Board of Evangelism
Church Growth Division
Quadrennial Evangelistic Theme 2005-2008:
"Quality Characteristics of Healthy Congregations"
The evangelistic theme for this quadrennium [2005-2008] is "Quality Characteristics of Healthy Congregations." Each year we shall highlight two of the eight essential qualities of healthy and growing churches, as identified and described by Christian A. Schwarz in his book, Natural Church Development: A Guide to Eight Essential Qualities of Healthy Churches. The book is the result of an international research project in which Schwarz sought to discover universally applicable church growth principles. The study resulted into the most comprehensive research project of the causes of church growth ever undertaken. More than a thousand churches from a total of 32 countries on six continents were studied. 2005
Quality Characteristic #1
Leaders that equip other to serve [Ephesians 4:12]
The first half of 2005 is devoted to the first of these eight quality characteristics, which is Empowering Leadership. Schwarz describes empowering leadership as follows:
Schwarz describes how empowering leadership helps to foster what he calls the "all-by-itself" principle. This principle recognizes that when soil has the proper nutrients, it grows all by itself. (Mark 4:26-29) In the same way, when a congregation has all the essential qualities it grows all by itself. He says:
The Apostle Paul instructed Timothy, his son in the ministry about the importance of empowering leadership. He writes, "And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also." (2 Timothy 2:2) The example of Jesus is one of equipping His disciples to do ministry and empowering them to carry out His mission long after He was gone. John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, stressed the use of lay leaders in the ministries of the church by both precept and example. One of his foundational principles fostered that the primary function of spiritual/educational leadership is to equip others to lead and minister, not to perform the ministry personally. 2005
We see, then, that the best in Christian research urges us to embrace empowering leadership as an essential quality of a healthy congregation. The philosophical approach and the foundational principles of John Wesley challenge us to adopt empowering leadership as a leadership principle. The teachings of the Apostle Paul and the example of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ inspire us to practice empowering leadership as a biblical model. May we develop and promote empowering leaders throughout the length and breadth of the church.
Quality Characteristic #2
Tasks distributed according to spiritual gifts [1 Pet. 4:10]
Schwarz's research reveals that healthy congregations assign tasks in the church on the basis of the spiritual gifts of the members. This is corroborated by the Scriptures. In 1 Peter 4:10, God gives us the following instruction, "As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God." In addition to Christian commitment and moral character, an individual's spiritual gifts should determine where he or she serves in the body of Christ. Overlooking any of these criteria has proven to be detrimental both to the church worker and to the congregation. 2006
Two reasons stand out as it relates to the significance of gift-oriented ministry. The first is the positive difference it makes in the life of the Christian worker. It has long been proven that one of the most decisive factors in the proper assimilation of new converts is helping them find their rightful place in the body. Nothing fosters this more than their involvement in meaningful ministry within the church. Meaningful ministry is possible only when we are placed in an area of ministry consistent with the spiritual gifts with which God has empowered us. Consequently, our spiritual growth is enhanced; our faithfulness to attending the means of grace is increased; and our bond with the faith community is strengthened.
Second and more far-reaching is the difference that it makes for the congregation. In writing about spiritual gifts in particular, the Apostle Paul informs us in 1 Corinthians 12: 7, that "the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all." Our spiritual gifts are given to us primarily so that we can build up the body of Christ in general and our congregation in particular. Gift-oriented ministry is an indispensable part of a healthy congregation.
One of the grave mistakes we have made in the past is to appoint or elect people to position of leadership or tasks in the church on the basis of popularity. The church has suffered greatly because of this practice. The most popular person may not be the person best equipped to serve. There is a place for that popular member, but it should be determined by his or her spiritual giftedness. Another serious error in judgment is the practice of appointing people on the basis of our ability to control them. Although this practice may yield some perceived short-term benefits, it does great harm to the church in the long run. Remember the criteria for leadership should always be threefold: Christian commitment, moral character, and spiritual gifts.
Still another fallacy is the assumption that the church can be run on natural talent. Our natural talents, which we received at our first birth, can be consecrated for use in the church. Great good can come from the use of the talents, which are given to us by God. Their weakness is that they cannot make the church grow. Our spiritual gifts, which we received at our second birth, can be discovered, developed, and used to edify the body of Christ. These gifts can be used to make a difference for the kingdom. Consequently, in healthy congregations, members not only utilize their natural talents, they use their spiritual gifts. They are given tasks and are placed in ministry where the gifts can be fully utilized. This is at the heart of lay empowerment. The growth of the church is phenomenal, because everyone is involved in ways that are fulfill to them and profitable for the congregation.
Quality Characteristic #3
Spiritual lives of the members typify prayer, enthusiasm, and boldness [Rom. 12:11, 12]
Quality Characteristic #4
Structures that are useful for church growth here and now [Mark 2:27]
Quality Characteristic #5
Worship is an inspiring experience for the church members [1 Thes. 5:16-19]
Quality Characteristic #6
Holistic Small Groups
Small groups that meet the real needs of its members [Acts 2:46-47]
Quality Characteristic #7
Evangelism that is related to the needs of the lost [1 Cor. 9:20-22]
Quality Characteristic #8
Church relationships that are characterized by love and affection [Jn. 13:34-35]
1Christian A. Schwarz, Natural Church Development: A Guide to Eight Essential Qualities of Healthy Churches (St. Charles, IL: Church Smart Resources, 2003), p. 22.
Quadrennial Evangelistic Theme 2001-2004:
"Making Christian Disciples: A Mandate from Christ"
2001 Evangelizing the World with a Christ-Centered Gospel
Because evangelism is the first major step in fulfilling Christ's mandate of making Christian disciples, in 2001, we want to stress the importance of aggressively taking the good news of Jesus Christ to people from every walk of life. The Christ-Centered gospel is indeed "the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile."[Romans 1:16] The Lord Jesus said that "the harvest is truly plenteous, but the laborers are few." [Luke 10:2] Christ revealed that the problem in evangelism is not with the harvest. The harvest is ready. People in the world are ripe for the gospel. The problem is with the laborers. There are too few of them willing to laborer in God's harvest. Let us begin praying in earnest to the Lord of the harvest that He would send laborers into His harvest. Let us also hear and answer Christ's call and become laborers sent into His harvest. Let us labor in the harvest with complete confidence in the gospel's power to save those who believe it. 2002 Initiating Converts into a Christ-Centered Church
In 2002, we are stressing the importance of initiating those who make decisions for Christ into a local church where they can be nurtured to maturity in Christ. A significant part of fulfilling the Great Commission of making Christian disciples is that of baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. [Matthew 28:19] Baptism signifies our divinely appointed responsibility of initiating and assimilating converts into a Christ-Centered Church. A Christ-Centered Church is one that places disciple making at the heart of the church and keeps it there. It makes disciple making the church's priority and passion, both in principle and in practice. A healthy and loving local church is the nurturing environment in which disciples are made. 2003 Teaching Believers to Obey Christ's Commands
Central to the Great Commission given by the Lord Jesus Christ is the mandate to teach believers to obey everything that He has commanded. It is not enough for us to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ, so that those who believe it might be converted and experience a new birth. It is not enough for us to initiate and assimilate converts into the nurturing environment of a Christ-centered Church. Our mission includes that of teaching these believers to incorporate into their lives the commands and principles of the Lord Jesus Christ. Only then can it be honestly said that these converts have been made into true followers or disciples of Christ. 2004 Training Disciples to Make Disciples
The most vital step in the disciple making process may very well be that of training disciples to make disciples. Disciple making is a cycle that is not complete until the individual who has been discipled is equipped and empowered to disciple others. This is exactly what the Apostle Paul says to Timothy, his son in the ministry, "and what you have heard from me through many witnesses entrust to faithful people who will be able to teach others as well." (2 Timothy 2:2 NRSV) The church must not only make disciples, it must train disciple makers. Only then, can the church be assured that disciple making will be ongoing.