Critics of the “Church Growth Movement” insightfully point out that many of the principles proclaimed by church growth experts are based upon human initiative and power (many come from the business sector). From the point of view of these critics, church growth experts are trying to accomplish on human power that which only God can do through His power.

     The Natural Church Development approach, headed by Christian A. Schwarz (http://www.churchsmart.com), takes a different approach. They urge church leaders to re-learn the laws of life–hence the term “Biotic” Church Development (bios is Greek for life). They point to Jesus’ statement in Matthew 6:28, “See the lillies of the field, how they grow.” The English word see does not capture the intensity of the idea. Jesus is telling us to investigate, study, contemplate, reflect upon, and learn from the fact that God has installed growth automatisms into His creation on every level. Placed in their proper environment God-created seeds will grow “all by themselves” (an automatism–God-instilled growth within the DNA of every seed).

     Using this view of the Church, the role of leaders is not to infuse human power into the system to make it grow, thier role is to remove impediments that prevent natural growth from occurring all by itself. “We should not attempt to ‘manufacture’ church growth, but rather to release the biotic potential which God has put into every church.” (Schwarz, Natural Church Development, 10).

     In a massive, ongoing, world-wide research project, the people at Church Smart have identified eight essential qualities that all healthy churches exhibit. They consistently find that churches that are “healthy” (not perfect, not even excelling, just healthy) in all eight areas automatically grow. In other words, growth is a by-product of being healthy.

     This approach is not without its detractors and not without its own set of difficulties; however, it is worth thinking about. What do you think?

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