Without realizing what we are doing, we often times attempt church growth through our own strength, wisdom, and information. Take a look at the cartoon above: a cart with four square wheels, loaded with perfectly round wheels, pushed and pulled by two men. They are devoted, hard workers, but their job is slow, tedious, and frustrating. This cartoon is a prophetic description of a large part of the body of Christ. The church is moving, but at a tediously slow pace. Why? If you asked the two workers, they would probably say, "It's because of the stiff resistance we encounter," or maybe, "We're going uphill, that's why!" And these answers are not all wrong! As Christians we do encounter resistance at times, and a church's walk can be steeply uphill. The cartoon, however, helps us to understand that while such problems exist, the true cause for chronic frustration often has to do with something else - square wheels.
The illustration teaches us that God has provided everything we'll ever need for church growth, yet we do not always make proper use of it. That is the real problem. Instead of using God's means, we try to do things in our own strength--with much pulling and pushing. Natural Church Development is a different approach to church growth. The goal of NCD is to let Gods growth forces flourish, instead of wasting energy on human-made programs. "And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin." Matthew 6:28 (NIV)
Jesus asks us to "see," to "learn by observing." What is it we are to study? It's not the lilies' beauty, but rather how they grow. We should not attempt to "manufacture" church growth, but rather to release the growth potential which God has put into every church. It is our task to minimize the obstacles to growth. "I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow." So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose, and they will each be rewarded according to their own labor. For we are co-workers in God's service; you are God's field, God's building." 1 Corinthians 3: 6-9.
First of all, it would mean an end to the "push and shove" in church life. Second, it would mean that we would finally use the wonderfully round "wheels" that are already heaped up in the cart, instead of insisting that using the square ones is more honoring to God. And third, it would mean that we would se the sails that are buried under the wheels, and pray that God might send us the powerful wind of his Holy Spirit.
Then we might even climb into the cart ourselves and discover that God likes nothing better than to answer those prayers. (From Natural Church Development by Christian A. Schwarz)