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.’

Why I like Natural Church Development!

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!’

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.

How NCD can help your church: Right Choices!

Natural Church Development has the potential to Assist Leaders to Make Decisions that will Help their Church and not Hurt it!

Is it possible for leaders, doing something good, to unknowingly damage their church? That’s a big question. What leader would want to harm their church? But some—maybe many—are unwittingly making their own church sick! When leaders pour resources into the wrong area FOR THEIR CHURCH, they run the risk of doing serious damage (my personal conviction is that most churches in New Zealand are in this state and have been for some time)! Why are the many good things promoted by leaders so ineffective? They are doing good things, but the timing is wrong. What happens when we do the right thing at the wrong time? It is counter-productive. It works against us, that’s what happens!

Consider: Why do leaders use a given programme in their church? Why do they pursue any given course of ministry? There are a number of reasons. The course of action was advertised at a conference; or a pastor friend used it with some success; or they came across it on the internet and it looked to be exactly what they wanted.

I suggest these are not good reasons for embracing any course of action in a church.

But isn’t the indiscriminate use of NCD falling into the trap of possibly doing the right thing at the wrong time? Christian Schwarz says there is just one time the NCD survey should not be used; and that is when there is division in the church. In such a situation the first requirement is reconciliation.

Furthermore, NCD should be considered in terms of process, not programme; we must think principle, not programme; we think health and allow growth to take care of itself.

NCD can prevent such a situation from happening by simply identifying the area that should be addressed at this point in the church’s history.

We go to the doctor. The doctor runs some tests, asks some questions, and may then give us a prescription which is specific to us. We are warned against taking other people’s prescription medicine, yet churches do this all the time. Using the NCD survey is like taking your church to the doctor for a medical check-up. The survey result will give you a very accurate diagnosis of the health of your church.

Prescriptive planning just became easier.