There was a time when going to church was a bit like going to MacDonald’s; that is, you could predict what the experience would be like.
Very few churches are the same today, even when they are from the same denomination (stream) and have the same label.
One reason for this is that church hierarchy have encouraged their pastors to shape the local church to fit the community where that church is located. The idea seems to make sense, but there is one very large hitch. Pastors, like all human beings, do not come without bias. They are not able to shape anything without putting their own personal stamp on it. Even our perception of God is biased! When a pastor seeks to fit the church to the community, (s)he also unintentionally (or intentionally) shapes the church to fit him- or her-self.
Another reason the worship experience from church to church is so different these days, could be that many of them have removed denominational labels and named themselves simply ‘Anytown’ Community Church.
Local churches are becoming more individualistic (the truth is, like siblings, they always have been different – unique – even when they looked similar), looking different from one another. Comparing churches these days is like comparing apples and oranges; they appear to be so different.
Is there any way we can find common ground between churches that appear so different?
Yes, there is a way.
A church leader I know who had responsibility for the oversight of some twenty churches in his denomination, decided to invite them all to complete a Natural Church Development church health assessment. The great value for him was that in each church’s regular review he now had a measure that was common to them all no matter the size of the church; no matter how many (or how few) programs the church was running; no matter what leaders and/or pastors said about their church; no matter what kind of worship team, or music (even untuneful – make a joyful noise) or other components of the worship experience.
Natural Church Development (NCD) takes us to bedrock, to what is essential in any church.
· Empowering Leadership
· Gift-based Ministry
· Passionate Spirituality
· Effective Structures
· Inspiring Worship Service
· Holistic Small Groups
· Need-oriented Evangelism
· Loving Relationships
These are like the vital organs of a human being; it is difficult to go on living if someone removes one of our vital organs. And a group could scarcely be a church if any one of these is missing.
The good news for our leader who asked his church to complete the health assessment was they all registered a score in all eight qualities. The not so good news was that some were quite low. But that’s another story.