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Paradigm Shift in the Church

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How Natural Church Development can Transform Theological Thinking

Paradigm Shift in the Church speaks about nothing less than a reformation. Some critics suggested that this term sounds rather lofty. That may be true. But Christian Schwarz is convinced that we will make no significant progress in our churches without changes as radical as those of the Reformation.

Every reformation movement is confronted with an opposing force known as "orthodoxy." This was true in the days of the 16th century Reformation (when the opponent was Roman Catholic orthodoxy), it was true in the days of Pietistic revival in Europe (which was opposed by orthodox Protestants); and the same seems to apply to the different movements that fight for a reformation of their churches today. The stiffest opposition comes often from those who stand up for "doctrinal purity.

Why is this so? Are the renewal movements on the wrong theological track? Or is there something wrong with what we know as orthodoxy? In conversations with many Christian leaders, I have come to the conclusion that the greatest obstacle to strategic church development is not a lack of methodological know-how, but deep-rooted theological blockages. By this, I am not referring to "God-is-dead theology," nor to groups that contest the absolute claims of Jesus or advocate a syncretistic theology. I am talking about theological blockages in Christian groups whose doctrinal "correctness" is beyond question. The fact that some of the greatest obstacles to church development are to be found in these circles is, in my estimation, the real dilemma. — Christian A. Schwarz

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Part 1: Church growth between spiritualism and institutionalism

  1. The starting point of natural church development: Bipolar ecclesiology
  2. Danger to the right: The institutionalistic misconception
  3. Danger to the left: The spiritualistic misconception
  4. The fight between spiritualism and institutionalism
  5. The root of the misconceptions: The impersonal God
  6. Functionality as a theological criterion?
  7. The interdenominational approach
  8. Three reformations

Part 2: The theological paradigm behind natural church development

A. Christian faith

  1. What is truth? The conflict about correct doctrine
  2. Christian faith and fundamentalism: The conflict about scripture
  3. Between legalism and "cheap grace": The conflict about law and liberty

B. Christian fellowship

  1. "The ritual makes the Christian": The conflict about baptism and communion
  2. Between supra-historical and anti-historical tendencies: The conflict about tradition and change
  3. Spiritual unity or monopolism? The conflict about church planting and cooperation

C. Christian service

  1. "The priesthood of all believers": The conflict about gifts and office
  2. The dream of the Christian state: The conflict about Christians in politics
  3. "Make them come in": The conflict about evangelism and conversion

Part 3: The biotic approach to church growth

  1. The new paradigm
  2. Natural church development
  3. Can we "make" the church grow?
  4. Thriving in the third millennium



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Christian A. Schwarz is founder and president of the Institute for Natural Church Develop-ment (NCD International) and one of the world‘s most distinguished thinkers and communicators of church development. His institute has worked with over 65,000 churches in 70 countries, and his books have been published in more than 40 languages.

Christian A. Schwarz