Behind each of the eight quality characteristics are the six forces for growth. Natural Church Development’s church health surveys assess each of the eight quality characteristics by measuring the degree to which each is being lived out in the present life of the congregation. The highest measures point to the congregation’s strengths; the lowest measures show where improvements can be made.  From there, any plans to work on these low scores should take into account these six forces that work to help a congregation grow:

  • Interdependence – individual units are connected to each other in a larger system. Changes in one ministry will affect other ministries in the church and community. (synonym: connecting)
  • Multiplication – Healthy organisms do not grow endlessly, but reproduce themselves. (synonym: reproducing)
  • Energy transformation – Momentum or energy already flowing, whether positive or negative, can be redirected to accomplish God’s purposes. (synonym: harnessing)
  • Multi-usage – Resources used should increase the capacity for on-going growth and development, as well as serve multiple purposes. (synonym: sustaining)
  • Symbiosis – Different ministries can cultivate cooperative relationships so the mutual benefit is greater than if operating separately. (synonym: cooperating)
  • Functionality – Each ministry needs to produce discernible results in keeping with its intended purpose. (synonym: evaluating)

Leaders of healthy churches may be unaware of these principles at work in the life of the church. The principles may simply be being employing intuitively or other names may be used in reference to these principles. The stronger the health of the church, the greater degree are these principles are at work.

This is encouraging for two reasons. First of all, it shows that God is entirely consistent in the way He superintends His creation, enabling churches to grow as organisms in the same way as He brings about the growth of other organisms. Secondly, identifying these principles makes it possible to understand and apply them, partnering with God as He grows the church. These principles are revealed both directly and indirectly in Scripture – for example, directly in John 15 where Jesus speaks about “fruitfulness.” Elsewhere in the Gospels,  we see the principles undergirding the message, such as “multiplication” in the Great Commission in Matthew 28. It is essential that church leaders understand and apply these principles consistently until they become a natural part of the church’s “way of life.” They are key to the releasing of ‘all by itself’ growth.

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