Academic Programs 

Deep Growth: Empowering and Enabling 
Mission and Ministry in Mainline Churches
January Intersession 2004

Many people today believe that most numerically growing churches are conservative in character and theology, and that most mainline denominations and 'liberal' churches are in terminal decline. Utilizing some of the latest research and scholarship, this course sets out to challenge that assertion. Using a range of materials (stories, scripture, problem- posing education, practical theology, etc), the course develops theologies, strategies and vision for empowering and enabling mission and ministry in mainline churches. So, can there be a Church Growth Movement for liberal denominations? Can mainline churches 'do' evangelism? By challenging the prevailing myths of decline, this course offers imaginative patterns for developing deep growth - both spiritual and numerical.

Meeting Day, Time and Dates: 
January 12-16 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Martyn Percy
Adjunct Professor of Theology and Director of the Lincoln Theological Institute for the Study of Religion and Society, University of Sheffield, England

Contact Information:
(860) 509-9500

Course Syllabus

Topics to be covered:

The course will address a range of issues and questions:

1.     Examining what is meant by ‘deep growth’.
2.     Assessing the real state of religion in North America, gleaning insights from the latest writers and thinkers in the field.
3.     Taking an adventure with the discipline of practical theology, to see how it can help in ministerial reflection and practice.
4.     Exploring empowering theologies of education, including looking at some examples of problem-based learning.
5.     Examining how modern ecclesiology and congregational studies can help churches in their mission.
6.     Challenging some of the commonly held assumptions that inhibit imagination and change in church life.
7.     Questioning the context in which congregations find themselves, thereby suggesting potential new patterns of ministry.
8.     Acquiring theological skills that will equip ministers to understand their work in new ways.


Rationale for and goals for the course:

The rationale for the course is to provide a context in which mission and church growth can be discussed, debated and studied.  Typically, such areas of expertise are thought to be monopolized by conservative and evangelical churches.  However, this course seeks to offer perspectives and resources that ‘fit’ broader theological and ecclesiological outlooks.

The goals for the course include:

  • Discovering patterns of growth in mainline churches – which are sometimes hidden or ignored.   

  • Identifying deep growth, as congregations and individuals seek to engage and develop their faith within a complex society.  

  • Exploring the key thinkers in the field, who can enable deeper reflection on the nature and purpose of the church.  

  • Studying the theory and practice of mission within a broad theological and ecclesiological context.  

  • Transforming the way in which the ‘church growth’ debate and mission is viewed.  

  • Gaining a new understanding of mission and ministry – fresh insights that both consolidate and challenge.


The mode of delivery will be through:

  • lectures  

  • seminars  

  • problem-based learning  

  • stories/imagination  

  • workshops 

  • reviews and presentations

A special feature of the course will be:

1.     A daily problem-based learning exercise
2.     A daily reading of a relevant children’s story relating to growth, followed by discussion.
3.     A daily meditation on a relevant painting/art work.
4.     A daily seminar that centres on education and growth.
5.     Specific opportunities to develop practical strategies.
6.     Interactive lectures.
7.     A class-led debate on religion and American culture
8.     A seminar on research methods.

The mode of assessment will be through one or more of the following:

  • an essay

  • literature reviews  

  • class presentation

Each assessment will be negotiated individually.  Participants will normally be expected to undertake at least one class presentation that will either consist of a literature review or facilitating a seminar.

What participants said about Professor Martyn Percy’s last course:

  • ‘excellent…the course passed too quickly.’ 

  • ‘very stimulating – an excellent course.’  

  • ‘provocative material…I learned a great deal.’   

  • ‘at the risk of gushing, I would say the course was fantastic!’

Canon Dr Martyn Percy: Brief Biography

Dr Martyn Percy is Director of the Lincoln Theological Institute for the Study of Religion and Society.  He is based at the University of Manchester, England, where he teaches Theology and Modern Ecclesiology.  His most recent book is Salt of the Earth: religious Resilience in a Secular Age (SAP, 2002).  Other books published include Power and the Church: Ecclesiology in an Age of Transition (Cassell, London, 1998, h/b), Words, Wonders and Power: Understanding Contemporary Christian Fundamentalism and Revivalism (SPCK, London 1996), Richard Hooker: An Introduction (DLT), and Intimate Affairs: Sexuality and Spirituality in Perspective (DLT, London, 1997).  From 1999, he is the Editor of Modern Believing.  Some of his edited volumes include Fundamentalism (SPCK, 2002), Previous Convictions: An Anatomy of Conversion (SPCK, 2000), Calling Time: Religion and Change at the Turn of the Millennium (Sheffield Academic Press – SAP, 2000), Order and Organisation (SAP, 2000), and Restoring the Image: Essays in Honour of David Martin (SAP, 2001). 

Dr Percy is a Canon of Sheffield Cathedral, and the author of numerous academic articles.  In September 1999, he was appointed as a Council Member and Director of the Advertising Standards Authority for the UK.  He is a regular contributor to Radio 4, The Independent, The Guardian and other media.  Dr Percy has studied at the Universities of Bristol, Durham and London.  He was formerly Director of Studies and Chaplain at Christ’s College, Cambridge University, and Sydney Sussex, Cambridge.  Born in Blackburn in 1962, he was ordained in 1990, having previously worked in publishing.  He is married to Emma, an Anglican priest, and they have two boys, Ben and Joe.  Martyn has served as an Adjunct Professor for Hartford Seminary since 2002. 

Recommended Books:

* Ammerman, N. (et al) [Eds], Studying Congregations, Abingdon, 1998
Barna, G., Growing True Disciples, Waterbrook, 2001
Becker, P., Congregations in Conflict, CUP, 1999
Countryman, W., The Truth About Love, SPCK, 1995
Dowdy, T. & Macnamara, P., Religion: North American Style, 1997
Forbes, D. & Mahan, J., Religion and Popular Culture in America, 2000
* Foster, C., Educating Congregations, Abingdon, 1994
Freire, A., The Paulo Freire Reader, Continuum, 2001
Geertz, C., The Interpretation of Cultures, Basic Books, 1973 
* Hopewell, J., Congregation, Fortress, 1987
Killen, P. & De Beer, J., The Art of Theological Reflection, Crossroad, 1999
* Kinast, R., Let Ministry Teach, Liturgical Press, 1996
Lewis, H., Christian Social Witness, Cowley, 2001

Lyon, D., Jesus in Disneyland, Polity, 2000

Miller, D., Re-inventing American Protestantism, California UP, 1997
Murray, P., A Journey with Jonah, Columba, 2002
Olson, M., Moving Beyond Church Growth, Augsburg, 2002
Ott, E., Twelve Dynamic Shifts for Transforming Your Church, Eerdmanns, 2002
Packard, W., Evangelism in America, Paragon, 1998
Percy, M., Fundamentalism, Church & Society, SPCK, 2002
Percy, M., Previous Convictions, SPCK, 2000
Percy, M., Salt of the Earth, Sheffield Academic Press, 2002

Putnam, R., Bowling Alone, HarperCollins, 2000
* Sargeant, K., Seeker Churches, Rutgers, 2000

Saxbee, J., Liberal Evangelism, SPCK, 1997
Tamney, J., Resilience of Conservative Religion, CUP, 2002
Thomas, F., Spiritual Maturity, Fortress, 2002
Tyler-May, E., Homeward Bound, Basic Books, 1998
Vallet, R., Congregations at the Crossroads, Eerdmanns, 1998
Williams, P., Perspectives on American Religion and Culture, Blackwell, 2002

Woodward, J. & Pattison, S.,
The Blackwell Reader in Pastoral and
Practical Theology, Blackwell, 2000

* = Please read these before attending the course.

Daily Schedule

9am               1st Lecture
10am              Coffee
10.15am         2nd Lecture
11.15am         short break
11.30am         Seminar – Student-led
12.30pm         Lunch
1.30pm           Seminar/Exercises/Problem-based Learning
2.30pm           short break
2.45pm            3rd Lecture
3.45pm            Concluding Plenary – Storytime
4.00pm            End

Core Themes:

Monday:          Understanding Growth
Tuesday:          Theological Education for Congregations
Wednesday:     Practical Theology and Church Growth
Thursday:         Christianity and Contemporary American Culture
Friday:             Spirituality and Ministry

Friday afternoon will be given over to class-led presentations.

The Class-led Seminars will consist of the following: discussing one chapter per day of Charles Foster’s Educating Congregations (1994); students offering a critical review of one the books on the reading list.

Wednesday will feature the seminar on research methods.  Thursday will feature a class-led debate on religion and American culture.  


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