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!
Some people might be interested to know just how many New Zealand churches are involved with NCD. I am not being flippant or smart when I respond: 100%. Yes. That’s correct. All New Zealand churches are involved with the principles of Natural Church Development, whether they are aware of it or not. So how can that be?
It is because NCD does not concern itself with programs; if the church is not healthy, programs run by that church will not be healthy either.
Neither does NCD promote the idea of model churches (or programs); the ‘model’ church implies that ‘one size fits all’ when the reality is every church is unique.
The main reason we believe every church (and organisation for that matter) is affected, is that central to the NCD thesis is the idea that everything – including the church – is governed by principles.
Stephen Covey said. ““The principles I am referring to are the basic universal principles that pertain to all human relationships and organisations, for instance fairness, justice, honesty, integrity, trust. They are self-evident, self-validating. These principles are like natural laws that operate regardless of whether we decide to obey them or not. I call them ‘true north’ principles because they don’t shift. They are always there, always reliable, like the ‘true north’ on a compass. And they provide us with rock-solid direction in our lives and in our organisations.
They are also principles that no one argues with. Everyone buys into them. There is a universal common sense about them.” (‘Rethinking the Future,’ Covey, p.36)
That is why we say, no church can avoid being connected with the core of Natural Church Development principles. For these principles are active and affecting everything we do, even if we try to ignore them.
How can your church grow in quality and quantity regardless of unfavorable trends in society?
How can you have the greatest impact on your church regardless of your level of responsibility?
How can you maximize your fruitfulness in all areas of life regardless of your present starting point?
The All By Itself Pathway invites you into a 90-minute encounter with Christian Schwarz, the founder and head of Natural Church Development (NCD). Christian will reduce the discoveries of two decades of research in tens of thousands of churches to a handful of personal steps. While countless churches have implemented individual aspects of Natural Church Development, the majority have yet to discover the strategic key that Christian calls the All By Itself Pathway—
consistently living in line with the unique gifts, energies, and resources that God has already granted you and your church.
In this little book, Christian will explain (among other things). . . How Natural Church Development leads every movement back to its roots!
The All By Itself Pathway eBook is now available online at:
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 the data from more 1000 Australian churches from 25 denominations and movements is analysed, there is a definite correlation between the numbers of children in the church, and NCD church health.
Does a healthy church attract more children? Does a flourishing children’s ministry make a church healthier? The experts say it would not be wise or accurate to say that one causes the other. All we can say is there is a definite relationship between healthy churches and effective children’s ministry.
The graph informs us that very healthy churches (right on diagram) have a larger number of children (and are adding to the number of children at a higher rate). Very unhealthy congregations (left on diagram) have a smaller percentage of children (and are losing those they have).
While this is the findings from 1000 Australian churches, when the data from 70,000 churches around the world is added, the graph hardly changes.
Why are the nations so angry? Why do they waste their time with futile plans? 2 The kings of the earth prepare for battle; the rulers plot together against the Lord and against his anointed one. 3 “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.’
Don’t cheat your neighbor by moving the ancient boundary markers; don’t take the land of defenseless orphans. For their Redeemer is strong; he himself will bring their charges against you. (Proverbs 23:10-11)
If we are in a position of power we must not take advantage of that position for personal gain, or even so that some other party may gain. People with power are to ensure than justice prevails, whatever form that may take. And justice (don’t cheat your neighbor) must be guided by truth (the ancient boundary markers) and grace (defenseless orphans). These three qualities together in balance equate to love.
As if the Preacher’s directive is not sufficient in itself, he continues with another strong deterrent for such action:
Their Redeemer is always on the side of the oppressed and disadvantaged. If we do not love them, He does, and in the great accounting day – if not in this life – we will discover ourselves to be in the dock. We will discover that it all belonged to Him anyway and we were but stewards; we will have nothing with which to pay for our ‘crimes.’
Sometimes in these days, when change is the only constant, some people are always wanting to change things, to make them more relevant and appealing to the unchurched. In many cases they are changing cosmetics things, making changes that irritate others, changing things that do not really need to be changed. Ancient boundary markers – like the eight quality characteristics of Natural Church Development – cannot and should not be changed. Perhaps in a church, the only changes that should be made at the commencement of the NCD process, are those changes that will facilitate improvements in church health; such changes will give members sufficient to grapple with, without making them all angry by changing a few cosmetic things and sending church health plummeting!
When we do the survey, control over the quality of our church is placed in our own hands.
God is showing us, through his people and by His Spirit where we should make adjustments so that He can better display His power through our church. Not only does the survey result enlighten us as to where God is doing His best work in our church, but where we should now focus in order that He is empowered to do what He has always wanted to do in and through our community of faith.
The Preacher says, “God detests the prayers of a person who ignores the law.” (Proverbs 28:9) The law here is not the ceremonial law, but the moral law, those great principles that God has woven through His whole creation. Sometimes our conscious prayers are contradicted by our unconscious prayers. If God were to answer some of our prayers it would be the end of creation.
I am serious about that. It would be impossible for God to answer because we are not in the right space, and if God were to respond to our prayers in the way we want Him to, He would be denying Himself.
Sometimes we pray God will act in our church when He is waiting for us to act; to address the issues uncovered by the survey result.
A wise youth harvests in the summer, but one who sleeps during harvest is a disgrace. (Proverbs 10:5)
This is a simple example of our interdependence with God’s natural world. We do not have any control over the seasons; God has established them and we have to co-operate with, and take advantage of, the way God’s creation works. This very basic principle can be connected to every different world – politics, family, health care, finance, church – to life in general. Natural seasons are easy to see; that is why it is a disgrace if a person sleeps during the summer harvest. Seasons in other worlds are not always easy to discern; that is why we need the advice of others with the appropriate gifts and understanding. Like those soldiers who joined David’s army: “From the tribe of Issachar, there were 200 leaders of the tribe with their relatives. All these men understood the signs of the times and knew the best course for Israel to take.” (I Chronicles 12:32) In every church it is likely there is – or was – someone like these leaders from Issachar. The question is: Are they heard? Do they have a voice?