Is Church Development ‘Natural’?

A Critical and Constructive Analysis of Christian A. Schwarz’s Biotic Church Growth Theory

in Ecclesiology
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The aim of this article is to give a theologically and scientifically based answer to the question whether church development is ‘natural’ in the sense that Christian A. Schwarz describes in his book Natural Church Development. Giving a reasonable answer to this question requires, first of all, that an analysis and assessment be done on how Schwarz’s biotic church growth paradigm is constructed and what kind of historical and theological factors have formed Schwartz’s thinking. Part of this theoretical analysis is also to find out what kind of epistemology and ecclesiological ontology seem to be the theoretical basis for Schwarz’s theory. Finally, I will contribute to the debate on the function of biotic growth theory in church development practice. Here I argue mostly out of my own previous empirical research. My conclusion will be that I cannot find any theologically and scientifically sound arguments to support the theory that church growth is natural – or biotic – as Schwarz claims. From a practical viewpoint, I conclude that there is no plausible connection between biotic theory and the church development practices recommended by Schwarz.

Ecclesiology

The Journal for Ministry, Mission and Unity

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References

11

Schwarz, Natural Church Development, pp. 6–7.

12

Ibid., pp. 88–89.

13

Ibid., pp. 88–89.

14

Ibid., p. 14.

15

Ibid., p. 14.

16

Ibid., p. 62.

18

Ibid., pp. 6–7.

19

Ibid., p. 93.

20

C. A. Schwarz, Der neue Gabentest (Emmelsbüll, Germany: C & P Verlag, 1988).

21

C. P. Wagner, Your Spiritual Gifts Can Help Your Church Grow (Ventura, CA: Regal, 1979).

26

Schwarz, Natural Church Development, p. 19.

27

Ibid., p. 18.

28

Ibid., p. 18.

29

Ibid., p. 18.

30

Ibid., p. 19.

32

Schwarz, Natural Church Development, p. 8.

33

Ibid., p. 8.

34

Ibid., p. 10.

35

Ibid., p. 10.

36

Ibid., p. 10.

37

Ibid., pp. 10–11.

38

Ibid., pp. 10–11.

41

Ibid., p. 65.

42

Schwarz, Natural Church Development, p. 8.

43

Ibid., p. 13.

45

P. G. Hiebert, Anthropological Reflections on Missiological Issues (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books, 1994), pp. 19ff.

46

Ibid., p. 26.

47

Ibid., p. 23.

48

 See Healy, Church, World and the Christian Life, pp. 38–39, to gain argumentative support for the necessity of considering the context of the church as an essential part of our ecclesiological thinking today.

49

Hiebert, Anthropological Reflections on Missiological Issues, pp. 26–27.

50

J. R. Searle, The Construction of Social Reality (London: Penguin, 1995); I. Hacking, The Social Construction of What? (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1995).

51

B. Fay, Contemporary Philosophy of Social Science: A Multicultural Approach (Oxford: Blackwell, 1996), pp. 75–76.

52

Hiebert, Anthropological Reflections on Missiological Issues, p. 30.

54

Ibid., p. 84.

57

Ibid., p. 85.

58

Ibid., pp. 85, 95.

59

Ibid., pp. 86–91.

61

Ibid., pp. 86-87.

67

Schwarz, Natural Church Development, p. 12.

72

Ibid., p. 13.

73

Ibid., p. 16.

74

Ibid., pp. 126–132.

75

Ibid., p. 130.

76

Ibid., p. 130.

79

Schwarz, Natural Church Development, pp. 12–14.

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  • The construction components of the biotic church growth paradigm.

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