Abstract

This article aims to provide an academic founded answer to the question why it is imperative that con-siderations concerning church development should be grounded on a holistic ecclesiological thinking – and not only on the attempt to develop one or a selective range of church developing factors. The model (Fig. 1) serves both as a starting point for classifying four different approaches to church devel-opment thinking and practice, and as theoretical basis for a critical theological assessment of the cur-rent approaches to church development. Thus, the assessment is made in light of what Fig.1 calls the church’s double context and two dimensions, and it shows that all the four approaches captures im-portant ecclesiological and strategic issues concerning church development – but it also shows that the strength of each approach is their weakness too – namely one-sidedness. In light of a holistic ecclesio-logical thinking, each approach can be judged as reductionist, since they all restrict the congregation’s potential for development to a specific part of church life. The last part of the article argues for the importance of developing the church: a) both as a Spirit-made, unique entity and a «real» human com-munity, and b) as simultaneously biblically and historically rooted and culturally relevant. One main standpoint defended here is that the church’s theological dimension must never be detached from the sociological context – and vice versa. If this happens, it may have serious consequences – not only for views on the organization and management of the church, but also for the spiritual character of the church. Regarding the question of how one can conceive a congregation in the sense b) above, the article argues for what might be called a normative-contextual approach. This implies that the church always must relate itself to contemporary culture – and at the same time must show resistance to ele-ments in contemporary culture which conflict with essential biblical values.