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I believe that Natural Church Development (NCD) is important for every church that wants to grow. And growth is at the center of the church’s mission. Here’s the outline for a sermon I preached this Sabbath that introduces NCD. If I have time, perhaps I’ll write a full-text version. For now, I hope this makes sense.
- Introduction: when we’re not feeling well, we go see the doctor. Often the cycle repeats. But if we follow the laws of health, we’ll be much better off.
Likewise, if the church follows the laws of church health, it will grow
- Biblical growth
- Source of growth
- Philippians 4:13 (”I can do everything through him who gives me strength” (NIV [Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.]).—we accomplish what we accomplish because of God
- Acts 1:4, 5 (”On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: ‘Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit’ ” [NIV].)—the apostles were to wait for the Holy Spirit. When the Spirit was poured out at Pentecost, the church grew
- 2 Peter 3:9 (”The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” [NIV].)—God wants everyone to be saved—in other words, He wants His church to grow
- 1 Corinthians 3:6, 7 (”I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow.” [NIV].)—(context: divisions in the church) God is responsible for growth
- Mark 4:26-29 (”He also said, ‘This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. All by itself the soil produces grain—first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head. As soon as the grain is ripe, he puts the sickle to it, because the harvest has come.’ ” [NIV].)—Parable of the growing seed
- Growth isn’t forced—it doesn’t happen primarily because of a particular method/program
- Growth happens automatically (Greek: αὐτόματος [rendered in the NIV as “all by itself”])
- Illustration: kids grow automatically if healthy—don’t have to try to grow
- Requirements for growth (eight laws of church health)
- Principles of church growth—not a method—can be measured
- Eight areas of church health
- Empowering leadership—leaders developing and equipping other leaders
- Gift-oriented ministry—every member serving according to his or her own spiritual gifts
- Passionate spirituality—”faith is . . . lived out with commitment, fire and enthusiasm” (reference Christian A. Schwartz, The ABC’s of Natural Church Development (ChurchSmart Resources, 1998), p. 12)
- Functional structures—forms or structures (the way we do things) achieving their purpose effectively, and ineffective structures changed or eliminated
- Inspiring worship service—inspiring, fun, people look forward to it, rather than attending out of a sense of duty
- Holistic small groups—members sharing life with each other—holistic: “intimate community, practical help and intensive spiritual interaction” (reference Schwartz, ABC’s, p. 15)
- Need-oriented evangelism—not manipulative, but meeting people’s needs
- Loving relationships—includes being involved in people’s life, spending time together outside of church activities
- Every area is required—none is optional
- Every church that scores high in health is a growing church—without exception—it’s
- Overwhelmed? Measure status and work on minimum factor—other areas will probably rise, as well
a church in which the leaders are committed heart and soul to church growth; in which nearly every Christian is using his or her spiritual gifts to edify the church; in which most members are living out their faith with power and contagious enthusiasm; in which church structures are evaluated on whether they serve the growth of the church or not; in which worship services are a high point of the week for the majority of the congregation; in which the loving and healing power of Christian fellowship can be experienced in small groups; in which nearly all Christians, according to their gifts, help to fulfill the Great Commission; and in which the love of Christ permeates almost all church activities. Is it even conceivable that such a church could stagnate or decline? (reference Schwartz, ABC’s, p. 24)
- Source of growth
- Are there any areas lacking in your own life?
- Support natural church development—change might not be easy, but it’ll be worth it. And we need everyone’s combined cooperation.