Reactivation of Believers
The central hypothesis of the limited enthusiasm model is that conversion growth in the church is driven by a sub-group of church members called enthusiasts. New converts become new enthusiasts. The renewal model extends this model to allow inactive believers to be “renewed” in the faith and become enthusiasts. The analogy is with the spread of a disease, where the enthusiasts are “infected” believers passing the faith on to unbelievers who catch the “disease” of religion and infecting inactive believers, enabling them to be agents in conversion.
The model predicts a threshold of revival growth that depends on two factors: the size of the community that remains unconverted; and the rate at which inactive believers are renewed. The more renewal, the lower the revival threshold and the more likely rapid conversion growth can occur. Renewal of faith is a key driver of church growth.
System Dynamics Model
The renewal assumption modifies the existing limited enthusiasm model by adding an extra flow from inactive believers to enthusiasts – see the stock-flow diagram, figure 1.
Growth is driven by the reinforcing loop R1, where enthusiasts are reproducing themselves through conversion. The feedback: more enthusiasts, more conversions, more enthusiasts, gives exponential growth.
Growth is opposed by B1, which reduces conversions, thus slowing the exponential growth. When conversions have been reduced below the number who lose enthusiasm, loop B2, the number of enthusiasts starts to decline, and therefore church growth slows and eventually halts.
The production of enthusiasts is enhanced directly by the renewal, loop R2, which, in turn, accelerates conversion growth. The production of enthusiasts is also enhanced indirectly through loop R3, where those who lose enthusiasm are open again to renewal. Renewal is opposed by B3, as the pool of potential inactive believers depletes.
For further model details see Assumptions and Parameters.
Results of the Limited Enthusiasm with Renewal Model
It is possible for a church with an inadequate reproduction potential to see growth if there is sufficient renewal. However, such a recovery depends on a critical mass of church size and a critical mass of enthusiasts. Thus, even a church that would have been under the extinction threshold can have revival growth if there is sufficient renewal. Renewal, not evangelism, is the key to church growth.
Curve 1 in Figure 1 shows a church with an inadequate reproduction potential for growth. Rather than having a revival, the church is heading for a slow extinction. However, adding a small amount of renewal avoids extinction in the short term, then brings rapid revival in the long term. When enthusiasts make enthusiasts out of inactive believers, significant growth is possible.