Christian A. Schwarz, head of the Institute for Natural Church Development in Germany, conducted reportedly the most comprehensive church-growth study ever, drawn from more than one thousand churches in thirty-two countries. His study revealed eight qualities in healthy churches.
1. Empowering Leadership
Leaders of growing churches … do not use lay workers as “helpers” in attaining their goals and fullfilling their visions. Rather, leaders invert the pyramid of authority so they assist Christians to attain the spiritual potential God has for them.
2. 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 Holy Spirit. Thus, ordinary people can accomplish the extraordinary!
3. Passionate Spirituality
The concept of spiritual passion and the widespread notion of the walk of faith as “performing one’s duty” seem to be mutually exclusive.
4. Functional Structures
Anyone who accepts this perspective will continually evaluate to what extent church structures improve the self-organization of the church. Elements not meeting this standard (such as discouraging leadership structures, inconvenient worship-service times, demotivating financial concepts) will be changed or eliminated.
5. Inspiring Worship Service
Services may target Christians or non-Christians, the style may be liturgical or free, the language may be “churchy” or secular–it makes no difference…. Whenever the Holy Spirit is truly at work (and his presence is not merely presumed), he will have a concrete effect upon the way a worship service is conducted.
6. Holistic Small Groups
[These groups] go beyond just discussing Bible passages to applying its message to daily life. In these groups, members are able to bring up issues and questions that are immediate personal concerns.
7. Need Oriented Evangelism
The key … is for the local congregation to focus its evangelistic efforts on the questions and needs of non-Christians. This “need-oriented” approach is different from “manipulative programs.”
8. Loving Relationships
Unfeigned, practical love has a divinely generated magnetic power far more effective than evangelistic programs, which depend almost entirely on verbal communication. People do not want to hear us talk about love, they want to experience how Christian love really works.