When Methodist missionary J. Waskom Pickett published Christian Mass Movements in India in 1933, it would’ve been impossible to predict its impact on American evangelicalism. His observations about rates of conversion and church growth among Indian castes may have seemed innocuous at the time, but his interest in outcomes betrayed assumptions rooted in pragmatism. Pickett’s book resonated strongly with young Donald McGavran, who carried the baton forward, lighting his “candle at Pickett’s fire.” Using Pickett’s observations, McGavran developed the “homogeneous growth unit principle,” that people prefer “to become Christians without crossing racial, linguistic, or class barriers …
Rev. Travis Allen is the teaching pastor of Grace Church in Greeley, Colo. He was previously managing director of Grace to You and a pastor at Grace Community Church.