The NCD Process: Commitment

Why do church leaders do one or two or even more church health surveys, and then quit?

Why do they not commit to the process, and follow through to becoming a healthy church?

Perhaps the answer is hinted at, in part, in the front page of the NCD Story Guide (see picture):Story Guide

Notice how the results are set out. There is a column with common church Themes and another showing a list of the eight Quality Characteristics, in a different order than we may be accustomed to seeing them. Both of these columns run from strongest to weakest. The bold line in the centre has the caption at the top, ‘Comes more naturally to us,’ and at the bottom, ‘Comes less naturally to us.’

Changing a church culture in order to address weaknesses (read ‘health issues’) is no easy road. Changing oneself is difficult enough, yet that has to be the place where one begins.

There is no suggestion here that NCD is suggesting that we should ‘play to our weaknesses.’ When we think of ‘teams’ and ‘talents’ and ‘spiritual gifts’ each person must play to their strengths. They should focus on those things that ‘come more naturally’ to them; and the same applies to a church. When it comes to character issues, the fruit of the Spirit, or health, we cannot rely on others to compensate for our deficiency.

If the survey result reveals that a church’s strength (something that comes naturally to the church) is Need-oriented Evangelism, and church leaders are somewhat bemused at the lack of newcomers turning up, perhaps a closer look at those things that ‘come less easily to us’ – the Minimum Factors – might just give a clue. As will be very clear, Need-oriented Evangelism is never going to work as it should in the church represented by the diagram above without real attention being given to Loving Relationships. Jesus made that very clear.

Christian Schwarz (Founder and Director of NCD International) has demonstrated the eight Quality Characteristics to be interdependent. If one is weak, without appropriate attention being given to it, it will drag the others down. The church will continue to limp along (like an unhealthy person going about their business) only a fraction of what it could be, not measuring up to what God has in mind for it.

Perhaps church leaders are not committed to the NCD process of becoming healthy; they did a survey out of curiosity and they are finding the changes required to improve church health are just too difficult for them. So they have decided to ignore the survey result and go back to what they were doing before.

If your church fits into this category, let me encourage you to pick it up again; this time, really commit to the process. Follow through. Of course, if you do that you may have to lead the change that is required. As someone once said, “Be the change you want to see.”

Natural Church Development and Process

Allow ‘. . . yourself to win by following the process rather than being caught up in outcomes.’ (‘Legacy,’ What the All Blacks can teach us, p.105, James Kerr). This may have been written about the ‘business’ of life but it applies equally well to the church!

Is this what our church is like?
Do we know what outcomes our church is looking for?
Are we following a clear process to achieve those outcomes?

Natural Church Development says if we have a healthy church, growth (all kinds of growth – people, leaders, financial) will happen automatically – ‘all by itself’ (see the book by Christian Schwarz, ‘The All By Itself Pathway’).
The processes to follow in a church are those that result in a healthy church. That means we need to be aware of four things.

We need to know:
1     What a healthy church looks like (our goal)
2     Our church’s current state of health
3     What we need to do progress from where we are to where we want to be
4     We need to do it!

Number 1 informs us where we want to be, our destination.
Number 2 informs us where we are now. We cannot get anywhere without knowing where we are starting from!
Number 3 gives us the process we should follow to get from #2 to #1.
Number 4 is totally practical; we must follow the process.

The quotation from ‘Legacy’ continues: ‘. . . most organisations . . . tend to go for the one-off hits, which is unrealistic: a training session, an away day, an inspirational speech, but nothing continuous and progressive. Few focus on long-term development, on a programme of improvement.’

Natural Church Development Principles (Energy Transformation) and the Bible

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!

Natural Church Development Principles and the Bible

Why are the nations so angry? Why do they waste their time with futile plans? The kings of the earth prepare for battle; the rulers plot together against the Lord and against his anointed one. “Let us break their chains,” they cry, “and free ourselves from slavery to God.” Psalms 2:1-3 (NLT)

When the people who rule the world, the most influential people on the planet irrespective of the position they hold, want to ‘break their chains’ and ‘free ourselves from slavery to God,’ what are they talking about?

It seems to me they want to turn their backs on the great unchanging and unchangeable principles that God has woven through every atom and molecule and cell of His creation, and they want to establish their own way of doing things that will result in disaster. Perhaps it is not only that they want to get rid of God as a Person and the great Creator; they also want to find their way around principles, like sowing and reaping, and multiplication. In part this may be seen in the so-called sexual revolution and freedom from the restraints as imposed by the seventh commandment, with subsequent STDs that have developed and spread (principles: sowing and reaping, and multiplication, working against us).

It can also be observed in the development of plants that will not reproduce, even the suggestion that it may become law that individuals are not permitted to grow crops from seed they have carefully gathered for that purpose. Those principles are like the iron rod that will break these decision-makers and leaders of earth (v.9).

It may appear to us that these unfortunate people are being punished for their sins after they have committed them, and that is true enough; but it is equally true to say that the ‘punishment’ was written into the matter from which God formed the earth, and even deeper than that, it was written into the very character of God Himself!. There is no way of escape from God’s great principles.

We may as well respond to the invitation of Jesus and ‘learn the unforced rhythms of grace.’

Natural Church Development Principles and the Bible

Choose my instruction rather than silver, and knowledge rather than pure gold. For wisdom is far more valuable than rubies. Nothing you desire can compare with it. (Proverbs 8:10, 11)

My father often used to say to me, “Money does not grow on trees, you know!” It sounded reasonable at the time; but now I’m not so sure.

The Preacher has said we should choose his instruction over silver and gold and rubies. I suppose whenever we buy a book or pay for a course we are more or less doing just that; ‘more or less’ because not all books or all courses would be in the ‘wisdom’ category.

If it comes to a choice between wealth and wisdom, the Preacher says it’s a no brainer; we must choose wisdom.

Now he is making the reason for that clear (Proverbs 8:17-21): Wealth – silver, gold, rubies and other such treasure – is the fruit of wisdom. In other words, if we make worldly wealth our goal, there is no guarantee we will get it; but if we stake our life on finding wisdom we will succeed at finding it, and get wealth thrown in!

By going after money we are pursuing the fruit without nurturing the ‘tree’ that produces the money; that tree is the wisdom the Preacher is talking about.

This whole scenario is very much the way some Christians and churches set up for evangelism; they go after the fruit – converts – without bothering to nurture the plant – their local church – that produces and matures the fruit.

Natural Church Development Principles in the Bible

Those too lazy to plow in the right season will have no food at the harvest. (Proverbs 20:4)

Jesus said He always did what He saw the Father doing in both the spiritual and the natural worlds. In the world of horticulture, believers and unbelievers alike, do what they see the Father doing in the natural world. They know there is a right season to plough, and if they do not plow at that time they will come up short. There will be no food on the table. They are doing what they see the Father doing whether they believe it or not.

Several significant Principles are ignored by a lazy person like this one in Proverbs:

Sowing and reaping, Fruitfulness, Multiplication, Sustainability, Interdependence, Energy Transformation – all of these are working against this lazy person.

Fruitfulness: There will be no fruit because the ground has not been prepared at the right time to receive seed.

For Multiplication to happen, seed has to be sown and a crop harvested.

Unless someone else comes to his rescue, the life of this person will not be Sustained because he has no food.

Because he has failed to work, using the Interdependence that God has set up in His creation, he will starve to death.

This principle will also be working against him.

Energy Transformation: It is very clear that he is investing no energy whatever in doing what needs to be done, when it needs to be done, in the way it needs to be done, so there is zero energy going into the very thing that should be done. Investing energy in avoiding work could very well work against him in his muscles seizing up (what you don’t use, you lose); starvation (scarcity of food); strained relationships (who will continue to provide food and a bed for this sorry individual?)

These are some of the principles that God has woven into His creation and that Natural Church Development is based upon. They are always working whether we acknowledge them or not. And if they are not working for us they will surely be working against us.