The Institute for Natural Church Development International, based in Germany under the leadership of Christian A. Schwarz, undertook worldwide research in the early 1990s. 1,000 churches in 32 countries were surveyed to see if underlying principles for producing healthy church growth could be discerned, that were independent of denomination or theology, country or culture, leadership style, size or ministry model.

The key question was: “What church growth principles are true, regardless of culture and theological persuasion?” As of the end of June 2009, over 60,000 Surveys have now been completed worldwide, pointing to the reliability and accuracy of the original research and the paradigm – that there are universal, God-given principles that can be applied in both understanding and responding to the unique issues of the life and ministry in every local church.

The research led to the development of a framework that pointed to eight quality characteristics that were critical components, necessary to the life of healthy, growing churches. All were present; none could be missing. They were:

  • Empowering Leadership
  • Gift Oriented Ministry
  • Passionate Spirituality
  • Effective Structures
  • Inspiring Worship
  • Holistic Small Groups
  • Need Oriented Evangelism
  • Loving Relationships

The most significant finding was that the vital ingredient of each quality characteristic was inherent in its attending adjective. For instance, with ‘leadership’ was not about visionary leadership, pastoral leadership or decisive leadership which was the chief contributor to long term healthy growth. Rather, the healthy life of the church had to do with ’empowering’ leadership. The principal contributor to the church’s health was the degree to which leaders empowered people to keep growing toward greater spiritual maturity and in their contributions to Kingdom growth. The same emphasis applies for the other seven quality characteristics.

To learn more, contact Dallas Friesen at 416-620-2958

© Natural Church Development, used by permission

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