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All the answers to all your church problems

Christian A. Schwarz is founder and president of the Institute for Natural Church Development.

 

Natural church development (NCD) claims to be a new way of looking at church health and church growth. It identifies the principles of healthy and growing churches that are true across cultures and regardless of theological persuasion.

 

It emphasizes quality over quantity, but suggests that there are eight quality characteristics, which, when all are present to a sufficient degree "will practically guarantee numerical growth" says one website:

 

1. Empowering leadership—leaders focus on equipping and training other Christians to do ministry; leaders are committed wholly to church growth.


2. Gift-based ministry—ministry tasks are distributed according to the spiritual gifts of the people; nearly every Christian is using his/her God-given gifts to build up the church.
 


3. Passionate spirituality—the spiritual lives of the church members are characterized by prayer, enthusiasm, and boldness; most members live out their faith with power and contagious enthusiasm.
 


4. Functional structures—the forms, practices, and structures of the church are designed to most effectively accomplish ministry in this time and place (form follows function); church structures are evaluated as to whether or not they contribute to the growth of the church.
 


5. Inspiring worship service—attending worship services is inspiring and uplifting to those who attend; worship is a high point of the week for the majority of the congregation.
 


6. Holistic small groups—there is a continuous multiplication of small groups that meet the real needs of people; the loving and healing power of fellowship is experienced in these groups.
 


7. Need-oriented evangelism—evangelistic activities relate directly to the needs of the people the church is trying to reach; nearly all Christians use their spiritual gifts to help fulfill the Great Commission.
 


8. Loving relationships—relationships among the members of the church are characterized by a high level of loving affection; Christ's love permeates nearly all church activities.

 

 

 

NCD is rapidly spreading all over the globe. Just google it and see for yourself!  Is this what all less than flourishing churches need to start focusing on?  What do you think?

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Dcn. Jae

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rishi wrote:

NCD is rapidly spreading all over the globe. Just google it and see for yourself!  Is this what all less than flourishing churches need to start focusing on?  What do you think?

 

I think I can't properly respond to your post because it's time for bed. I think I've never heard of the NCD before. I think the main goal of a church shouldn't be to put a high number of bums on seats. I think I will get a better chance to answer tomorrow.

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Hi rishi,

 

rishi wrote:

NCD is rapidly spreading all over the globe. Just google it and see for yourself!  Is this what all less than flourishing churches need to start focusing on?  What do you think?

 

Ever since I first came into contact with Natural Church Development in 1998 I have been a tremendous fan of this line of thought and this mode of applying the various truths of scripture.

 

What I like most about NCD is that it doesn't claim to be a one size fits all strategy and each congregation will use the information that NCD uncovers about the health of that congregation in a unique way which is (hopefully) tailored to their particular context and addresses their particular short-comings.

 

We are preparing to start the NCD cycle here in Waterford.

 

Grace and peace to you.

John

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revjohn wrote:

Hi rishi,

 

rishi wrote:

NCD is rapidly spreading all over the globe. Just google it and see for yourself!  Is this what all less than flourishing churches need to start focusing on?  What do you think?

 

Ever since I first came into contact with Natural Church Development in 1998 I have been a tremendous fan of this line of thought and this mode of applying the various truths of scripture.

 

What I like most about NCD is that it doesn't claim to be a one size fits all strategy and each congregation will use the information that NCD uncovers about the health of that congregation in a unique way which is (hopefully) tailored to their particular context and addresses their particular short-comings.

 

We are preparing to start the NCD cycle here in Waterford.

 

Grace and peace to you.

John

 

It's definitely getting my attention -- the focus on health and quality and what I'm understanding to be sound principles of how human beings actually grow in community. 

 

My diocese is adopting it in a serious way through a network of coaches that congregations are being encouraged to take advantage of.  I listened yesterday to a presentation by a couple of these coaches, and I was impressed mostly by how "adult" their perspective was.  They make very clear how they're able to help bring about change, and how not, and, then, the congregation, if they actually want to change in the ways offered, has to commit to the process. If you commit, the coaches are with you in the trenches for the entire process. Otherwise, they move on to others interested in what they can offer. 

 

The other thing that I'm liking about what I'm hearing is getting the focus off of particular religious/theological content and onto the processes of developing a healthy community.  It's too easy, I think, for content (whether conservative, liberal, or otherwise) to be manipulated in ways that actually prevent a community from growing.  Ironically, focusing on content can take attention away from how we're actually living (kind of like it did for European colonists taking over indigenous populations.)

 

Need to learn more about it.

 

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My problem with your description is that I see nothing new that hasn't been endlessly streesed in books on church growth. 

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Berserk wrote:

My problem with your description is that I see nothing new that hasn't been endlessly streesed in books on church growth. 

 

One important difference for many people (myself included) is that NCD's process is based on very careful empirical research on the nature of church development.  It's a different approach to "authority."  If you click on that topic here: http://www.ncd-international.org/public/cas.html , the author speaks about that difference. A lot depends, I suppose, on the extent you accept the value of empirical science.  Another interesting talk is the one at that address labeled "Declining Churches."

 

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Rishi,

I have read your link and am grateful for it.  Like Schartz,  I am suspicious of endorsement based studies of church growth and much prefer the empirical approach.  Still, I find nothing new from the perspective of standard church growth books.  But I don't really intend that as a criticism because there is much moer to learn abou this organization.

 

I am puzzled and concerned by the praise fro the Willow Creek approach, which Schwartiz characterizes as seeker-sensitive.  He shows no awareness of Willow's massive REVEAL research study that embraced 225,000 church attenders and revolutionized Willow's approach to church growth.  Why the omission?  Or does he discuss it elsewhere?  Please advise because I'd be very interested in what Schwartz's researchers think of REVEAL, which impresse me greatly. 

 

UPDATE: :I found Schwartz's comparision of the two approaches under this topic:  "Natural Church Development (NCD) and Reveal--Can we compare?"  zzI only wish he weould have engaged the best insights of Reveal.  Anyway I'm still pleased to check NCD out in greater detail.

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On Quality:

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Ive also seen all these "answers" before when I was in Bible College.  That was 20 years ago.  Hasnt worked yet.

 

I am pessimistic because I don't think this addresses the fundamental problem of the Church.

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on keys:

 

on cultural change:

 

on model churches:

 

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How does this address the fact that the number of believers is falling rapidly?

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Both Catholic & Protestant, but based on the "reformation principle":

 

Networking oriented:

 

Christ-centered & (therefore) relationship oriented:

 

 

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chansen wrote:
How does this address the fact that the number of believers is falling rapidly?

 

I think they would qualify that fact by showing what particular types of qualitative church development are associated with decline and what particular types are not.  They would not argue against certain qualitative characteristics being associated with rapid decline.  Their purpose is rather to identify those qualitative characteristics that are associated with quantitative increases in membership. And so, my guess is that they would regard a statistic on decline which didn't differentiate qualitative factors as misleading.

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Hi Berserk,

 

Berserk wrote:

He shows no awareness of Willow's massive REVEAL research study that embraced 225,000 church attenders and revolutionized Willow's approach to church growth. 

 

To be fair, the scope of NCD dwarfs the scope of REVEAL and predates REVEAL by at least a decade.  

 

NCD addresses Church health by assessing the strength of a congregation in 8 quality characteristics.  From what I have seen of REVEAL the key focus is spiritual growth of individuals which may or may not be similar to NCD's quality characteristic of Passionate Spirituality.

 

If there is any point of comparison between the two it would appear to be in the bounds of this one of eight quality characteristics.  Admittedly, until you mentioned WCA's REVEAL I hadn't heard of it.

 

Berserk wrote:

Why the omission?  Or does he discuss it elsewhere?  Please advise because I'd be very interested in what Schwartz's researchers think of REVEAL, which impresse me greatly. 

 

I suspect that Schwartz would not talk about REVEAL simply because it is, from NCD's perspective incomplete.  Further, under NCD's minimum factor strategy work specifically targetting the Passionate Spirituality quality would only happen if Passionate Spirituality was the weakest of the 8 qualities.

 

Being based in Germany the Institute for Natural Church Development has ministry or publishing partners in 64 countries.  For a while here in Canada, NCD was partnered with the Canadian Branch of the Willow Creek Association.  That association ended roughly five years ago and the current distributer of NCD in Canada is Fordelm Inc.

 

Berserk wrote:

UPDATE: :I found Schwartz's comparision of the two approaches under this topic:  "Natural Church Development (NCD) and Reveal--Can we compare?"  zzI only wish he weould have engaged the best insights of Reveal.  Anyway I'm still pleased to check NCD out in greater detail.

 

I'll enbed the link for others.

http://ncdnet.blogs.com/encdine/files/NCD_Reveal.pdf

 

From my reading of Schwartz's blog entry it would appear that the folk at NCD and the folk at WCA are in agreement that REVEAL and NCD are two separate approaches and not actually in competition with one another.

 

Grace and peace to you.

John

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Western Imperialism:

 

Islam:

 

Tools:

 

Universal Principles:

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Hi chansen,

 

chansen wrote:

How does this address the fact that the number of believers is falling rapidly?

 

Looking at the issue from the perspective of NCD one can see that there are systemic problems which actually frustrate believers.  Classically, there has always been something of a tendency to blame the victim when individuals stall in their spiritual pursuits.

 

Looking at the issue from the perspective of REVEAL it appears that WCA has come to the conclusion that the things they invested a great deal of time and energy into were not as important as the things that they failed to value or pay attention to.

 

Churches have shot themselves in the foot by suggesting to many erstwhile believers that any struggles in faith they have experienced indicate that their faith is immature.  Whenever a church refuses to give its parishioners permission to ask questions it effectively dismisses them from fellowship.

 

Grace and peace to you.

John

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chansen wrote:
How does this address the fact that the number of believers is falling rapidly?

in 2010, the U. S. Catholic church impressively grew 1 1/2 % to 66 million Aeerican members.  The Assembly of God grew 1.27 % to 2.5 million members.  And worldwide Chrstianity is enjoying phenomenal growth, with millions of Chansens being cnoverted!

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Hi rishi - I've recently been reading the NCD book & some of the companion materials.  I think there is a lot of value in the approach.   At our recent Presbytery networking event, we had Bill Bickle speak & do a workshop as well - he heads up the Canadian connection with NCD. 

 

It's been tough to interest others in my church though, which is quite disappointing to me.  Swartz will be in Canada in May I think, doing some workshops.   I know there is one in Toronto, and in other parts of the country as well I think.

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Berserk wrote:

chansen wrote:
How does this address the fact that the number of believers is falling rapidly?

in 2010, the U. S. Catholic church impressively grew 1 1/2 % to 66 million Aeerican members.  The Assembly of God grew 1.27 % to 2.5 million members.  And worldwide Chrstianity is enjoying phenomenal growth, with millions of Chansens being cnoverted!

 

Declining Churches (Part 1)

 

Declining Churches (Part 2)

 

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Berserk wrote:

chansen wrote:
How does this address the fact that the number of believers is falling rapidly?

in 2010, the U. S. Catholic church impressively grew 1 1/2 % to 66 million Aeerican members.  The Assembly of God grew 1.27 % to 2.5 million members.  And worldwide Chrstianity is enjoying phenomenal growth, with millions of Chansens being cnoverted!

 

Just like in other areas, the evidence is not in your favour:

 

 

America is a less Christian nation than it was 20 years ago, and Christianity is not losing out to other religions, but primarily to a rejection of religion altogether...

In the survey, one in five Americans said they have no religious identity or did not answer the question, and more than one in four said they do not expect to have a religious funeral.

The rise in what the survey authors call "nones" is the only trend reflected in every single state in the study, Silk said.

"We don't see anything else in the survey that is nationwide," he told CNN.

http://articles.cnn.com/2009-03-09/living/us.religion.less.christian_1_a...

 

 

The number of people who call themselves Christians in England and Wales has fallen by almost 10% in five years, an official survey suggests.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-16312901

 

 

bullet The percentage of Christians is in relatively rapid decline in Canada, dropping at about 0.9 percentage points per year. Although this is a miniscule drop over the course of a year, it amounts to almost 10% over a decade.
bullet Small non-Christian faith groups are increasing in number and popularity.
bullet The percentage of Atheists, Agnostics, Humanists, secularists, and persons of no religious adherence is increasing rapidly.
bullet Many Canadians identify themselves as adherents of a specific religion, religious group, or denomination, but no longer attend religious services.

http://www.religioustolerance.org/can_rel.htm

 

 

 

 

Christianity is in serious decline in the U.S., Canada, and Europe.  You can search for outliers all you want, but the pool of believers is drying up.  You may be gaining some converts, but  for every conversion, you're losing multiple believers.  There is a shrinking market for your product.

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chansen wrote:

 

Christianity is in serious decline in the U.S., Canada, and Europe.  You can search for outliers all you want, but the pool of believers is drying up.  You may be gaining some converts, but  for every conversion, you're losing multiple believers.  There is a shrinking market for your product.

 

And this is what I believe the fundamental problem is.  People don't believe in God anymore so they don't think they need Church.  You can have all the splashy marketing plans you want but you can't sell car tires to people who drive hovercrafts and not cars anymore.

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Chansen,

 

As usual, you duck my evidence for the USA and third world countries.  My stats are sound.  But check out Rishis 2 videos on decine and weep---then gat converted!  I'd wager we'll reel you in in, oh, sway 2 years. 

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I can't check your stats - you gave me no references.  Pretty unusual for a professor with 12 years experience, as you love to tell us.

 

But I did provide you with references, which you ironically ducked.  Non-belief is rising and church attendance is declining in North America, as it did in Europe.  Canada lags Europe on this curve, and the U.S. lags behind Canada, but they're all at different points on the same downward slide.  I suggest that your main problem isn't that churches aren't instituting these 8 "characteristics" - it's that people increasing think that what you believe is bonkers.

 

I'll wait while you get someone who's been whacked upside the head with a 2x4 to tell me they've seen God and I'm wrong.

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Hi Carolla,

 

carolla wrote:

I know there is one in Toronto, and in other parts of the country as well I think.

 

Schwartz will be in Toronto at St. John York MIlls Anglican on May 11, 2012.  He will then fly to Moncton for May 14 at Glad Tidings Pentecostal Church.  He finishes the month of May at a two day conference in Edmonton's Southgate Alliance Church (May 22-23).

 

I have registered for the Toronto event.

 

At these events Schwartz will roll out the next two resources which will address the quality characteristics of Holistic Small Groups and Empowering Leadership.  Those resources arce called The 3 Colours of Community and The 3 Colours of Leadership respectively.

 

Resources already exist for the quality characteristics of Gift-Based Ministry, Loving Relationships and Passionate Spirituality.

 

Grace and peace to you.

John

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Below is more detail on the quality characteristics summarized  by a pastor of one of the Vinyard (conservative Evangelical) churches:

 

Craig Simonian wrote:

In part one of Natural Church Development, Schwarz identifies distinctive quality characteristics which are seemingly more developed in growing churches than in those he sees as experiencing zero or negative growth.  Because of the breadth of his research, he believes that these characteristics are “keys to success” which will produce a soil suitable for viable church growth.  The following represents a summary of each of the eight principles, which for Schwarz, characterizes, universally, all growing churches:

 

A.     Empowering Leadership.  Leaders of healthy, growing congregations concentrate their energy on the empowerment of other Christians for ministry.  In this they purpose to help Christians attain the spiritual potential God has for them.  These pastors, church, and lay leaders equip, support, motivate, and mentor individual members, enabling them to be all God wants them to be.  The study shows that pastors of growing churches need not be spiritual “superstars” and, in fact, the superstar pastor typically becomes a hindrance to what God is wanting to do in a church.  Schwarz notes that pastors of growing churches are not only those who purpose to equip and release others into ministry but are those who regularly seek counsel from people outside their own congregations.

 

B.     Gift-Oriented Ministry.  The role of church leadership is to assist its members in the identification of their gifts and to integrate them into appropriate ministries.  This is vital since over 80% of over 1600 believers questioned could not identify their spiritual gifts.  Of all the variables extracted from this part of his study, Schwarz sees that the most effective churches are those who provide lay-training for their staff… helping them to minister within the realm of their engiftedment.  What undergirds this principle is Schwarz’s conviction that God has already determined the engiftedment of each church member and has a place for each member in the body of Christ.   Thus, the pastor seeks to place the appropriately gifted person in the proper ministry position.

 

C.     Passionate Spirituality.  Healthy churches are passionate about their walk with Jesus… living committed lives and practicing their faith with joy and enthusiasm.  Passionate spirituality comes from every believer realizing his/her place in Christ and the Body… accepting responsibility to pray and reach the lost with the compassion of the Lord.  Interestingly, Schwarz confirms the notion that individuals walking in spiritual passion also demonstrated great enthusiasm for their particular congregations.  He also notes that congregates from healthy, growing churches experience prayer as an inspiring experience.

 

D.     Functional Structures.   The false paradigms, which consciously or unconsciously influence many Christians, must be understood. Traditionalism stands as a polar opposite to functional church structures.  While only one in ten qualitatively above-average church struggles with traditionalism, every other declining church of lower quality is plagued by it. But “Functional Structures” goes beyond this, asking leaders to consider whether their leadership style is demeaning, whether church services are conducted at inconvenient times, or whether church programming is really reaching their intended audience.

 

E.      Inspiring Worship Services.  Inevitably, members of growing churches describe the worship services at their churches as and ‘inspiring experience’.  People attending truly ‘inspired’ worship services indicate that church attendance is fun!  Thus, when worship inspires, it draws people to the serves all by itself.  Schwarz warns churches, however, against seeking to reproduce a particular worship model at a growing congregation with the hopes it is causing growth in your own church.  Here, the idea of church model and principle is being confused.

 

F.      Holistic Small Groups.  Schwarz states, “If we were to identify any one principle as the most important, then without doubt it would be the multiplication of small groups.  They must be holistic small groups which go beyond just discussing Bible passages to applying its message to daily life.” The vision to see these small groups reproduce, characterizes the healthiest of churches surveyed.  Indeed, 78% of growing churches consciously promotes the multiplication of small groups through cell division. The great majority of growing churches also indicated that it was more important for members to be involved in a small group than attend church.

 

G.     Need-Oriented Evangelism.  While fulfilling the Great Commission is the responsibility of all believers, Peter Wagner estimates that no more than ten percent of all Christians have the gift of evangelism.  However, all believers must use his or her gifts to serve non-Christians with whom one has a personal relationship.  Churches with the highest growth rates, according to Schwarz, appear to have a clear understanding of which member s of their church has the gift of evangelism.

 

H.     Loving Relationships.  Growing churches posses, on the average, a measurably higher ‘love quotient’ than stagnant, declining ones.  They practice hospitality as believers regularly invite the unchurched as well as other church members into their homes.   People do not want to hear us talk about the Gospel… they want to see authentic Christianity expressed through the love of Christ.  Schwarz’s research also demonstrates a very strong link between churches characterized by a ‘light-heartedness’ where there is laugher and joy, with churches that are growing.

 

 

 

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I would like to find a review of NCD by a more socially liberal / progressive body. I haven't yet, though.   I would like to know, for example, how much diversity there is among the thousands of congregations participating in this research with respect to the faith of LGBT persons.   Are these churches unified along conservative lines, regardless of diversty with respect to denominational affiliation?  

 

I wrote NCD International in Germany with this question, and I received a friendly e-mail back directly from Christian Schwarz stating that there was both theological and political diversity among the participating churches, but without elaborating.

 

Maybe "conservative" is not the best word.  I can imagine socially/politically liberal congregations getting involved in a process like NCG, but it's hard for me to imagine it appealing to a congregation that didn't have strong faith in the reality of God in Christ through the Holy Spirit.

 

 

 

 

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A Mini-Seminar on Natural Church Development

 

Part 1: The Second Chapter of NCD

 

Part 2: The Trinitarian Compass

 

Part 3: The Principles

 

Part 4: The Minimum Factor

 

Part 5: The Tools

 

Part 6: Your Starting Point

 

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Chansen,

Google Fast Facts about American Religion to see which denominations are growing.

Roman Catholicism and the Assemblies of God grew at a even faster rate in 2011 , as I reported form Annual Yearbook Statistics.

 

In Africa 5O,OOO new converts are baptized a week. 

See http:www.whychurch.org.uk/worldwide for the phenomenel global growth of Christianity ouitside Europe and North America.   

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Berserk wrote:

Chansen,

Google Fast Facts about American Religion to see which denominations are growing.

Roman Catholicism and the Assemblies of God grew at a even faster rate in 2011 , as I reported form Annual Yearbook Statistics.

From what I can tell, those numbers are reported from the churches themselves.  Look at the results from the 2008 American Religious Identification Survey:

http://www.usatoday.com/news/religion/2009-03-09-american-religion-ARIS_...

 

Interesting charts by state:

http://www.usatoday.com/news/religion/2009-03-09-ARIS-faith-survey_N.htm

click on "Catholics" and then "No Religion" for some fun!

 

Berserk wrote:

In Africa 5O,OOO new converts are baptized a week. 

See http:www.whychurch.org.uk/worldwide for the phenomenel global growth of Christianity ouitside Europe and North America.   

The developing world will, one day, hopefully develop.  Part of that development will be outgrowing faith, just as Europe has largely done, and as we are doing right now.

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chansen wrote:

The developing world will, one day, hopefully develop.  Part of that development will be outgrowing faith, just as Europe has largely done, and as we are doing right now.

 

But once their thesis becomes an antithesis, as it did for us, our antithesis wll have already moved on and become a synthesis, unless of course we erroneously come to think that we've somehow achieved the pinnacle of 'development' and choose to stop evolving.

 

Shaikh Abu-Said Abil-Khair wrote:

"Until you become an unbeliever in your own self,
    you cannot become a believer in God."

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rishi wrote:

chansen wrote:

The developing world will, one day, hopefully develop.  Part of that development will be outgrowing faith, just as Europe has largely done, and as we are doing right now.

 

But once their thesis becomes an antithesis, as it did for us, our antithesis wll have already moved on and become a synthesis, unless of course we erroneously come to think that we've somehow achieved the pinnacle of 'development' and choose to stop evolving.

 

This is exactly the sort of post I would expect from the love child of Arminius and WaterBuoy.  We need DNA samples to be sure.

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chansen wrote:

 

bullet The percentage of Christians is in relatively rapid decline in Canada, dropping at about 0.9 percentage points per year. Although this is a miniscule drop over the course of a year, it amounts to almost 10% over a decade.
   
   
 


 

 

 

 

I have very litle interest in the topic, but was astounded at the above.

Is this evidence or assumption that we have never gotten beyond grade two in math?

That's as insulting as it is funny,

"I know you are going to be surprized at this, but take my word for it: .9 % a year for 10 years

is damn near 10%! "

"If you DON'T want to take my word for it YOU do the math, but be warned: theres multiplying involved..."

 

smiley

 

 

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chansen wrote:

This is exactly the sort of post I would expect from the love child of Arminius and WaterBuoy.  We need DNA samples to be sure.

 

Just out of curiousity, whose philosophical copulation do you imagine yourself to be the love child of?  Or did your perspective emerge ex nihilo?

 

 

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Good question.  I like to think that I'm influenced by the writings of Douglas Adams and Donald Jack.  One was brilliant at pointing out the absurd, and the other was brilliant at finding humour in the unlikeliest of places, but I'm a complete hack by comparison.  It's like saying my rec league softball swing is influenced by Tony Fernandez.  I'm a fan of Hitchens, of course, but my writing style was set long before I read a word from him.

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chansen wrote:

This is exactly the sort of post I would expect from the love child of Arminius and WaterBuoy. 

 

So what are the resemblances that you see between Arminius, WaterBuoy, and I ?

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First, the whole line was a joke, and it was based on "synthesis" being a word that Arminius uses more than anyone I know, while the WaterBuoy comparison was a reference to the "what the hell did I just read?" quality of the post.

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chansen wrote:

... the "what the hell did I just read?" quality of the post.

 

That is the challenge I'm suggesting you take up rather than walk away from.  Philosophical thought (like describing how thesis becomes antithesis before reaching synthesis) is not something that can be reduced to a DNA configuration, any more than love can.  Their reality is too subtle in nature.  The subtle, unlike the gross, just can't be nailed down, even by DNA.  It calls for a different quality of attention. That isn't necessarily a problem for science, unless our science is one that requires us to have all of reality nailed down. When life presents us with such subtle level realities, if we put down our set of gross lenses, and pick up our set of subtle ones, we can discover better answers to the question  "what the hell just happened?" You should try it.

 

 

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Hi rishi,

 

rishi wrote:

I would like to know, for example, how much diversity there is among the thousands of congregations participating in this research with respect to the faith of LGBT persons.

 

What would such information say to you?

 

What I like best about NCD is that it focuses on church health and not church doctrine.

 

In the primary diagnostic tool for clergy, questions are asked about whether the Church recognizes women as being able to take leadership or preaching positions.

 

In the primary diagnostic tool for lay members there are no questions asked about limitations placed on members according to gender.  Most questions seem to be more pointed towards whether the individual supports others and feels supported by others.

 

I don't have any information about which questions in the diagnostics speak to which quality characteristic.  Nor can I think of any quality characteristic which would improve if respondants began to exclude others for any reason.

 

While some Christian "beliefs" are guaged I have seen nothing in NCD which suggests a bias against individuals based on their race, colour, creed, gender or orientation.  The questions may certainly point to the impact that such biases have within the total health of a congregation they are used not to condemn others so much as they are to indict the Church for failing to live up to its calling.

 

rishi wrote:

it's hard for me to imagine it appealing to a congregation that didn't have strong faith in the reality of God in Christ through the Holy Spirit.

 

True.  And yet the diagnostics are quite content to allow individuals to make of "God in Christ through the Holy Spirit" what they will.  It does not dictacte that one must have a high or even traditional Christology.  It presumes that one has a Christology of somekind.  Even so, one's Christology does not speak directly to the quality characteristics.

 

Behaviour, more than belief, is what NCD assesses.

 

Grace and peace to you.

John

 

 

 

 

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Panentheism

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There are many similar ideas - David Ewart did a spiritual gift analysis - check his web site - BruceSangran in his book uses the color - both are liberals - check homebrew christianity web site and Claremont school of theology.

 

While there is empircial truth to some of chansen's points it is not the whole picture - religion will not die but what it will work out in the future is a work in process.  We are back to the historical attendance in church - the 50's were not the norm.  Growth is in the nots.  The growth is in spiritulal but not religious.  Check Diana Butler Bass's new work - the emerging church movement suggest health and there are many liberal churches growing.  and the there is decine in all churches, conservative and liberal but the problem is more too many chruches.  Again sociologists from Berger to Taylor to Smith suggest religion as qua religion is here to stay.

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revjohn

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Hi Panentheist,

 

Panentheism wrote:

There are many similar ideas - David Ewart did a spiritual gift analysis - check his web site

 

David has done some slight adaptation of NCD's 3 Colours of Ministry for his spiritual gift assessment.  The link to David's site follows:

http://www.davidewart.ca/

 

 

Panentheism wrote:

BruceSangran in his book uses the color - both are liberals - check homebrew christianity web site and Claremont school of theology.

 

The chapter "What Colour is your Christ" uses far more colours than does any NCD resource.  If there is any element of NCD informing Bruce in this chapter it is not recognizable so I wouldn't say that Bruce is participating in or even riffing off of the NCD paradigm.

 

Grace and peace to you.

John

 

 

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rishi

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I hear what you're saying, John.  And it is likely that I don't understand the "guts" of the profile enough to see the problems with my question.  When I learn more about the process, my reservations may fade.  But... at this point...

 

What I'm questioning has to do with the science behind NCD. The thing about empirical data is that it can only tell us about the things that are being validly measured. 

 

What if we were to find that congregations with higher homophobic or racist beliefs & behaviors can be shown empirically to grow better qualitatively and quantitatively than congregations with lower homophobic or racist beliefs & behaviors?  I don't personally think that that is probable, but it is possible for that kind of finding to be demonstrated empirically if indeed that variable (homophobic or racist beliefs & behaviors) was actually to be assessed. If it is not assessed, we have no way of knowing.  If it was assessed and it turned out that high homophobia in a congregation could empirically predict healthy growth, what would the implications of that finding be?  It would bring into question the validity of the measurement of the eight principles.

 

Take a more extreme example just to illustrate the difficulty.  Would it be possible for a congregation made up of compulsive porn stars and serial killers to achieve scores on their NCD profiles that would classify them as a healthy, growing church?  If so, I think that would bring into question the validity of what the assessments call a healthy, growing church.  Again the point is: there's no way to know whether or not this is the case unless the assessments have some way of identifying porn stars and serial killers. How much do we actually know about the lives of these "healthy growing church" people?

 

Take a less dramatic and more realistic example.  What if congregations in which many people tend to repress out of consciousness all unpeasant emotion (or, more simply, to lie) can be shown empirically by NCD assessments to be a healthy church destined to grow? What would that mean?  It's a question that has no answer unless somehow that variable is also being assessed.  Again, how much do we really know about the lives of these "healthy growing church" people?

 

I like the guy, and the paradigm. I just have some unanswered questions about the science that is claimed to be beneath it all.

 

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carolla

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How much do we ever know about anybody's life rishi?  Or even about our own for that matter, in some cases.   

 

To your point in extreme - perhaps a prison ministry would be filled with folks meeting your descriptions - but would they/could they be considered a church if worshipping together?   Could lives be transformed through engagement?  But I digress.

 

As I understand the NCD stuff, it's about "organizational" traits that promote growth - not at all about which church doctrine or position on matters of justice will attract more folks.   That would be an entirely separate matter.

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rishi

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carolla wrote:

How much do we ever know about anybody's life rishi?  Or even about our own for that matter, in some cases.   

 

That's true... but "we," unlike NCD, are not claiming to have undisputable empirical proof of what we know.  When an organization puts itself out on that limb, they have to be prepared to defend their claims. The point that I illustrated with extreme examples is a very serious point, from the very perspective of the science that NCD is claiming to espouse.

 

It all makes great sense to me, not just Scripturally, but in terms of human development and organizational theory. But NCD is not simply saying that this is Scripturally and theoretically sound; they're saying it is scientifically proven.  The moment that claim is made, the "it" in question needs to come under a different kind of scrutiny.

 

Why does this matter?  Why does Crest tell us that it is "clinically proven" to reduce cavities?  We have to ask how popular NCD would be if it were not for the scientific authority that it claims. It would find itself in the company of the many studies not based on science.  As Berserk commented:

 

Berserk wrote:

I find nothing new from the perspective of standard church growth books.

 

 

 

 

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revjohn

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Hi rishi,

 

rishi wrote:

What I'm questioning has to do with the science behind NCD. The thing about empirical data is that it can only tell us about the things that are being validly measured. 

 

Fair point.

 

This is the only document I have found which appears to speak to the original research project:

http://ncdnet.blogs.com/files/report1.pdf

 

I haven't had the opportunity to read it through yet.

 

rishi wrote:

What if we were to find that congregations with higher homophobic or racist beliefs & behaviors can be shown empirically to grow better qualitatively and quantitatively than congregations with lower homophobic or racist beliefs & behaviors?

 

With respect to NCD's research that relationship isn't explored.  Possibly such relationship is more correlative than it is causative.

 

I would think that if homophobia and racism are causative and actually promote qualitative growth that such would be addressed in NCD.  That they aren't suggests to me that they do not fit into the universal principles that NCD has abstracted from the research data.

 

rishi wrote:

Take a more extreme example just to illustrate the difficulty.  Would it be possible for a congregation made up of compulsive porn stars and serial killers to achieve scores on their NCD profiles that would classify them as a healthy, growing church?

 

That would depend upon the answers that they give to the questions contained within the diagnostics.  Sexual activity is not an area covered in the diagnostics nor is criminality.

 

rishi wrote:

If so, I think that would bring into question the validity of what the assessments call a healthy, growing church.

 

Because Jesus did not come to call the sick or the lost just the well?  

 

If the Church was advocating that all members must participate in pornographic production or murder non-church members that might possibly call into question the validity of the assessments.

 

If the Church was advocating that pornographers and murderers had as much right as nice people to sit in the pews would it still call the assessments into question?

 

rishi wrote:

Take a less dramatic and more realistic example.  What if congregations in which many people tend to repress out of consciousness all unpeasant emotion (or, more simply, to lie) can be shown empirically by NCD assessments to be a healthy church destined to grow?

 

I know of no self-assessment tool which is immune to lying.

 

That said.  The questions are pretty simple and ask respondants to answer questions that focus on individual belief and action.

 

Some sample questions from the Questionnaire for Lay People are:

1.  How much time do you spend per week (excluding church meetings) with friends from church?

 

2.  How often have you been invited by church members (not relatives) for dinner or coffee in the past two months?

 

3.  How often have you invited church members (not relatives) for dinner or coffee during the past two months?

 

These samples, I suspect, are being used to guage the Loving Relationship quality characteristic.  Clearly, even homophobes, can freely invite others to dinner or coffee.  Being homophobic means that you will most likely not invite gays or lesbians to dinner or coffee.  It doesn't mean that you are universally anti-social.  It is just as true that gays and lesbians are not likely to be inviting homophobes out to dinner or coffee anytime soon.

 

What is key in these questions is not "who" you invite or invites you it is whether there is any kind of invitation going on period.

 

rishi wrote:

how much do we really know about the lives of these "healthy growing church" people?

 

The purpose of the diagnostic is not to find out what the people are like.  The purpose of the diagnostic is to discover how the congregation acts.  The support resources have the potential to define or describe and individual in relation to the eight quality characteristics.

 

The 3 Colours of Ministry will help the individual to discover their Spirit-Given Gifts and this is important work if the quality characteristic of Gift-Oriented Ministry is the minimum factor that a congregation needs to begin addressing.

 

The 3 Colours of Love will help the individual to discover which fruits of the Spirit need the most attention in their lives and this connects to the quality characteristic of Loving Relationships.

 

The 3 Colours of Spirituality will help the individual to discover their natural spiritual style and to develop their opposite styles and this work connects to the quality characteristic of Passionate Sprituality.

 

The next to be released resources are designed to help individuals asses personal strengths and weaknesses that are associated with the quality characteristics of Holistic Small Groups and Empowered Leadership.

 

rishi wrote:

I like the guy, and the paradigm. I just have some unanswered questions about the science that is claimed to be beneath it all.

 

I probably won't be able to answer all your questions.  I'll help where I can.

 

Grace and peace to you.

John

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Pilgrims Progress

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rishi wrote:

chansen wrote:

... the "what the hell did I just read?" quality of the post.

 

That is the challenge I'm suggesting you take up rather than walk away from.  Philosophical thought (like describing how thesis becomes antithesis before reaching synthesis) is not something that can be reduced to a DNA configuration, any more than love can.  Their reality is too subtle in nature.  The subtle, unlike the gross, just can't be nailed down, even by DNA.  It calls for a different quality of attention. That isn't necessarily a problem for science, unless our science is one that requires us to have all of reality nailed down. When life presents us with such subtle level realities, if we put down our set of gross lenses, and pick up our set of subtle ones, we can discover better answers to the question  "what the hell just happened?" You should try it.

 

 

Good post, Rishi.

 

I rather think athiests, like fundamentalists, don't do subtle.........

 

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rishi

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revjohn wrote:

 

rishi wrote:

What if we were to find that congregations with higher homophobic or racist beliefs & behaviors can be shown empirically to grow better qualitatively and quantitatively than congregations with lower homophobic or racist beliefs & behaviors?

 

With respect to NCD's research that relationship isn't explored.  Possibly such relationship is more correlative than it is causative.

 

I would think that if homophobia and racism are causative and actually promote qualitative growth that such would be addressed in NCD.  That they aren't suggests to me that they do not fit into the universal principles that NCD has abstracted from the research data.

 

It wouldn't need to be causative, only correlative.  If homophobia, for example, turned out to be highly correlated with the kinds of qualitative growth measured by NCD, that would be enough for homophobia to empirically predict qualitative growth.

 

revjohn wrote:

rishi wrote:

Take a more extreme example just to illustrate the difficulty.  Would it be possible for a congregation made up of compulsive porn stars and serial killers to achieve scores on their NCD profiles that would classify them as a healthy, growing church?

 

That would depend upon the answers that they give to the questions contained within the diagnostics.  

 

Exactly my point.  As long as someone gives the answers that predict  qualitative growth, nothing else matters.  By hearing how they responded to the questionnaire items, we may think we know a great deal about them and their church, but we really know nothing more about them than those answers they gave, which predict church growth.

 

revjohn wrote:

rishi wrote:

If so, I think that would bring into question the validity of what the assessments call a healthy, growing church.

 

Because Jesus did not come to call the sick or the lost just the well?  

 

No, because there is no such a thing as a "healthy growing church" apart from the "healthy growing people" who make up that church. And so, if a healthy growing church can be made up serial killers, then this research is saying that the lifestyle of a serial killer is one of the possible lifestyles of "healthy growing people."

 

 

revjohn wrote:

If the Church was advocating that pornographers and murderers had as much right as nice people to sit in the pews would it still call the assessments into question?

 

Yes, it would still call the assessments into question, since the Church does not  advocate the way that pornographers and murderers live their lives, and the assessments (in this bizarre example) would be affirming them as the lifestyles of "healthy growing people."

 

In other words, it would be more honest in terms of research ethics if NCD was to say

 

"We know scientifically that when a church is made up of x% of persons who respond to our questionnaires according to the 'healthy growing' pattern, said church will predictably experience numerical growth.  We don't know, however, if those very same people are active serial killers. They may be. We can't really say for sure, because we have no data on that variable." 

 

Then, at least, we would know that the meaning of  NCD's "healthy growing people" is not identical with a biblical understanding of what it means to be a healthy, growing human being.   Manifesting those NCD qualities is clearly not "un-biblical," but it cannot possibly be identified with a more comprehensive view of what it means to be a whole human being (which would of course include things like not murdering someone because they put French dressing on your salad when you had asked for Italian).

 

Having said all that, maybe there are in fact disclaimers somewhere in their materials about what exactly they mean, and do not mean, by a "healthy growing church."  I just haven't found any yet.  And without any disclaimers it makes  growing healthy groups of people look a whole lot less ambiguous than it actually is.

 

 

 

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revjohn

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Hi rishi,

 

rishi wrote:

Having said all that, maybe there are in fact disclaimers somewhere in their materials about what exactly they mean, and do not mean, by a "healthy growing church."  I just haven't found any yet.  And without any disclaimers it makes  growing healthy groups of people look a whole lot less ambiguous than it actually is.

 

I'm sure that the research was not exhaustive, meaning that they didn't think (apparently) to run controls with congregations made up of serial killers or pornographers.  For that matter they didn't run controls with congregations made up of mystics or quadraplegics.  So NCD will never be able to claim that monocultures of pornographers, serial killers, mystics or quadraplegics could not be healthy growing churches.  By that token unless you are willing to run those controls you will not be able to determine that pornogrphers, serial killers, mystics or quadraplegics are causative factors behind any of the eight quality characteristics.

 

That said I don't believe that their premise was that only monocultures can form healthy growing churches.

 

The hypothesis was that Church is an organism and it should behave as an organism.  That would mean that biotic principles would be evident.  The biotic principles they looked for were, interdependence, multiplication, energy transformation, multi-useage, symbiosis and functionality.

 

What they found with respect to those biotic principles is reflected in the 8 quality characteristics.

 

Empowered Leadership speaks to the culture or environment that the Pastor works in and creates questions in the diagnostics are designed to measure how well the leadership culture either controls or releases and dominates or equips.

 

Gift oriented Ministry explores how people are recruited, trained and helped in their ministry.

 

Passionate Spirituality examines the behaviours of the members when the Church is gathered and when the Church is scattered and whether or not that spirituality can be described as contagious.

 

Functional structures tests how the church decides what its ministry will look like.

 

Inspiring Worship tests the entire church experience from bumper to bumper in terms of how the worship service facilitates members focusing their attention on God and experiencing the presence of God.

 

Holistic small groups tests the involvement and functioning of groups in church.

 

Need oriented evangelism measures how the church reaches into the wider community be they churched or unchurched.

 

Loving relationships examines how members relate to each other outside the context of worship and meetings.

 

It doesn't explore how socially deviant any member might be or in which ways they might be considered socially deviant.  It doesn't explore personal bias or prejudice.  It looks for the behaviours and actions that define the eight quality characteristics.

 

Grace or peace to you.

John

 

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chansen

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Pilgrims Progress wrote:

rishi wrote:

chansen wrote:

... the "what the hell did I just read?" quality of the post.

 

That is the challenge I'm suggesting you take up rather than walk away from.  Philosophical thought (like describing how thesis becomes antithesis before reaching synthesis) is not something that can be reduced to a DNA configuration, any more than love can.  Their reality is too subtle in nature.  The subtle, unlike the gross, just can't be nailed down, even by DNA.  It calls for a different quality of attention. That isn't necessarily a problem for science, unless our science is one that requires us to have all of reality nailed down. When life presents us with such subtle level realities, if we put down our set of gross lenses, and pick up our set of subtle ones, we can discover better answers to the question  "what the hell just happened?" You should try it.

 

 

Good post, Rishi.

 

I rather think athiests, like fundamentalists, don't do subtle.........

 

I'm not sure what atheists do, but I try not to do obscure and I try not to confuse with language.  I try very hard to write with short, simple words.  Those work best, as some guy named "Winston" once said.

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rishi

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revjohn wrote:

It doesn't explore how socially deviant any member might be or in which ways they might be considered socially deviant.  It doesn't explore personal bias or prejudice. It looks for the behaviours and actions that define the eight quality characteristics.

 

You seem pretty confident that your participation in NCD won't attract excessive numbers of homophobic serial killer porn stars to your congregation. But just remember, John, I warned you.

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revjohn

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Hi rishi,

 

rishi wrote:

You seem pretty confident that your participation in NCD won't attract excessive numbers of homophobic serial killer porn stars to your congregation. But just remember, John, I warned you.

 

Should we even attract one I promise I will give you the first crack at saying, "I told you so."

 

Grace and peace to you.

John

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rishi

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chansen wrote:

I'm not sure what atheists do, but I try not to do obscure and I try not to confuse with language.  I try very hard to write with short, simple words.  Those work best, as some guy named "Winston" once said.

 

That will limit your horizon significantly.  Something like the following statement by Zhou, a founder of Neo-Confucianism, would become an absurdity unworthy of attention.

Zhou Dunyi wrote:

It is not the case that having no activity in activity and having no stillness in stillness is neither activity nor stillness.”

 

Or are you saying something less than that, e.g. that such things are not necessarily without value, just not your cup of tea.

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