First, God's principles never change. They are not bound by time or culture. The application of these principles may be different in every ministry context. For example, one of the principles, we will discuss later, is that God has designed churches as living organisms which must be involved in the process of creating new churches in order to be healthy and to fulfill his plan. We can reproduce churches through a variety of methods, each of which is applicable to a different situation.
Second, pastors and church leaders need a well-defined process to help structure prayerful thought so the Holy Spirit can guide them to the appropriate application of principles for their unique situation.
The Eight Qualities of a Growing Church
In his book Natural Church Development, Christian Schwarz lists the eight qualities of a growing church. They are:
Gift Oriented Ministry
Inspiring Worship Service
Holistic Small Groups
Need Oriented Evangelism
Characteristic 1: Empowering Leadership
" to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up." Ephesians 4:12 It is important for us to notice that this characteristic is not entitled Empowered Leadership. Empowered leadership usually means that one individual or a small group have the power to make decisions and direct the programs. Studies by Christians Schwarz and Bob Logan do not justify this approach as a consistent characteristic of growing congregations. Leaders of growing churches do not try to build their own power. Empire building is not a valid church growth characteristic. Kingdom building on the other hand, is a fulfillment of the Great Commission.
One of the most important tasks of a leader is to help Christians develop greater degrees of empowerment. Leaders of growing churches equip, support, motivate, and mentor individuals to become all God wants them to be.
This foundational purpose of leadership can be found in Ephesians 4:12: "To prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ."
Church staffs often grumble that their churches aren't growing because the people are so immature. Many times this is true. However, it is the task of the church leadership to cultivate spiritual maturity. A mature growing Christian will demonstrate a Godly characterexpressed via selfless love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
Leaders of growing churches do not have to be "Super Stars". If church members do not expect us to be Super Stars, what do they want?
At the top of the list is honesty. Followers expect both transparency in communication and honesty in action. A leader's behavior, on stage and off, is what provides evidence of honesty in life-style. A successful leader will be consistent in word and deed. There should not be hidden agendas.
Transparency means the leader is open in his/her dealings with others. He/she projects a sincere personality. You and I are not super heroes. We are human. Admit it. We are sinners saved by grace. We will make mistakes. It is our responsibility to learn from the mistakes.
The second trait followers expect of their leaders is competence. The leader must be someone who knows what he/she is doing. The pastoral role has been so ill defined in the past; people don't know how to measure competence. Effective pastoral leadership is always found in thriving congregations.
Followers also expect their leaders to be forward looking. The true leader knows where he/she is going. They have vision. They have priority concerns, goals, and action plans.
Followers want a sense of direction. They want security. They expect their leader to have a map to the future. They believe God speaks to us. They want to hear his word through us.
Inspiration is another crucial expectation that followers have of their leader. Leaders must have the capacity to excite and to convey the idea that there is more to life than we presently see. Simply having vision is not enough. Leaders must have the capacity to communicate it with passion, enthusiasm, energy, and a positive attitude.