Biblical Studies FAQs
How are the studies done?
These word and biblical-theological studies come from years of reading and experience, as well as many hours of research into the Word of God. Many of the available studies come from the regimen of serving a church in the Northeast as the Teaching Pastor. Standard evangelical commentaries, dictionaries and Greek and Hebrew lexicon tools are consulted and researched. The specific and wider contexts of words are sought out, staying away from topically based or just cross-reference collections of information. These studies flow from the original Hebrew or Greek and seek to accurately reflect the understanding of the author(s).
Is there a theological slant or bias to the studies?
Since none of us is totally free from theological biases, I come from a diverse background of Reformed as well as Wesleyan-Holiness insights. I have been able to move quite freely in both Calvinistic and Wesleyan-Holiness circles, as well as Anabaptist churches, with my preaching and teaching. I am fully aware of the differences and in these studies seek to give the reader fair and just insights to a variety of theological positions, though favoring a more classically Reformed understanding of the texts.
Are the studies academically or practically based?
As a student of Scripture and trained to be theologically and grammatically precise in my analysis, the studies will reflect much more than a surface understanding of a word or a passage or a particular theological subject. But I have always believed the Word of God needs to be declared and practiced to be of ultimate value and use. Therefore, these are not typically commentary-type of studies with obtuse academic references and insights. They are composed to be useful and usable for pastors and ministry leaders of groups.
Can you provide studies on every word or passage of Scripture?
In a word, no. If we cannot provide a study of a particular word or passage or theological subject, we will let you know. There will be no charge, of course, for this information. We will also seek to point you to other resources you can use.
Leadership Studies FAQs
How are the studies done?
These leadership studies have been developed in my years of service as a Field Associate for the Brethren in Christ Church and a church health consultant for ChurchSmart, Inc, now NCDAmerica, as well as serving as an Executive Pastor in two larger churches. They come from many well known leadership books and seminars which I have both attended and been one of the presenters. The resources I use are generally included in the studies and papers. They also come from years of consulting work with pastors and leaders and corresponding back and forth, usually via email, with them on wide ranging issues and topics. Some of these email correspondences have been included in my book, Making Christianity Work: Letters and Lessons on Theology, Leadership and the Church. The book is available from Lulu Press or Amazon.
Is there a slant or bias to the studies?
Usually this is not the case, since many of these leadership studies reflect a wide variety of theological and practical points of view. Modern, secular writers as well as Christian-based writers and speakers have been consulted on a wide variety of topics. I actually relish the secular points of view because they are fresh, sometimes brash, but stimulating and full of information not given by the more conservative Christian voices.
Can I use these studies anywhere?
You are purchasing the right to use and distribute these studies for personal and professional use. They are not to be duplicated and distributed to more than the group of people with whom you work, unless you have received specific permission from myself and other writers. Some of the materials provided are, of course, copyrighted by the original author or speakers and general distribution would require their permission. All I am asking is that you give credit to whom and where credit is due.
How do you charge for the service?
The coaching segment will require a contractural agreement and will incur additional charges which we will work out together.
Ministry Health FAQs
What is natural church development (NCD)?
Natural Church Development (NCD) is the nomenclature used by Christian Schwarz, Executive Director of the Institute for Church Development located in Germany, for the eight identification marks of church health he and his associates discovered using empirical, biological and Scriptural study and research in the mid-1990s. They focused on the question: What really are the proven principles that globally apply to all growing churches?
To empirically establish a database large enough to come up with scientifically significant conclusions, Schwarz and his team conducted an initial massive world-wide survey comprising 1,000 churches, over 200 denominations, 32 countries, 18 languages and 4.2 million individual responses. Since then, over 70,000 churches surveyed worldwide have confirmed their results. What they found, and continue to find, validated his study of creation and Scripture — that God has placed in the essential make-up of every true church of Jesus Christ growth “automatisms,” which, if developed properly, results in healthy church growth and life. In other words, instead of a model or a formula or a method of church health and growth, NCD posits eight quality characteristics that, if applied in any local church of any size anywhere, will result in God’s growth potential for that church.
Is NCD just another church or ministry growth model?
Schwarz’s “principle-based” approach to discovering the health essentials of growing churches worldwide diametrically opposes what he calls a typical “technocratic” church growth based approach. So, instead of a quantitative approach (How do we get more people to attend church?) or a model-based approach (What church out there can we look to as a model of church growth?), NCD looks at the quality of church life as the key to church development.
Is NCD biblical? Does it agree with the witness of Scripture?
NCD depends upon rigorous Scriptural study as well as empirical research. In his book, Paradigm Shift in the Church, Schwarz, a committed evangelical, methodologically and carefully frames the NCD approach using insights from observing nature and Scripture. One of the central Scriptures used to show God’s inherent “growth automatisms” in nature is Mark 4:26–29: “The kingdom of God is like a man who casts seed on the ground; and goes to bed at night and gets up by day, and the seed sprouts up and grows—how, he himself does not know. The earth produces crops by itself [automatic–Gk.]; first the blade, then the head, and then the mature grain in the head.” Jesus, Schwarz believes, is talking not only about the created, natural order, or only using parabolic language of the day, but He is actually telling how God grows His creation, including the Church as his new creation.
What are the eight principles of NCD?
The eight quality characteristics of healthy, growing churches that Schwarz and his team uncovered by the research were empowering leadership, gift-oriented ministry, passionate spirituality, effective structures, inspiring worship, holistic groups, need-oriented evangelism, and loving relationships. All of these together, without exception, are necessary and needed for church health and growth. The characteristic that is the lowest ranking in any church is that church’s “minimum factor.”
Empowering leadership means that church leaders multiply, guide, empower and equip disciples to realize their full potential in Christ and work together to accomplish God’s vision.
Gift-oriented ministry deals with each believer in the body discovering, developing and exercising his or her spiritual gift in appropriate ministries so that the Body of Christ “grows and builds itself up in love.”
The quality characteristic of passionate spirituality means that ministry in the church flows out of a personal and corporate love and passion for God. Godly vision can only be accomplished through an optimistic faith that views obstacles as opportunities and turns defeats into victories.
Effective structures in a healthy body means that the organization systems in the church work together to accomplish the church’s vision and mission and that they are evaluated regularly to determine if it is still the best way to accomplish God’s purpose in that place.
Inspiring worship refers to that health quality of personal and corporate worship being infused with the manifest presence of God. Inspiring worship is not driven by a particular style or ministry focus group, but rather the shared experience of God’s awesome presence.
Holistic groups means that the church is composed of disciple making communities where personal, relevant and felt needs of people are discussed and developed. Like healthy body cells, holistic small groups are designed to grow and multiply.
Need-oriented evangelism intentionally focuses on cultivating relationships with pre-Christians so that they can become fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ.
The final characteristic of loving relationships is at the heart of a growing, healthy church. Jesus said people will know we are his disciples by our love. Practical demonstration of love builds authentic Christian community and brings others into God’s kingdom.
Are there other health principles besides these eight?
Other books and studies that have focused on church health and development have generally agreed with Schwarz’s eight essential principles. Some, like Bob Logan’s book, Beyond Church Growth (Revell, 1987) have also mentioned churches that reproduce, which Schwarz maintains is an action step of healthy growth. Stephen Macchia’s, Becoming A Healthy Church: Ten Characteristics (Baker, 1999), adds stewardship and networking with the larger Body of Christ, which can be also seen as natural developments of the eight essentials.
Have the diagnostics really helped?
To date, over 150 diagnostics have been conducted by our Church Health consultant, Carl Shank. He has surveyed numerous churches, including Brethren in Christ, Church of God, Independent, Bible Fellowship, Evangelical Free, Church of the Brethren and Assembly of God. Most every church has benefited by having the NCD process help them focus their energies on the essential issues of health and growth in developing their local goals and vision. Some have made wholesale changes in how they operate (effective structures), how they worship (inspiring worship) or how they lead (empowering leadership). A few have made radical, church-wide changes that have resulted in new life and growth, with a renewed sense of vision and vitality. The responsibility for instituting health changes rests with each local leadership group.
What's the process?
The diagnostic offerings are set up in three phases. Phase 1 deals with introductory issues, ordering the NCD surveys, a written analysis of the church’s health factors and an on-site report to church leadership. At the current time, this Phase is the least expensive and would cost the church $450 plus travel expenses. Further reporting to congregational leadership and the church as a whole is Phase 2. Phase 3 involves specialized, more extensive reporting and optional diagnostic options. Please contact Carl Shank (email@example.com) for more information.