What types of churches are growing the fastest in Thailand and why? In the last post we saw that for various reasons the planting of new churches is the best form of evangelism in Thailand.
We ended that post with two questions.
One of them was, “What kind of churches?”
Today we will answer that question as we continue to dig into Visser’s 2008 study.
From it we learn that 88% of variance in Thai church growth is explained by just three factors. (p.161)
“The most important variable, trumping all others, is the age of a local church.” (p.165)
When some hear this description they may immediately think that we are talking about the age of the general makeup of the church, but that is not the case.
It is not “young” in the sense of the general age of the people but “young” in the sense of the age of the church plant itself.
Traditionalism has one of the strongest negative influences on church growth in Thailand.” (p.157)
“Growth among Calvinistic Presbyterians is slow. Much of their energy was redirected into founding and maintaining schools and hospitals.” (p.83)
“Traditional churches, with a lot of church rules and emphasis on the role of the clergy, are less likely to grow.” (p.165)
I would not take this finding to mean that all of these churches are the same and that none of them are growing or doing good work. Many of these churches are strong pillars in their own communities.
“Among ethnic Thai charismatic churches are growing faster than non charismatic ones,” (p.81)
“Charismatic churches have the highest AACGR (average annual church growth rate), CCT (Christian Churches of Thailand- a network of mostly conservative reformed) churches have the lowest.” (p.145)
“The large majority of charismatic growth is internally generated.” (p.81) This is in distinction from the growth coming from other churches.
It is important to note that this is not a denomination or organization, but rather a stance that affirms that miracles and gifts of the Holy Spirit continue today.
What do we need to understand?
Visser sums it up best saying.
- “It makes a difference what kind of new churches are planted.” (p.165)
- “A church that empowers its members is a church that will grow.” (p.165)
- “(Thai) Churches can positively influence the conversion growth rate.
- The main ways to do this are to start new churches and to refrain from traditionalism that saps the enthusiasm of church members and limits their involvement in church ministry.” (p.167)
Though every context and people group is different and these findings can’t be applied as a blanket, there are significantly important for understanding ministry in the Thai context.
Within Thai society, there are lots of internal changes taking place.
Many Thai are looking for something
The question for the church planter or cross cultural worker is,
“Will they find the above elements in your presentation of the Gospel of Jesus?”
“Will they be really empowered, both practically and spiritually, or given a new set of religious laws and rules to keep?
The Thai already have a “good religion”, what they need is a vibrant relationship with Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit. I believe He wants to not only live in them but also use each one to live an empowered and free life that glorifies the Father.
I wonder who will be up for the challenge of taking this Gospel to every village?
This post is a part of an ongoing series.
Part One: Progress of the Gospel in Thailand
Part Three: Makeup of the Church in Thailand
Part Four: Why Do the Thai Convert?