Natural church growth is a principle-oriented study of growing churches. It is not wrong to be inspired by a model church, however when we want to reproduce elements from the model church in our home church, we must find the universal principles which are the basis of their church growth. Many model churches have exceptional leaders and talented members whose gifts do not match our own leadership abilities or the gifts of our people. We need to look for principles of church growth that can be applied to every church and culture.
The first quality characteristic of Life-Giving Churches is EMPOWERING LEADERSHIP. Leaders of growing churches concentrate on empowering their members for ministry. Pastors of growing churches do not try to be everybody’s best friend, yet they recognize the value of relationships. They believe in ministry teams more than the pastors of non-growing churches. The focus of their leadership is building strong pastoral teams of ministry by discovering the right people and “equipping..the saints for the work of the ministry.” Ephesians 4:11, 12 The great leaders of today will not necessarily be the brightest and most talented people. They will be the individuals who can build the strongest ministry teams.
The word “empowering” means to give power by releasing the potential. Empowering leaders do not use people for their own selfish goals; rather, they see their primary responsibility as leaders is helping people reach spiritual maturity. These pastors equip, support, train and motivate their people to become all God wants them to be. They release their followers to grow all-by-themselves. Rather than handling the majority of church responsibilities alone, these leaders invest the majority of their time in discipleship, delegation and multiplication. They invest their energy in their disciple’s lives which in turn is multiplied through their disciple’s ministries. This releases God’s energy in the church, and the church grows naturally. Pastors with empowering leadership do not have a need to be celebrities. In fact, most pastors of high quality growing churches never graduated from seminary. However, they are constantly looking for new information that keeps them growing as leaders. They are not afraid to bring in outside consultants if they believe that person will help them become a better leader.
It is obvious that empowering leadership is not popular with either the mechanical or the revivalist leader.
Mechanical leaders tend to become specialists in their leadership skills and become viewed as experts in that particular field. As specialists they usually are not interested in training others.
Revivalist leaders tend to have difficulty with authority. They have problems both in submitting to and delegating authority. They believe they are being spiritual by being independent. Training others is not a priority for them.
Empowering leaders are always in the process of training others for leadership. They do not see leadership training as a separate program of the church. Training is a part of everything they do, and they have discovered the best training is on-the-job training. They follow Jesus example of not practicing separate programs of discipleship and public ministry. “Then He appointed twelve that they might be with Him and that He might send them out to preach.” Mark 3:14 Jesus trained His disciples in a natural environment while He ministered to the people by allowing His disciples to help Him. This on-the-job experience yielded a higher quality of training with a smaller investment of His energy.
Growing churches place a high value on training leaders. Every leader is working with an apprentice who not only helps them with the work but is also being prepared to become a leader.
There is no waste in nature. The leaves that fall from a tree decay and provide nutrients that feed the roots of the tree which in turn provides further growth to the tree. It becomes a cycle of growth. To the extent that we succeed in setting up such structures in our churches will determine how much or our spent energy can be multiplied in church growth.
This multi-usage should be a part of all areas of the church. Both the leader and the followers win when the church follows this example from nature.