When pastors and church leaders are asked if they would like to consider ‘doing NCD,’ they often respond they just don’t have the time for anything more. They are already stretched to the limit. ‘One more thing’ may be the last straw for them and their team. Whenever I hear this, I think of the comment made by a school principal:
“This is not ‘one more thing’ we have to do. This is a better way of doing what we already do!”
He was referring to the principle-based approach to education as demonstrated by a school named A.B. Coombs (see the website for videos of some of those schools http://www.TheLeaderInMeBook.org).
These principles were not invented by Christian A Schwarz (Founder and Director of NCD International), Stephen Covey or James Collins or any other human being. They are largely common sense. All cultures have discovered them – and then forgotten them, and either disappeared or deteriorated. They apply to all human institutions, including schools, governments, family and the church.
Identifying and incorporating these principles is the very best way of journeying through life and building something sustainable. We are governed by these principles even when we are unconscious of them or do not even know they exist. They apply to all of life just as the law of gravity affects us physically.
Natural Church Development, the principle-based approach to church life, is happening in your church even as you read this. It can help greatly when church leaders know these principles and actively co-operate with them. What are they? Such things as Empowerment, Gift-activation, Passion, Effectiveness, Inspiration, Community, Need-relief and Love.
The question is: Which one requires your attention in your church or organisation right now? What happens if you neglect that critical issue (think about these questions in terms of your own health)?
What is stopping you from taking steps to identify church health issues right now?
Over recent months a number of churches have completed NCD surveys where there has been a 2-6 year gap since the last church health check-up. In each of these health has deteriorated quite markedly.
Perhaps the reason for this can be explained by something Stephen Covey said in his book, ‘First Things First’:
“Much of our pain in life comes from the sense that we are succeeding in one role at the expense of other, possibly more important roles.” (p.82)
If we do not focus intentionally on addressing our Minimum Factor-related issues (and they will be things we find most difficult to engage with) we will drift into working with those aspects of church life we enjoy most, areas that do not presently require so much attention, and we will neglect vital qualities that need to be attended to at this point in our history.
Of course, had those churches completed a church health check-up annually, the downwards drift would have been detected sooner and, hopefully, addressed sooner.
A wise woman builds her home, but a foolish woman tears it down with her own hands. (Proverbs 14:1 (NLT))
I would suggest the wise woman knows just what she is doing and is intentionally engaged in building her home, while the foolish woman may think she is doing what is right and actually be working against herself.
She cannot understand why everything she does seems to turn out wrong. She does not discern any appreciable difference between herself and the wise woman next door. The only difference she can see is in the outcomes; for her, things are falling apart.
If she is a real fool, and not just someone who is behaving foolishly, she will never be able to trace the disintegration of her family back to her own foolishness. She does not realize that she must begin by working on herself; after that, many other things she has tried so hard to do will begin to fall into place.
That does not mean they will not require effort; they will.
No matter how much she tried before, it seemed impossible to build her home; now she has corrected herself, that which was impossible before now becomes possible with a little effort; or maybe a lot of effort.
The principle of Energy Transformation is at work here. When we look at the Preacher’s comments about what constitutes foolish behavior, together with its Fruitfulness (with the foolish woman, negative, but with the wise woman, positive), we may understand why this woman is tearing her family apart.
This principle applies to both men and women; and it makes no difference what they are engaged in building: a business, a family, a life, a church – we receive back what we put in!
Because it majors on the majors!
When church leaders examine the results of the NCD church survey they will always find change of some sort is advocated; but those leaders, if they read the result correctly, will never be allowed to forget the essentials.
So often church leaders are aware their church needs to change if it is to meet the needs of a 21st century disciple. What is not so easy to discern is the answer to the question: Exactly what needs to change?
In many instances leaders have managed to make their churches even more toxic by ignoring, or even omitting, one or more of the essentials. Or perhaps they have given attention to an essential, but it is the wrong essential for their church at this point in its history.
When the NCD church survey result is taken seriously it will not allow church leaders to make that mistake. The eight Quality Characteristics of a church are like the vital organs of a human being. You cannot leave them out. You may not ignore them.
There are leaders who are tired of ‘business as usual’ in their church, and rightfully so. They want to start something new and radical and effective. Natural Church Development says, ‘Be as radical as you and your people want; but do not ignore the essentials; make sure you major on the majors; do not overlook any one of the eight!’
When we accept the survey result as a snapshot of our church’s current reality (where we are now), we are listening deeply and genuinely to 30 influencers in our church.
Listening to, and taking notice of, other member’s view of our church may require a fair amount of personal security. It can uncover our own vulnerabilities. We may need to be changed. And if deep down we are feeling fairly insecure, we cannot afford to risk being changed.
We may be prejudiced about the survey result because it is threatening our cherished and long-held perspective. The result may also be challenging to the area we have always felt so comfortable in. It may be suggesting we should go where we have always resisted going in the past. If we accept the result as a snapshot of our church, we will have to deal with a new thing happening. The specter of change frightens most people (see Principle-Centered Leadership by Stephen Covey, pages 115-116)
What kinds of changes might the survey result require of us?
Head? Logic? Changes in our thinking (The green area of of the 3 colors of Natural Church Development)?
Heart? Emotion? Changes in our feelings (The blue area of NCD)?
Hands? Action? We may have to break out of some habits we have developed over time (The red area of NCD)?