It was established in the Limited Enthusiasm with Demographics model that if the reproduction potential of the enthusiasts was below the extinction threshold then the church would eventually disappear through its losses. Such a church was not reproducing enthusiasts well enough for them to survive, a situation made harder by losses. To rectify the situation the church would either have to stem losses (though this may not be enough) or increase its reproduction potential.
However the renewal model shows there is a third option - renew existing believers and make them enthusiasts, perhaps for the first time.
The graph below shows a church with a hopelessly inadequate reproduction potential declining fast (curve 2). The reproduction potential is so poor even stemming losses would not avoid extinction. Introducing renewal (curve 1) shows the church growing steadily, even though the reproduction potential from new converts is still inadequate. The extra supply of enthusiasts from existing church members, not only gives growth in the pool of enthusiasts, but provides enough converts for growth.
For many churches renewal - bringing their members to life again - is a better option than trying to make their new converts better evangelists. In this sense Renewal, not Evangelism, is the key to Church Growth.
Revival Through Renewal
Results of the Limited Enthusiasm Model with Renewal
Renewal is the process which makes enthusiasts out of existing inactive believers.
In addition to the basic principles of revival growth, additional principles govern revival growth assisted by the presence of renewal:
- 1. Renewal can help avoid church extinction.
- 2. Renewal can promote revival growth.
- 3. Revival growth from renewal may be delayed.
- 4. Small things make a big difference.
- 5. Growth through renewal needs a critical mass of enthusiasts and church members.
The term "revival growth" means rapid exponential growth in the numbers in church, and the number of enthusiasts. It is similar to the epidemic phase of the spread of a disease.
Renewal can also turn moderate growth into revival growth. The church in the following graph is more or less in equilibrium (curve 2)- its reproduction potential over the extinction threshold, but under the revival growth threshold. Introducing renewal turns this situation into dramatic growth (curve 1) even though the reproduction potential from converts is unchanged. The church stabilises at a much higher equilibrium value. Often revivals come from renewal movements within churches - the reviving work starting among existing believers first.
Clearly renewal movements should not be dismissed just because they do not see immediate growth in the church. Methodism started as a renewal movement within the Church of England in the 1730s. Although there were numerous outbreak of revival during that century the size of Methodism, and the rest of the Christian church was still moderate by the end of the century. The revival had not produced dramatic growth. Most of the growth occurred in the first 50 years of the 19th century, well after the first generation had gone. Revivals, especially those that come from renewal movements, can start small.
It is possible that the renewal movements in the UK, that started in the late 1960s may yet lead to substantial growth. Although they have led to growth in the independent and house churches, and to renewed churches within denominations, there is as yet little impact on the total church attendance. However the rapid growth may yet happen and even rapid revival growth, as a result of these movements. There are already signs of the whole church growing again in the London area where these types of churches are strongest.
A small change in the amount of renewal in the church not only can avoid extinction, or bring revival growth, but can make a large change in the final outcome of the church. This is especially true when the reproduction potential is inadequate and the church is using renewal to make up for its lack of enthusiasts. To quote The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell: "small things make a big difference".
The next graph shows a church where the renewal potential is increased by less than 1%. What was a slow extinction is changed into slow growth followed by a rapid revival. The difference between a church extinct, and a church over 50% of the community. Small and persistent renewal movements should not be despised they could just be enough to tip the church into dramatic growth.
When renewal is used to make up for an inadequate reproduction potential there is no guarantee that a church will be turned from decline to growth. in addition to having renewal it must also be of a sufficient size, and have sufficient enthusiasts, to tip into growth. For given reproduction and renewal potentials, there a critical masses of believers, and enthusiasts, needed for growth to occur.
The following graph shows the critical mass for enthusiasts in a church. The lower three curves have the initial number of enthusiasts under the critical mass of enthusiasts. The upper three the initial value is above. Clearly only those with a sufficient number of enthusiasts to start with see the growth. A similar effect occurs in the number of believers in the church.
Thus renewal is more effective if enthusiasts are concentrated together in one place. Likewise renewal is more effective in larger churches, although this must be balanced against possible increased opposition - not included in the renewal model.
Again, for a small change in the number enthusiasts, just taking it above the critical mass, there is a huge change in outcome in the church. A small increase in enthusiasts, or church size