For a more complete argument in favor of the ongoing planting/launching of many small to medium sized congregations, see my presentation, “10 Reasons”. But here are just a couple of the reasons the New Church needs to launch many more congregations.

Most systems, (social networks, commercial markets, entertainment media, etc.) naturally tend toward a long-tail distribution pattern. Only when there are artificial barriers to distribution (limited shelf space, for instance) does this natural distribution pattern get truncated in a way that favors the investment in “blockbusters”, “best sellers”, “top 40 hits”, etc. The church world is no different. Church is essentially a local cultural phenomenon, and is becoming more so. These days, with new generations growing up with greatly increased expectations with regard to choice, variety, and customization brought on by the long tail effect of digital distribution, we will see a move away from megachurches akin to the de-urbanization trends caused when a society moves from industrialism to post-industrialism.

Going forward, young people will choose faith communities the way they would like to ideally choose restaurants: “fresh, seasonal, local”. In church terms, this means they will prefer congregations that are vibrant (as evidenced by an active engagement with the world), culturally relevant (and aware of current trends and issues), and distinctly local. Denominational affiliation has been increasingly meaningless, or even detrimental to church growth in the Christian world, and there is little reason to expect it will be different for Swedenborgian churches.

For these reasons, the optimal growth strategy for an organization like the General Church is to invest so as to maximize not the size of congregations, but the overall number of culturally varied congregations. Provided that such congregations are large enough to be self-sufficient, the portion of the Lord’s kingdom that the General Church represents will grow best when spread across as many different cultural niches as possible. This strategy also diversifies risk.

Other advantages of pursuing a multiple-congregation growth strategy include: diversification of risk and increased cultural variety within the body of the General Church. In fact, it is this last that is potentially most beneficial.

The General Church is a stuck system, largely due to cultural inertia. We can strive to change the established culture of the existing groups in order to grow them, or we can add new groups that have no pre-existing church culture. The latter takes less effort (and does less damage) than the former, yet still adds significantly to the overall cultural transformation of the body of the worldwide movement.

Consider also, this, from Heaven and Hell:

It is worth noting that the more members there are in a single community and the more united they are in action, the more perfect is their human form. This is because variety arranged in a heavenly form makes perfection, as explained above in 56; and variety occurs where there are many individuals.

Every community in heaven is growing in numbers daily, and the more it grows, the more perfect it becomes. In this way, not only is the community perfected, but heaven in general is perfected as well, since the communities constitute heaven.

Since heaven is perfected by its numerical growth, we can see how mistaken people are who believe that heaven will be closed to prevent overcrowding. Actually, it is just the reverse. It will never be closed, and its ever increasing fullness makes it more perfect. So angels long for nothing more than to have new angel guests arrive there. (HH 71)

Earlier in the same work, it says this:

Variety in worship of the Lord from the variety of good in different societies is not harmful, but beneficial, for the perfection of heaven is therefrom. …Unity, that it may be perfect, must be formed from variety. Every whole exists from various parts, since a whole without constituents is not anything; it has no form, and therefore no quality. But when a whole exists from various parts, and the various parts are in a perfect form, in which each attaches itself like a congenial friend to another in series, then the quality is perfect. So heaven is a whole from various parts arranged in a most perfect form, for the heavenly form is the most perfect of all forms. That this is the ground of all perfection is evident from the nature of all beauty, agreeableness and delight, by which the senses and the mind are affected; for these qualities spring and flow from no other source than the concert and harmony of many concordant and congenial parts, either coexisting in order or following in order, and never from a whole without many parts. From this is the saying that variety gives delight; and the nature of variety, as is known, is what determines the delight. From all this it can be seen as in a mirror how perfection comes from variety even in heaven. For from the things that exist in the natural world the things of the spiritual world can be seen as in a mirror. (HH 56)

From this it is perfectly clear how each society of the church can be further perfected through the addition of new members. It then does not take much of a stretch to see how the church as a whole will be greatly improved through the addition of new congregations.

[This continues the serialization of the Launch Plan for New Way Church in Austin, TX. It continues the Rationale section, started last week. Tomorrow: why Austin, Texas.]