Donald McGavran, His Early Life and Ministry

An Apostolic Vision for Reaching the Nations
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This biography is more than one man’s interpretation of another person’s life—it has numerous traits of an autobiography. Donald McGavran, His Early Life and Ministry: An Apostolic Vision for Reaching the Nations includes insights gleaned from archives, as well as hours of discussion with both Donald and Mary McGavran about the interpretation applied to particular events.

  • ISBN: 9780878084692
  • Pages: 395
  • Binding: Paperback
  • Published: 2012
  • Publisher: William Carey Library


When I was young, one summer in Mexico City I read Church Growth in Mexico, one of Donald McGavran's first books. What a revelation. He described “ten Mexicos”—Mexico City, Liberal Cities, Conservative Cities, Tight Little Towns, Roman Ranchos, Revolutionary Ranchos and Ejidos, Indian Tribes, Tabasco, Northern Border Country, and Oscar’s Masses (named for researcher Oscar Lewis). This analytical approach, this categorizing, this managerial perspective, was a breath of fresh air for me. I glimpsed how to begin making missiological sense of the maelstrom. I have been grateful ever since.

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Donald McGavran was one of the most important missiologists of the twentieth century, and no one is better equipped to write his biography than Vern Middleton. This work carefully traces the development of McGavran's thought from that of a traditional missionary who operated mission institutions, to a bold thinker and innovator who challenged both ecumenical and evangelical groups to discover new paradigms in mission.

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Table of Contents

Donald McGavran’s Vision Statement


  1. Donald McGavran’s Formative Years (1897–1923)
  2. The First Term in India (1923–30)
  3. Mission Administrator (1932–35)
  4. From Theoretician to Practitioner (1936–54)
  5. Concepts of Church Growth Developed through International Research (1954-57)
  6. Peripatetic Professor of Missions (1957–60)
  7. The Worldwide Church Growth Movement Takes Shape (1961–65)
  8. Theological Developments in the Life of Donald McGavran


  • A. McGavran’s Missionary Roots
  • B. Summary of Hindu Beliefs: McGavran’s Systematization of Hindu Theology
  • C. Bridges of God Thesis Statement
  • D. McGavran’s United Church Review Articles and Editorials
  • E. Outline: The Worldwide Church Growth Movement Takes Shape
  • F. Internationalization of Church Growth Principles by McGavran


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