Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics 4.2, 648.
“The true growth which is the secret of the upbuilding of the community is not extensive but intensive; its vertical growth in height and depth. If things are well—and there is no reason why they should not be—this is the basis. The numerical increase of the community indicates that it is also engaged in this very different increase. But the relationship cannot be reversed. It is not the case that its intensive increase necessarily involves an extensive. We cannot, therefore, strive for vertical renewal merely to produce greater horizontal extension and a wider audience. At some point and in some way, where it is really engaged in vertical renewal, it will always experience the arising of new Christians and therefore an increase in its constituency, but perhaps at a very different point and in a very different manner and compass from that expected. If it is used only as a means for extensive renewal, the internal will at once lose its meaning and power. It can be fulfilled only for its own sake, and then—unplanned and unarranged—it will bear its own fruits. As the communion of saints takes place, the dominant and effective force is always primarily and properly that of intensive, vertical and spiritual growth.”
Tuesday, September 08, 2009
Barth on Church Growth
So, I’m reading through Barth’s ecclesiology paragraphs in volume 4 of the Church Dogmatics, and I’m finding – as usual with Barth – some really good stuff. Here is one bit that I thought I would share. Barth is talking here about what it means to speak of the church’s growth. He has already explained that the church is not one organism, but that the metaphor of organic growth is helpful insofar as the church does extend itself out of its own internal resources (it being the body of Christ) rather than by means of external resources. Next comes the question of whether the church’s growth is extensive or intensive. Although Barth certainly affirms that the church adds new members, he is wary of what happens when this becomes a church’s focus. And so he gives us the following.