In short, yes, church growth is biblical, as is the concept of church development. However, I believe they represent two different ideas. Church growth is a more objective concept, measurable quite literally in numbers and square footage and there is evidence that God indeed is intentional in growing a church in these dimensions. Church development is a more subjective measure for it deals with concepts such as community, servant-leadership and discipleship. Again, however, the evidence – both practical and spiritua - l is clear that God intends churches to develop such community for the purpose of knowing Him, growing in faith and spreading the gospel.
For a look into God’s plan for the church universal – with regard to both growth and development - we oft refer to Acts Chapter two and explore the apostle’s interaction with the Holy Spirit and congregation. Acts 2:1-13 recounts the creation of the church with the coming of the Holy Spirit. Without the work of the Holy Spirit, there is no work of the church on earth. This is VERY clear. Human beings are incapable of creating and nurturing healthy, holistic and spiritual relationships. Only the power of the Holy Spirit allows us to live the model for relationship that we are given in The Christ.
The Christ provides the model for all relationship issues in His dealings with God the Father, His disciples, His church, and His flock. We are well served to incorporate the lessons of scripture into the structures of our own lives; but the energy to live as Christ commands, loving God with all of our hearts, soul, and mind, and loving our neighbors as ourselves, stems only from the Holy Spirit of God, our wonderful counselor. Because, as the apostle Paul writes, “our message of the gospel came to you not in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction.”
With regard to numbers, that is, the growth of the church as I defined it above, the power of the Holy Spirit inspired gospel to turn the hearts of men and women is clear. In Acts Chapter 2 verses 37 through 42, Peter preaches the gospel to a gathering crowd, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven;” the apostle proclaims, “…Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” The authors continues in verse 41, “So those who welcomed his message were baptized, and that day about three thousand persons were added.” From this scripture we learn that sheer numbers are not the true mark. We must ask, “How many salvations, baptisms, and new church members were there last year?”In other words, like in scripture, is God adding to the numbers?
So it is clear that the Spirit-inspired gospel message is indeed enough to turn hearts and add to the church. God will bless those people and churches who have the boldness to proclaim the gospel. As we continue in Acts, we are given information as to how and where the congregation is to live and worship together. Acts 2:46-47 is very direct in saying, “Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.”
How do we know that the lifestyle portrayed is anointed by God? We know because it is blessed by God as He, “added to their number those who were being saved." It is the intentional teaching of the word of God that turns the hearts of men and women; and it is the intentional living of it that sanctifies believers through true discipleship; and it is discipleship that lays the foundation for the mission of the church by equipping the brethren. It can be said that the chief and irreplaceable purpose of mission is church growth.