The Role of "Perfecting" in Donald McGavran's Church Growth Thought
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ABSTRACT THE ROLE OF "PERFECTING" IN DONALD MCGAVRAN'S CHURCH GROWTH THOUGHT Matthew Donald Spradlin, Ph.D. The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, 2012 Chairperson: Dr. Charles E. Lawless, Jr. This dissertation examines the role of "perfecting" in Donald McGavran's church growth thought. Chapter 1 introduces McGavran and the need for a study of his "perfecting" concept. Chapter 2 briefly gives McGavran's background and describes his discovery and definition of "church growth." This chapter also explores the experiences in McGavran's own life which shaped his understanding of the perfecting task and motivated its incorporation into his church growth thought. Chapter 3 theologically defines the terms "discipling" and "perfecting" as McGavran understood and used them. McGavran's rationale for using the term "perfecting" is examined, as well as why he chose the term perfecting as opposed to other terms. The chapter includes an analysis of McGavran's understanding of the relationship between discipling and perfecting. Chapter 3 concludes with a critique of the helpfulness of McGavran's choice and use of the term "perfecting." Chapter 4 is an analysis of the church growth thinking that distinctively comprised McGavran's understanding and approach to perfecting. McGavran's belief that missions is to be evangelistic and ecclesiocentric is outlined and analyzed, and how it affected his understanding of the perfecting task. Chapter 5 examines McGavran's methodology in relation to perfecting. The role of worship, Bible study, prayer, and evangelism in relation to perfecting and church growth is described. Chapter five focuses upon the role of perfecting in the training of workers, and how McGavran's methodological approach to perfecting differed from the missiology of his day. Chapter 6 evaluates the role of perfecting in Donald McGavran's church growth thought, determining that it was shaped by his conviction that biblical perfecting teaches and produces church growth. Chapter 6 concludes that McGavran's understanding of the role of biblical perfecting in church growth is helpful in developing a perfecting strategy for effective missions and ministry.