This article by Christian A. Schwartz, Natural Church Development, ChurchSmart Resources, 1998, is recommended by Associate Conference Minister, Rev. Sharon Morris.
8 CHARACTERISTICS OF A HEALTHY CHURCH
Leaders of growing churches concentrate on empowering other Christians for ministry. They consider it as one of their most important tasks to help Christians develop greater degrees of empowerment, which according to God’s plan already belongs to them. They equip, support, motivate and mentor individuals to become all that God wants them to be.
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 spirit. The role of church leadership is to help its members identify their gifts and to integrate them into appropriate ministries.
Church development depends neither on spiritual persuasions nor on specific spiritual practices. The point separating growing and non-growing churches, those which are qualitatively above or below average, is a different one, namely: Are the Christians in this church on fire? Do they practice their faith with joy and enthusiasm? The degree of spiritual passion is demonstrably the point that sets growing churches apart from non-growing ones. The methods a church uses are really a secondary concern.
One of the biggest barriers to recognizing the significance of structures for church development is the widespread view that “structures” and “life” are opposites…. Church structures are never an end in themselves but always only a means to an end. Structures are how we organize ourselves. Our committee organization, our times of meeting, our physical space, and our sequence of events (e.g. strawberry festival in the spring) are examples of structures.
Inspiring Worship Services
Countless Christians believe that they must adopt particular worship models of other churches, because they supposedly represent a church growth principle. The criterion “is the worship service an ‘inspiring experience’ for the participants?” demonstrably separates growing churches from stagnant and declining ones.
Holistic Small Groups
Growing churches have developed a system of small groups where individual Christians can find intimate community, practical help and intensive spiritual interaction. These are exactly the elements of the biblical concept of holism.
The key for church growth is for the local congregation to focus its evangelistic efforts (its sharing of the Good News) on the questions and needs of non-Christians. But it can be shown that “pushy” manipulative methods represent the exact opposite of the practice we learn from growing churches. Their secret is the way they share the gospel in a way that meets the needs of the people.
Growing churches manifest a measurably higher “love quotient” than stagnant or declining ones. Unfeigned, practical love endows a church with a much greater magnetic power than all the marketing efforts of this world.
** Christian A. Schwartz, Natural Church Development, ChurchSmart Resources, 1998