Recently, Leadership Journal printed again the eight criteria for church health from Natural Church Development.
Each of these eight components can serve as an MRI to look underneath the surface of your church and evaluate the true health. Look at these and see if you have balance. Where are you strong? Where are you weak? Where are you content?
What is your strategy to bring your church back to health and growth?
Not to treat a symptom is dangerous in our personal health and in our congregations’ health too. If we wait too long it can take longer to reverse the trend. Avoiding the signs all together could result in death.
Christian A. Schwarz, head of the Institute for Church Development in Germany, conducted this comprehensive church-growth study, drawn from more than 1,000 churches in 32 countries. His study revealed the following eight qualities in healthy churches.
1. EMPOWERING LEADERSHIP
Leaders of growing churches …. do not use lay workers as “helpers” in attaining their goals and fulfilling their visions. Rather, leaders invert the pyramid of authority so they assist Christians to attain the spiritual potential God has for them.
2. GIFT-ORIENTED MINISTRY
When Christians serve in their area of giftedness, they generally function less in their own strength and more in the power of the Holy Spirit. Thus, ordinary people can accomplish the extraordinary!
3. PASSIONATE SPIRITUALITY
The concept of spiritual passion and the widespread notion of the walk of faith as “performing one’s duty” seem to be mutually exclusive.
4. FUNCTIONAL STRUCTURES
Anyone who accepts this perspective will continually evaluate to what extent church structures improve the self-organization of the church. Elements not meeting this standard (such as discouraging leadership structures, inconvenient worship-service times, demotivating financial concepts) will be changed or eliminated.
5. INSPIRING WORSHIP SERVICE
Services may target Christians or non-Christians, the style may be liturgical or free, the language may be “churchy” or secular—it makes no difference …. Whenever the Holy Spirit is truly at work (and his presence is not merely presumed), he will have a concrete effect upon the way a worship service is conducted.
6. HOLISTIC SMALL GROUPS
[These groups] go beyond just discussing Bible passages to applying its message to daily life. In these groups, members are able to bring up issues and questions that are immediate personal concerns.
7. NEED-ORIENTED EVANGELISM
The key …. is for the local congregation to focus its evangelistic efforts on the questions and needs of non-Christians. This “need-oriented” approach is different from “manipulative programs.”
8. LOVING RELATIONSHIPS
Unfeigned, practical love has a divinely generated magnetic power far more effective than evangelistic programs, which depend almost entirely on verbal communication. People do not want to hear us talk about love; they want to experience how Christian love really works. —Natural Church Development, (ChurchSmart, 1996)