Natural Church Development has the potential to take a church from copying ‘Model’ churches to co-operating with God’s unchanging and unchangeable principles:
When we look at another church as a ‘model’ we imitate what they are doing (This may be fine; and it may also be like taking someone else’s prescription medicine!). But with principles we can look at different churches from any location on the planet. We abstract those things that work in any culture and in any place: Principles. We ignore the local characteristics and flavour….the practices. We know that the principles have application to all other churches in general and to our specific church situation in particular. The Principles inform us “How” the Natural Church Development process should be engaged.
One of the goals of Natural Church Development is to have pastors and people think principle.
Christian Schwarz defines what is meant by ‘principle.’
- Principles are universally valid. They apply to all denominations, to all church models, to all devotional styles, and to all cultures.
- Principles must be proven. Some so-called principles are more properly ‘interesting concepts that are worth considering.’ The only way to know if something is a principle is to find out if it works in all cultures and settings.
- Principles always deal with what is essential. Principles do not deal with cosmetic issues or secondary aspects of the Christian life. Therefore we may expect to find these principles also described in the Bible, even if we use different language and terms.
- Principles always have to be individualized. They never tell you exactly what to do. Rather, they give you criteria which can help you discover what should be done in a given situation.
“Basing our happiness on our ability to control everything is futile. While we do control our choice of action, we cannot control the consequences of our choices. Universal laws or principles do. Thus, we are not in control of our lives; principles are. We live in a modern society that loves shortcut techniques. Yet quality of life cannot be achieved by taking the right shortcut. There is no shortcut. But there is a path. The path is based on principles revered throughout history. If there is one message to glean from this wisdom, it is that a meaningful life is not a matter of speed or efficiency. It’s much more a matter of what you do and why you do it, than how fast you get it done.” (Stephen Covey, ‘First Things First”)