, the sponsor monologues. It never stops to listen, to check if its message was understood. This is not only bad for the mission; it is bad manners.[9]


Examples of the Indigenous Principle in Contemporary Church Growth

The indigenous principle applies to any barriers in society: race, culture, economic class and generation. I will discuss case studies of churches in America that have crossed the lines of ethnicity, economic class and generation. Then I will discuss the Unification Church in America and derive a few recommendations.

1. Baptist “Key Churches”: Crossing Ethnic Barriers

Ahlen and Thomas provide case studies qua testimonies out of key church mission activities in two Texas Baptists churches, the Gambrell Street Church (Fort Worth) and the Cliff Temple Baptist Church (Dallas). A congregant couple, Nancy and Jerry Sayers, started a church by visiting their neighbors in their apartment complex. At first the neighbors rebuffed them, but the Sayers persisted and within a few weeks had 15-20 adults meeting for Bible study in the manager’s office. In a matter of months, the group decided to constitute of itself a congregation and take offerings.

Pastor Ben Lopez began a Hispanic congregation in a complex of duplexes and fourplexes, in one apartment that the owner donated. The15’X15’ living room was overfull within a few weeks, and Lopez had to run two services every Sunday. The group reached 170 and began to rent space in a local church.

A Spanish-speaking sponsor in a Hispanic community could not get the local adults to attend. The local parents would only send their children. But when a local leader got interested and agreed to become pastor, then the adults started coming. Over forty adults became regular attenders within three months.

In a white, “country-western lifestyle” area, the “Country Church” was started. The young, working class and rowdy community was disinterested in church as usual. Adapting to what this market would bear, the church planters set up a “sanctuary contained tables and chairs instead of pews” with a country-western band. “Addiction recovery and emotional stability” were entry-level discipleship programs, answering the immediate needs of the attenders. They grew a congregation of about 100.

In my Family, Church, Community, Kingdom, I summarized the story of John Shelton, a Cliff Temple youth minister whose kids brought boxes of fruit to an empty lot frequents by the poor and homeless. Within a few months, he created the “church on the lot,” eventually garnering support from the city.[10] Another member, Tillie Bergen, started two Bible study groups by asking ladies who came to her for help if she could start one in their apartment. One of the two, led by Virginia Maanani, who had come to Tillie asking for help paying her electric bill (which Tillie paid for her) grew to 60 members. Ahlen and Thomas call these Bible study groups “single cell churches,” and elaborate:

It became a church in the true sense. These were rough, tough kinds of folks—like the people Jesus preached to—and they weren’t about to come to church. We decided to take the church to them, which is what He did. Virginia Maanani… grew in her faith rapidly, and soon found people coming to her for answers to their spiritual problems. She never asked to be a spiritual leader; it just happened. She seemed to understand her neighbors and the problems they encountered on a daily basis. She could relate to the residents in way that a professional minister never could.[11]

Members of the Cliff Temple Church planted these congregations. Using the key church method, this church started 28 congregations in about 5 years. Cliff Temple is one of 300 Southern Baptist churches that have adopted this strategy since 1979. In the 18 years that elapsed until the writing of the book, these churches each average 600 Bible study attendance each week. By 1998, more than 165 Texas Baptist churches adopted the strategy. That represents 2% of Baptist churches in Texas, but those 165 churches account for 36% of new church starts among Texas Baptists.

2. Rick Warren: Crossing Economic Barriers

Rick Warren developed a fantastically successful fundamentalist Southern Baptist congregation in a wealthy Orange County suburb. He bridged the gap from rural Texas to “Saddleback Sam” with his cell phone, computer-driven life in the fast lane. His is a congregation of Hollywood executives and Valley Girls.[12]

Pastor Rick’s philosophy is based upon the common sense notion that to live for the sake of others, one needs to know where they are coming from. To catch fish, he says, you have to understand what they like to eat, where they hang out, when they are hungry, etc. This knowledge determines your equipment, bait and timing. Analogously, we have to study the ways and tastes of the people whom we are seeking to bring out of Satan’s realm and into God’s kingdom. We have to know where they hang out and how they think. Human culture has history, so we need to understand something of the traditions of this world.

There is no “one size fits all” in fishing. One evangelistic style will not work for everyone. Also, different fishers prefer different types of fish and fishing environments. Some prefer cold mountain streams, some rivers, some the surf and some the deep sea. But all fishers agree, we have to go where the fish are biting. A fish that isn’t feeding will not bite your hook. Work with the people who are receptive, not those who are rejecting the message. Find the one who is ready to eat—or it will eat someone else’s bait. Pick the ripe fruit; don’t force people to make decisions they are unprepared to make.

Learn to think like a fish and reach out in terms they understand. To discover the terms, don’t go into theorizing. Just go out and talk to people. Growing churches encourage their members to maintain friendships with unchurched people. Churches tend to stop growing after a few years, because believers tend to stop developing relationships with non-members. A quick remedy is to go out and meet a number of unchurched folks by going door-to-door, doing a survey of the unchurched.

In his initial door-to-door questionnaire, Warren asked five questions:

· What do you think is the greatest need in this area? (Icebreaker)

· Are you actively attending any church? (If yes, he said thank you and moved on.)

· Why do you think most people don’t attend church? (This is less threatening than asking why the person him/herself doesn’t attend.)

· If you were to look for a church to attend, what kind of things would you look for?

· What could I do for you? What advice can you give to a minister who really wants to be helpful to people?

He discovered the general reasons that the people in the community to which he was called to minister were not going to church. The answers are classic complaints against religion. The church is boring, especially the sermon. Church members are unfriendly to visitors. The church is more interested in my money than me. Finally, parents worry about the quality of the childcare the churches offer.

In a perfect marketing move, Warren and his small Bible study group sent out a mass mailing inviting the community to attend their inaugural service. In the letter they promised to be exactly the opposite of what the residents did not like. They would be a friendly group of neighbors offering lively, engaging worship with excellent childcare, and with no pressure to give money.

He called his the “church for the unchurched,” His commitment to break down all barriers and set aside traditions in order to bring in new guests is revealed in the fact that his letter did not mention Jesus or the Bible. He didn’t use his denominational name (Warren is a Southern Baptist), but a neutral name. It was humanistic, but Warren simply calls it being polite and respecting where people are at. Some church-going Christians who received the letter reacted negatively and accused him of faithlessness.

But Warren and his kitchen group persevered. Their determination was rewarded, as 75 people showed up by mistake at their rehearsal, one week prior to the actual first service, and 205 people attended the first service. Within ten weeks, 82 converted, and the Saddleback Community Church was off and running.

So Warren advises that the church adapt to the culture of the people, and “let your target determine your approach.” To do so, begin with the felt needs of the unchurched. Listen to their stories and answer the questions they have, not questions they are not asking. Warren, with Hybels, Aldrich and all mentors in the area of outreach, get down to the level of the lost people, and abandon any haughty attitude of separation from sinful folks. Fishing is messy and smelly, Warren reminds us. The Christian is called to understand and respond to people’s hang-ups and problems. Once you get real with their fears, they will begin to express their hopes.

He advises us to use more than one hook, just as a skilled fisher does. People like options, he points out. Offer, once you have the resources, multiple programs, multiple services at different times, multiple styles, even locations. Be ready to spend money. The kitchen Bible study group pooled their credit card resources and together went $6,500 in debt to launch their first service. The lesson for an established church is, cut the evangelizing and advertising budget last. If you are short of cash, cut something else. Money follows heart. As Jesus showed Peter, coins are in the mouths of the fish, especially when they are the owners.

3. Son City, Willow Creek, Calvary Chapel and more: Crossing the Generation Gap

Son City: 1972-75

Bill Hybels was 19 years old in 1972 when he encountered kids playing rock music in church, and liked what he heard so much that he joined the band. Dave Holmbo, the band’s 20-year old leader, however, saw that Bill was suited more to biblical teaching than rhythm guitar. The band, “Son Company,” inspired by the Christian rock music coming out of southern California, had more need of a Bible study than another guitarist.

And Bill did have a gift for connecting to kids his age. He would assign them topics about which to find Bible verses, and then design his teaching in response to the questions of the 80 kids in the band and Bible study. The band practiced on Sundays and the Bible study was mid-week. The music and empowerment they felt from the adult church of which they were a part, an independent church called South Park Church, clicked with the Holy Spirit, and the group jelled and grew by word of mouth among peer-networks. When Bill’s future wife encountered the group, she remembers it as “a page straight out of the book of Acts… a community of love.”[13]

God led them to save more of their peers, and they decided to get into evangelism. Before starting, they examined what they were doing and made plans to improve. The group criticized the church basement’s décor and Bill’s long Bible lessons. So they moved to a location nicer than the church basement, and Bill promised to limit his message to one main point, to give new folks “a manageable dose.”

Others said their friends would not be much inspired by singing “Kumbaya” and “Pass It On,” so, in a major move, they combined the rock band with the Bible study. One girl asked if she and her friends could create a skit. Another volunteered to make a slide show with a background of recorded music.

In working through this transition, Hybels recalled the experiences of his youth bringing guests to his hometown church. He recalled how the church had not helped their unchurched friends at all. Those friends had marital problems, or problems with substance abuse, and left the church with nothing more than a reconfirmation that Christianity has nothing to say.

He realized that traditional church is designed for the already convinced, not for new people, whose spirit it kills. To new people, church services “seem grossly abnormal” They designed their upgraded Wednesday night meetings, which they entitled, “Son City,” to penetrate the defenses and skepticism of their unchurched friends. It developed with the help of the Holy Spirit. 125 attended the first night.

Kids who became new Christians were funneled into a Sunday night meeting called “Son Village.” Bill started the first Son Village meeting teaching from a book of theology, but within five minutes stopped, apologized, and told them to come back next week to hear something relevant to their lives.

In addition to the arts skills imbued in the local high school, the kids were moved into a life of prayer for their friends. They held their own baptisms in a local park district swimming pool. Reflective of American youth culture, there was no distinction between leaders and followers. During bad weather, they held their Frisbee competitions in the church sanctuary. Son City would begin with sports to drain enough energy to enable the kids to settle down and listen to a Bible study.

The meeting started with an opening jam (“our version of a prelude”) and pop songs with altered lyrics. This was followed by a skit and multi-media slide show on the theme of the message. Then came the message, and then the group divided up into huddles for prayer and talk.

Again, the group was empowered by sharing ownership. All the kids had a role to play, making posters, sets, sound, lighting, photography and slides, cooking, phone calls, music, and so forth. “Core kids were forced to keep growing in order to shepherd the new kids they brought.” As a result of this volunteer spirit and peer affinity, “Hundreds of kids spent nearly every night at church or at a team activity.” And in the process they covered their own expenses.

Once they promoted a special program to which everyone would invite their friends. They did a good job and 300 were in attendance. Hybels read the crucifixion story, explained it, and asked those who wanted to receive Christ to stand up. So many did, and he was so nervous, that he thought they had misunderstood, and told them to sit down. He repeated it all, and asked again, and all 300 stood up.

At the end of the evening on his way out of the church, Bill broke down in tears, and heard God’s voice. He recalls the main point: “Where would those kids who received Christ tonight be if there hadn’t been a service designed just for them, a safe place where they could come week after week and hear the dangerous, life-transforming message of Christ?”

He pledged from that night to “always make sure that our strategy includes a regularly scheduled, high-quality, Spirit-empowered outreach service where irreligious people can come and discover that they matter to you and that Christ died for them.” This is a good definition of the “seeker service.”

“I remember walking into South Park for the first time, into a church that looked like the church I had walked away from years earlier. But the band was playing loud and kids were having a great time. It just floored me. Then I went to a Son City retreat, and everyone I met seemed to care about me. They seemed genuine. That weekend I heard a message about the Gospel and about true discipleship. I was ready to hear it. I said, ‘OK, this is it.’ And I trusted Christ.” This testimony is from one kid who joined the group and later became director of their wilderness camp.

Creating Willow Creek Community Church

One of Hybels’ Bible college professors, Gilbert Bilezikian, was a visionary believer enamored of the New Testament church. He challenged his class, “What if a true community of God could be established in the 20th century? It would transform this world and usher people into the next.” Bill reacted deeply, concluding, “Every other goal I had considered seemed to pale in comparison to the thought of establishing the Kingdom of God here on earth.”

Hybels had married, and felt it was time to transition from being a youth group to being a church. Maintaining their intense idealism, Lynne Hybels writes, “We dreamed about how to be the church.” After all, if we are going to build the Kingdom, “How…can we really make a difference in the world unless we reach the entire family?”

Son City had reached 1,200. The Hybels, with 100 from Son City who lived in another town, set out to start a full-fledged congregation. They fundraised with baskets of tomatoes to buy equipment (Hybels' family business was wholesale produce.) This was 1975 and he was 23 years old. Like Pastor Rick, they started door-to-door asking unchurched why they didn’t go to church and got the same answers as Warren.

The group rented a theatre, which they used as their Sunday worship space for six years. They rented a nearby warehouse for office space, conferences and midweek services. 30 people contributed all the necessary money, all going into debt in the process. The first service took place in October of 1975, with 125 attenders. “The music was loud, the drama was raucous (sometimes crossing the line of acceptability).”

Over the winter, most of the initial attenders fell off. People didn’t know what to make of it. Was it a youth group? A church? A performance? In the first winter, sometimes there were more on stage than in the seats. But they persevered and were rewarded with success. The Willow Creek Community Church, named after the theatre, now has some 17,000 members and wields enormous influence educating and training thousands of pastors and lay leaders from churches around the world, through its “Willow Creek Association.”

Oh, and by the way, back in 1975, they say, “It was rumored we were backed by the Moonies.”

Now, what about that southern California rock worship music? How did that arise? Living in Berkeley in the late 60s and early 70s, I met my share of what were called Jesus freaks. These were counter-culture youth who found their “natural high” in Jesus. The nascent Jesus culture didn’t make a huge impression in my community up north, but southern California youth gave Christianity a whole different reception.

Calvary Chapel

One pioneer in this field was Chuck Smith, a pastor in the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel, a Pentecostal denomination founded by Aimee Semple McPherson in the 1920s. He grew weary of the church growth programs pushed by his ICFG headquarters, and began to ignore them and do what he did best, teach straight from the Bible. (Unbeknownst to him, his secretary kept attendance tallies and reported them dutifully, and he won the growth competition!)

Nonetheless, constrained by denominational officiousness, he accepted a call to pastor the Calvary Chapel in Costa Mesa, California, a church of 25 members, “deeply divided and on the verge of disbanding.” He pulled the congregation together and was led to minister to the youth drifting around the beaches of his area—youth of the mid-sixties counter-cultural movement, in other words, hippies. He opened his home to them and then his church. He allowed them to come in their own garb and hairstyle. He let them play their own music. His sermons were simple expositions of the Bible, which was his gift. The kids filled the church. They tore down the walls of the building, and filled it to overflowing. “Every month or so, the church would double.”

To accommodate the crowds, they bought a parcel of land and set up a tent. The story is worth repeating: “The night before their first service in the tent, Smith and others set up sixteen hundred chairs and planned double services. ‘I looked out at that sea of folding chairs.’ Smith recalled. ‘I had never seen so many folding chairs in all my life!’ He asked an associate: ‘How long do you suppose it will take the Lord to fill this place?’ The associate looked at his watch and answered, ‘I’d say just about eleven hours.’ He was right. The next morning every seat was filled and people stood around the perimeter of the tent—for both services.”[14]

The movement’s impact gained national attention with its beach baptisms at Corona del Mar in 1970. Thousands of kids attended and enthusiastically spread their faith throughout the town. “They’re knocking on doors and telling people about Jesus and hugging them. …These kids would just sit down and talk to them about the Lord. They had no pretenses whatsoever.” Some householders called the police, thinking they had another Woodstock on their hands. The kids witnessed to the police. It took four pastors two and a half hours to baptize everyone who wanted it. Beach baptisms were held monthly for years, serving with volleyball and hot dogs along with a gospel message and baptism in the Spirit and the water.

Smith’s Calvary Chapel spawned dozens and now hundreds of daughter churches. The movement is rapidly expanding and includes numerous mega-churches, but the average size of a Calvary Chapel is 138. In a 1997 survey, it was found that 25% of the Calvary Chapels were established since 1995, and 3/4 were less than 12 years old. In 1996, there were 711 Calvary Chapels worldwide.[15]

Unintentionally consistent with the Key Church strategy, Calvary churches multiply through a natural indigenous approach. “Converts who feel a call to the ministry…are sent on their way with prayer and a blessing--but seldom with money.” Church planters have to figure out how to reach the people to whom they feel called to minister. Intuition and common sense, or, in Warren’s thinking, politeness, leads to respect for local people. Desire to avoid burnout leads to delegation of ministry tasks. Each church is separately incorporated and there is no reporting to higher-ups. The pastors of the mother and daughter churches have a mentoring relationship, and the up-line goes no further than one level.

Church growth seems largely a result of word-of-mouth at the beginning. As the church develops the means to support the pastor, many will market their teaching through audiotapes and books. Some churches give rise to bands that meet some commercial success, and indirectly serve as a witness to their church and others like them. Smith eschews seminary education, which only teaches people “how to keep their congregations down to a manageable size.”

Hope Chapel

In 1971, God spoke out loud to Ralph Moore in a restaurant, telling him to start a church in Redondo Beach. He targeted the community youth by setting up a hotline and putting up small signs saying, “Need help?” and providing a number to call. Within a few years he had 2,500 members worshiping in a former bowling alley. Hope Chapel grew out of the same beach culture as Calvary. As sociologist Donald Miller observed, “They seemed to be having fun! Their religion might be filled with commitment, but it was not at the expense of celebration. I didn’t sense, even among the youth, that they were there out of obligation.”

Miller observes that Hope Chapel stays under the Foursquare denominational umbrella, and this explains why its growth is slower than Calvary’s. Dealing with “archaic rules and bylaws,” Hope Chapels find that they more often ask for forgiveness than permission.

Vineyard Churches

The Vineyard was founded by Ken Gulliksen (1974) but has been led by John Wimber since 1982. Gulliksen was with Calvary Chapel when he started a Bible study group in his house. His testimony is typical of many. “I played guitar and sat on a stool and led some worship and taught the Bible, answered questions in homes, and at the end invited anyone who wanted to receive Christ to come from prayer, which they did in droves.”

Wimber was a professional musician who became a Quaker. He led home groups that became too charismatic for the Friends, and eventually connected with Calvary Chapel. He met success as a church planter, but was much more charismatic than they liked as well. At a meeting of several leaders to discuss this, Wimber met Gulliksen. Gulliksen and he clicked and combined their ministries. The Vineyards, that had been part of Calvary, separated. Gradually Wimber became the main leader of the Vineyard Christian Fellowship, taking with him 30 Calvary churches. These churches take a more spirit-filled approach, accepting speaking in tongues and healing.

By 1996, some 22 years after its founding, there were 579 Vineyard churches worldwide.[16] A glance at their websites reveals that the movement is healthy and growing in 2003. The “Vineyard Central” in Cincinnati, for example, has recently shifted from being a centralized church to being a “community of home churches.” From the central website one can link to about a dozen home churches, each with its own mission statement, ministry activities and community life. Once a week the home churches gather for “group large” (sic) worship.

The growth of local churches like the key churches, Saddleback, Willow, Calvary Chapel and the Vineyard reflects a new religious environment in America. One measure of a movement’s vitality is its number of new congregations. For example, at the end of his study of what he calls new paradigm churches, Miller states that his Episcopal church in southern California is doing reasonably well. In the last thirty years, in fact, it has grown in membership. Then he notes that it has not spun off any daughter churches. This tells the tale. Among Evangelical Protestant denominations, 58% were established after 1990. Among Roman Catholic churches in America, 5% were established after 1990.[17] As we turn to consider the Unification Church in America, we find that its record does not approach that of the Evangelical Protestants. In fact, it is worse than the Catholics.


Lessons from the Growing Churches

I will summarize what can be learned from the growing churches whose stories we have just read.

The most essential lesson is that thriving churches have found the way to give the members ownership. They do this through respecting local planning, local styles of and decisions about worship, local priorities based on the community’s felt-needs, and reliance upon local funding. If people are enabled to make the decisions, people are willing to pay the costs involved. This exemplifies the principle of reciprocity.

An immediate spin-off of empowering members’ ownership is the idea of gifts-based ministry. If they are given the ball to run with, then activities, which can develop into ministries, will arise from the members out of their interests, gifts and needs. In other words, members who are inspired by a godly vision and supportive community will bring their best to the table. Those who love sports will offer leadership in that area, and so forth. Then it is up to the church leadership to provide training, validation, moral support and encouragement. The leadership should also provide an overarching vision to integrate and align the variety of offerings members make, to create one body.

Thriving churches affirm the principle that “all religion is local religion.” Spiritual life guided from a distance does not energize a community the way that hands-on, tangible activity does. So the successful church applauds local success. In his analysis of the characteristics of the contemporary society, McIntosh writes, “many prefer to focus their ministry efforts in local arenas, where they feel they have more control and can see the results of their work…Churches can focus on the needs in their immediate neighborhoods and the concerns important to their community.”[18]

The lesson for national organizations is to let churches strengthen their roots locally. If God so wills it, the local churches will impact the larger level from below. A small church in Birmingham, Alabama, impacted the nation. A small church on Asuza Street in Los Angeles impacted the world. A small church in Wittenburg, Germany, revolutionized Europe. A small church on Pomnekkol[19] is impacting the world. Your small church can do the same.

Therefore, national and world leaders need to nurture, cultivate and be sensitive to innovation and creativity in the local context. Let each church be a frontline laboratory. One gift of the merit of the age is that we have the technology to translate local innovation into products and services that impact the nation and world. This is the plus aspect of the “popular culture” or “mass culture” pioneered in America.

Another advantage of local creativity is that the church can let problems, kinks and potholes be repaired on the local level. Mistakes made locally will not destroy a nation; mistakes made by a national or world leadership have devastating impact.

This philosophy naturally affirms what William James called the varieties of religious experience. Local developments will naturally take on uniqueness, just as each individual and family is unique. The national church should not fear this or look at it as dysfunctional, viewing the develop of local variations as “denominationalism.” Instead, we can look at it as creative adaptation for the sake of kingdom-building, as in the key church strategy. Christianity in America leads the world precisely because the churches on each corner can develop their own unique vision and mission for the sake of serving others.

So it is healthy to allow the different styles of worship, organization, dress, food, music, prayer and venue that emerge. One exemplary Unificationist leader in this regard is Michael Lamson, the church leader in Cameroon. When asked how he runs the worship services, he replied that he does not attend them. He perceives that his presence inhibits the members’ freedom to worship from their hearts. When he is there, they cannot help but try to please him, and feel self-conscious about their West African approach. He leads only the church holy days. His success has been such that Rev. Lamson now takes care of a region of nine countries.

When we allow new developments, we have to be ready to let go of old formats, properties, committees, programs and so forth. Therefore, thriving churches encourage congregations to rent instead of buy, and grow into larger spaces if they can. As Rev. Kevin Thompson points out, a baby shark will stay a few inches long if housed in a small aquarium. Perhaps your congregation is a minnow that will always be small. But perhaps it is a shark ready to grow magnificently if provided space to grow. Committees are discouraged, as are programs designed from above.

When we allow for program diversification and continual research and development, we cannot insist that all churches adopt any one program or curricula. National bodies can and should make the finest resources available, but, in the spirit of living for others, allow the consumer to select what is best for his/her purposes in the local setting.

One might ask, how can we save the world by focusing on local development? One aspect of the answer involves understanding the power of God. If we place the mission of saving the neighborhood first, God will take care of the big issues. Our Founder stated this when he encouraged his members to establish medium-sized churches of about 200 families, saying that if his mature members accomplished what he called the Tribal Messiah” mission in the society, then on that foundation he would be able to fulfill God’s will for the nation, world and spirit world. This was proven true only negatively, unfortunately, as we never accomplished the development of the local churches.

But to prove it positively, we can look at what others have done. Despite the emphasis upon acting locally, America’s local churches have global impact. Consider the changed political environment in America in the last generation. The nation is shifting toward the values regnant in the growing churches, for marriage and family, accountability in the community, faith-based solutions, ecological consciousness and local ownership. Consider Willow Creek’s impact in Germany (as but one instance), where, as of 1997, 30,000 Christian leaders had participated in Willow Creek Association conferences.[20] Consider the multi-billion dollar Christian music and book industry, all based upon what local folks were doing on their own streets. Look finally at the striking appearance of millions upon millions of American flags after 9/11, and the emergence of what was called our new national anthem, “God Bless America.”[21] I believe this expressed not just the vitality of Christian worship, but of the faith life of tens of thousands of non-Christian congregations as well.

America and the world can be influenced from any locality. To give two examples local to my setting, Barrytown, New York, which is so out of the way that we don’t even have cable television here as I write in the summer of 2003, a New York City financier hosted a campaign fund-raiser attended by Hillary Clinton, at his home here. In Red Hook, New York, my local village of about 10,000, lives a brother of the head of National Public Radio. We all should know the “six-degrees of separation” principle. Look at the impact made by J. K. Rowling, heralded incessantly as a successful single-mother (shades of Murphy Brown). I daresay that there has been no important movement in the history of Christianity that did not emerge out of a local setting, and no movement that endured without maintaining its vitality in the local setting.

It goes without saying that to succeed, any church needs to utilize the common church growth strategies. The first is to have a clear statement of mission, vision, values and strategies. Our society tends “to prefer churches that have a clear focus, a narrowly defined vision, and a commitment to accomplish their mission.”[22] Other strategies include incorporating small group ministry in some format or other, striving for excellence in worship and all programming, training members in relational witnessing techniques, valuing people above properties, talents above traditions, translating your teaching into a culturally-accessible message and musical style, and encouraging your members to get out of the holy huddle and build authentic friendships with new people.

In successful churches, God has to be at the center. They are unapologetic and yet they are polite and respectful of the listener’s sensitivities. We Unificationists witness to a God who has waited to get our attention for thousands of years; surely we can exercise discretion and patience in getting across His message during a worship service.

Successful churches strongly resist practices that lead to an in-grown congregation. Such practices include the use of in-house jargon which they call “Christianeze,” favoritism toward one’s family or friends, members only meetings (usually called “committees”), a focus on internal teachings and activities that enable the elect to get to Heaven and that no one else can understand (or wants to), and the Sunday morning guest-repellent, secret services.

Now, I know that there are supreme dynamics in the Unification movement that render many if not most of these behaviors impossible. This Sunday, I am participating in a service called the “Cheon Il Guk Holy Wine Ceremony,” which will include, among other things, three cheers for “the coronation ceremony for the kingship of God,” “the victorious cosmic parent and the parents of heaven and earth,” and “the Cheon Il Guk holy wine ceremony for registration in the nation of the fourth Israel.” The “instructions” that accompany this ceremony include a call for church growth, “intensification of effective neighborhood and community activities, and getting brothers and sisters and parents to receive the blessing… commencement of Hoodok clan churches.” We have a self-contradiction here, as our major activities prevent us from fulfilling this type of goal.

All I am saying is that this type of church and church service will not attract new believers in America as other churches do. If Unificationism gains acceptance in America with unintelligible practices, it will come by the supernatural intervention of God and the spirit world, based upon what Divine Principle calls conditions of indemnity. In that case, as the Founder once forewarned, masses of people will appear at the doors of Unification Churches and the leaders of the church will not know what to do with them.

Successful churches provide their new start-ups little or no funding from above and, as much as possible, limit nationally orchestrated programs that displace funds and members. They allow members to choose, or at least have a significant voice in choosing, their own leaders. They adopt preferential treatment to the family and the values that keep it together. Successful churches invest in ministry to their own youth, recognizing that their youth are in many ways part of another culture.

What are some implications of these strategies for the Unification movement? I believe that they instruct us to move away from our tendency toward apocalyptic expectations and toward our commitment to solving real present concerns centering on true love.

I believe that we would do well to drop concern about leaders’ positions and titles, names of organizations and about far-reaching organizations in general, and instead focus on “religious education for [people’s] children and some kind of religious experience that helps them make sense of their own lives.”[23]

I believe that we learn that the core of God’s work is the church, the community of blessed couples in worship and service. This would imply that other organizations, per se, are offshoots and are not primary. No business should compete with the church and Family Federation’s salvific mission and authority. Para-church organizations should define their mission and their relationship with the church clearly. Most of our para-church organizations are ministries carried out to express the love and vision of the body of True Parents. Their root is in the church. We can avoid our typical confusion and redundancy of organizational purposes and goals, and the confusion we generate in society, by this clarification.

This brings up the question of conversion to “our church.” We proudly proclaim that we have converted no Christians or people of other faiths, even as our churches fall into disrepair and our members are impotent in winning the souls of their relatives and neighbors. Yet it is clear that Reverend Moon intends that all our friends, now anointed as Ambassadors for Peace, receive the marriage blessing, understand the teachings and share them with others. Beyond that, they can worship in their own house of faith and carry on their particular cultural traditions. They have liberty as believers. What I might be said to be describing here is a non-denominational Unificationism, or a multi-form Unificationism. Perhaps Unificationists have been too tight with themselves and too loose with others. Hence the members are constricted by too many boundaries, and separated from society, and their friends are left floating with too boundaries. What I am describing, I believe, is moving toward balance. As Unificationists gain ownership, they will be able to give it to others.

The empowerment of members calls the leadership to equip lay ministers (i.e., all the members) in the core Unification ministries. These include parenting skills, marriage skills, church growth skills, small group leadership, skills in media and the arts, and application in congregational life, worship support and leadership, relational evangelism, and personal outreach ministries to people of diverse faiths and cultures.


Application in the Unificationist Context

The Reverend Sun Myung Moon has always expected his movement to grow. He has envisioned becoming the largest faith body in the world. He foretold a Pentecostal enthusiasm that would bring so many people knocking on Unification Church doors that his leaders would not be able to handle them. He has expected that his lay missionaries would be able to convert hundreds of people within months if not weeks, and that hundreds of thousands of Christian clergy would follow his teachings. At the very minimum, members are expected to bring in 84 new disciples within their first seven years in the church.

This was to have come through a regimen of sacrifice and hardship on the part of the pioneering first generation for the sake of creating a stable church and even nation to be developed by the next generations. I joined in the Oakland Unification center that grew from 3 people in 1971 to several hundred within the decade, in the process sending out thousands of missionaries. That was in California, but such growth was not limited to the West Coast. When I moved to Durham, New Hampshire, in 1973, our group numbering seven in May grew to 40 by August. Twenty-one of the 40 were dedicated to the teachings enough to move into the center.

This growth rate, accomplished on the basis of prayer, fasting, all-night vigils, and continual witnessing and teaching, equals or surpasses that of any Christian start-up. Knowing this was only the first step, the Founder wisely shifted strategy in the late 1970s from a youth movement to a family church.[24] Instead of street and campus witnessing, they began to create home churches. “Once your Cain home church is completed,” Father Moon said, “…you will go to your home town and form your Abel home church centering on your relatives and family. Once you come to that point you will not have to do the difficult work of MFT or witnessing because you will have graduated from all that… our children won’t have to have MFT training or witness door-to-door.”[25]

That is, success at building healthy and growing church communities would render street activities unnecessary. Hybels, Warren, and key church missionaries began by going door-to-door, and Hybels’ group did door-to-door fundraising. But they managed to graduate from that and develop settled church communities. Some of these churches, by the way, are able to generate more revenue from one location than Unificationists do from the entire United States. The Unificationist home church effort did not bear the expected fruit, and they have reverted to street witnessing and team fundraising. Contrary to the Founder’s hopes, Unificationists now are in the process of standardizing street witnessing and fundraising as de rigueur for their offspring.

Father Moon foretold that this would indeed happen to those who failed to create settled local churches: “Unless you fulfill home church yourself, however, your mission will be handed down to your children with even greater suffering.” He envisioned as the worse scenario that in which some members would succeed and some would not: “Then there will be two separate worlds, the world of those children who must do home church in place of their parents, and the world where people are rejoicing over the true family and true ideal home. God does not want to see that division happen.” The division in fact didn’t happen, but not because everyone succeeded, but because everyone failed at building local churches. This reversed the hopes of the Founder, who said, “I want to see you welcomed in your hometowns and living in happy families. Do your utmost to bring the completion of that goal.”[26] As an elder Unificationist in America, I observe that my children are in a position to take on the local church mission that I never accomplished. It is painful to admit that few of our offspring desire to create such churches.

Today the Unification Church leadership in Korea and Japan are explicit that local church development is vital to their future. The members in both nations are expected to launch and manage small groups called “Hoondok churches.” The Japanese headquarters has a list, at least, of 400,000 such churches existing in Japan.[27] This is taking place under a rubric that, unfortunately, translates extremely poorly: “breakthrough and destroy (or defeat) the neighborhood”! Non-Korean members need to realize that this militant terminology actually means evangelism. If we search the Founder’s speeches, we see that the meaning of “destroy” or “defeat” is similar to the Christian usage of “slain,” as a rebirth in Christ. “There should be a family in that neighborhood—the defeated family. The mother and father have to believe Heavenly Father absolutely; they have to love sons and daughters like Heavenly Father loves the mother and father. We have to love our neighbors and the nation which is connected…”[28]

Father Moon does call for grassroots initiative and autonomy: “the standard of activity is not in the province. It is the leaders of the district and the neighborhood.[29] “The National Federation itself is not a problem. The problem is how to educate the district and the neighborhood and have it sink in… Everything comes into the district and the neighborhood.”[30] His challenge is to create the environment in which Unificationists put that into practice.

Some might view such teachings as Christians have viewed the Sermon on the Mount, as counsels of perfection to be achieved by future generations. Perhaps growth is impossible for the Messiah’s movement during his lifetime. The Unificationist confronts the problem of Jesus’ movement not finding success during Jesus’ lifetime. Jesus is our primary historical referent for the work of the True Parents and, as did Jesus, they endure nothing but suffering and rejection from the fallen world, which is “not hospitable to the purity of Christ.” Some say that it is inevitable that the Messiah’s movement will be small and growth will come later. I have three things to say here.

One, in addition to Jesus, there are two other historical referents for the Messiah’s course, Jacob and Moses. Jesus died a rejected man, but Jacob and Moses achieved a good deal of substantial success, establishing tribal and national foundations.

Two, Jesus wanted to grow his movement, and at one point apparently did have a large number of followers (e.g. John 6, the “loaves and fishes” events, the triumphal entry into Jerusalem). Jesus was not supposed to have been in the position of an itinerant miracle worker dependent upon John the Baptist. His original course was to marry and create a true family and clan. Then with John’s support, Jesus could have provided a model for the larger society, in particular the Jewish people, bestowed the blessing and progressed to reach the national leaders. Controversy, a small following, and the way of the cross is not a predestined outcome for the Messiah. The Divine Principle prophesies popular acclaim for the Second Advent as possible if men and women fulfill their portion of responsibility.

Three, it has been said that it is a greater challenge to mount a popular movement for a radically innovative leader than for one trading on thousands of years of cultural development. This is to ignore the fact that Jesus’ radical movement did actually succeed. Once the disciples were emboldened enough to speak out at the cost of their lives, they turned the Jerusalem mob that had called for Jesus’ crucifixion into a mob two months later that received the Holy Spirit. At that point, the disciples had taken ownership. It would seem that the Holy Spirit bestowed ownership in a way that Jesus did not.

I am convinced that doctrine is not the main determinant of health and growth. All churches have unfamiliar doctrines in the eyes of an unchurched person, but some win new people and some don’t. Growth relates to doctrine only insofar as that doctrine allows or prevents the group from opening out into its culture and making a common base with the people for the sake of uniting in oneness based upon a clear, life-giving, God-centered purpose. Health and growth result when doctrine leads to personal ownership and liberates believers to divest their home culture and personal tastes, with wisdom, for the sake of spreading the saving word.


A Call for Evangelism in America

In this generation Unificationists have planted no new churches in America. Their evangelical and educational programs are weak and they are racing against time to develop effective means to bequeath the richness of their tradition to their youth. Donald Miller writes that the number of young leaders is a measure of a church’s vitality. Ahlen and Thomas write that one can predict a church’s future by the number of indigenous leaders. The Unification Church has difficulties on both counts, as native-born Americans comprise a shrinking minority of its leadership, and a small segment of its youth seem poised to assume church leadership roles. At the same time, the core first-generation members have a high degree of responsiveness to the Founder and for short-term activities. There are 10-20 years of active life left in this generation.

McIntosh presents five models for American churches facing a generational shift such as this. The “blended model” combines old and new styles into one format. The “seeker model” is driven by local demographic research, and develops new strategies based upon the needs of the target audience. The “multiple-track model” offers old and new style church side by side, separately for different segments of the congregation. The “satellite model” is what was described above as “key church.” Finally, the “rebirthed model” is to just stop the old style and adopt the new one.

At this point I would like to speak on the level of personal convictions, recommendations and hopes. I believe that the Unification Church needs to view church growth as a specific mission of the highest priority. What model would I recommend? I have tried to create a blended model and found it ineffective. Our old style and the new style are very far apart, and so much energy is consumed in making the blend that one never gets a chance to do ministry. We lack the congregational and leadership depth to develop a multiple-track model. The seeker and rebirthed models have political ramifications, in that they demand that an entire congregation shift its paradigm, which requires approval from above, based on promises of successful performance, and it becomes a political football. The model I recommend is the satellite or key church model.

Ahlen and Thomas observed that the vast majority of new worshiping communities launched in the 1990s are not being started by “denominational systems,” which was thought the best way in the 1950s. That is, they are not getting started by a headquarters staff assigned to build new churches. New churches are being started by “entrepreneurial individuals” working on their own or out of existing congregations.[31]

Following this model, the Unification Church should encourage couples or small groups, who feel the call, to plant churches with their own resources centered on God. There would be no other demand made of them or responsibility that they have from the movement. They would work wherever and however they so choose. Miller observes that “the real innovative ideas for reshaping the church will come from people working in the trenches, addressing the needs of people in their churches and communities, not from denominational officials.”[32] The Unification Church/Family Federation can grow the same way all churches grow in America. It has laity gifted with a spirit of love and sacrifice, and the ability to teach. Young people joined the Unification Church to create the Kingdom of Heaven on earth, not for careers in business or administration. Blessed families on their own or in small groups, who want to build a family church centered on True Parents, should be, in A. George Stallings’ words, anointed, appointed, approved, and let go.

We have specific organizations to accomplish specific missions. There is no reason we could not identify growing the church as a specific mission. What the larger church can provide, and what it failed to provide during the home church era and the “hometown” era, is effective training. In addition to the Founder’s words, members need access to seminars and resources. Our people need to know how other churches are doing the job of kingdom building.

Another change from past eras would be freedom from prescriptive management. This coincides with the church’s stated commitment to education. No budget should be provided nor management imposed. It is likely that informal networking and association building would come about, and that eventually an organization would emerge, but it should emerge organically, or, as Father Moon puts it, “autonomously.”

If what other churches are developing is any indication, we should expect the unexpected, the unexpectedly wonderful and amazing. One recalls the surge of energy in 1997, when blessed families were liberated to do home blessings locally. Instead of moving toward a national stadium event, the satellite model would focus on training couples to build up local family groups and eventually congregations.

This initiative would serve to liberate the members who feel the call to act on the anointing our Founder has already given. The leadership would validate, respect and spiritually protect the home church, hometown mission of the blessed central family, make it a providential priority, allow people to do it when, where and how they are given by God to do, and equip those who are called so that they can find success. This is the only way we can develop indigenous worship and community life in America. And only through indigenous worship and community life can the Unification Church hope to grow in America.



[1] E.g., Exposition of the Divine Principle, pp. 4-5, 98-99, 340.

[2] Gary L. McIntosh, Three Generations: Riding the Waves of Change in Your Church (Grand Rapids: Fleming H. Revell, 1995), p. 17; USA Today, September 23, 2002, p. 2A.

[3] This paper deals with social causes of church growth, and does not comment on causes related to personal motivation or attributed to the mysterious work of God in history.

[4] McIntosh’s Three Generations is a good introductory work in the field. Timothy Wright presents a valuable discussion on the impact on worship in A Community of Joy: How to Create Contemporary Worship (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1994).

[5] Timothy Ahlen and J. V. Thomas, One Church, Many Congregations: The Key Church Strategy (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1999), passim.

[6] Ibid., p. 12.

[7] Ibid., p. 32.

[8] Ibid., p. 35.

[9] Ibid., p. 42.

[10] Tyler Hendricks, Family, Church, Community, Kingdom: Building a Witnessing Church for Working Families (New York: HSA-UWC, 2000), pp. 103-4.

[11] Ahlen and Thomas, One Church, Many Congregations, pp. 64, 77-78.

[12] See chapter 11 of Rick Warren, The Purpose Driven Church (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1995).

[13] This narrative was derived from Lynne and Bill Hybels, Rediscovering Church: The Story and Vision of Willow Creek Community Church (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1995), Ch. 1. It describes a church’s youth ministry as, in effect, a satellite congregation.

[14] Randell Balmer, Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory: A Journey into the Evangelical Subculture in America, 3rd Edition (New York: Oxford University Press, 2000), pp. 19-21.

[15] Donald Miller, Reinventing American Protestantism: Christianity in the New Millennium (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998) pp. 194-96.

[16] Ibid.

[17] Hartford Institute for Religion Research, published in The Citizen (Rhinebeck, NY) 1/7, (Fall 2002).

[18] McIntosh, Three Generations, p. 105.

[19] The hill on which Reverend Moon built his first church in South Korea, circa 1951, out of mud bricks and discarded military materials.

[20] Richard Nyberg, “Willow Creek’s Methods Gain German Following,” Christianity Today, April 26, 1999.

[21] I would add, by the way, that all religions in America find success through the methods described in this paper and that the “God Bless America” enthusiasm was multi-religious, while Christian at the core.

[22] Ibid., p. 100, citing a Lilly Endowment Occasional Report

[23] McIntosh, Three Generations, p. 149.

[24] I use the term “wisely” advisedly. In fact, the home church strategy not only failed to bear fruits, but its aggressive implementation disrupted the witnessing strategies that were bearing fruit. Its aggressive implementation was unwise, as was the “either-or” mentality between street and home-church methods. Nonetheless, the wisdom in Reverend Moon’s sense that the demographics of his American membership in the late 70s dictated their transition into marriage and family life is worth affirming. The promotion of the home church method as an alternative to street witnessing was appropriate. The Willow Creek founders made the transition from a youth movement to a family movement successfully around the same time, in the sense that they continued to expand. For various reasons the Unificationists did not.

[25] “Cain home church” refers to a local ministry carried out in a mission field, apart from one’s hometown; “Abel home church” refers to a local ministry carried out in one’s hometown, beginning with one’s own family and relatives.

[26] Reverend Sun Myung Moon, Home Church: The Words of Reverend Sun Myung Moon (New York: HSA-UWC, 1983), pp. 185-86.

[27] Author’s interview with an official at the headquarters of the Japanese church. He went on to say, “These are followers, not leaders… They feel unloved and unsupported… They have no feeling of ownership; they just have a title… They are tired of Sunday service week after week… Members are not opened outward, as we need in the nation of God… Our faith is in the head, but the heart is lonely and feels so much pressure.” (author’s notes)

[28] Sun Myung Moon, Way of Unification (New York: FFWPUI, 1998), Part 2, pp. 123-24.

[29] Ibid., p. 126.

[30] Ibid., p. 118.

[31] Ahlen and Thomas, One Church, Many Congregations, p. 12.

[32] Miller, Reinventing American Protestantism, p. 188. Miller continues, “I believe that denominations would be well served by radically decentralizing their organizational structures—abandoning central offices and locating themselves in local churches.” This resonates with Reverend Moon’s periodic calls to close down his church headquarters and disperse his leaders throughout the local churches.