Back in August, I was watching preseason Sunday Night Football—maybe not quite the real thing (the Panthers played their starters for the first half only; ditto with the Jets), but to the teams playing, it’s real enough. They’re out there to play well, help their team score and be ahead at the end of the game.
Couldn’t you say some of the same things about the church?
Congregations have long measured success by “bodies, budgets and buildings”—a record of attendance, the offering plate and the square footage of facilities. But for growing, healthy churches, the scoreboard can’t stop there.
Maybe it’s time for a new scoreboard—one that reflects transformation, not just information.
LifeWay CEO Thom Rainer and LifeWay Research President Ed Stetzer led one of the most comprehensive studies of its kind to understand what sets “transformational churches” apart from others. In their book Transformational Church, they take us to the thriving congregations where truly changing lives is the standard.
As a part of my responsibilities with Auxano, I am working with LifeWay and their Church Partners network. Transformational Church has been an integral part of their work for the last two years, so I thought it appropriate to take a deeper look into the material.
After distilling down their research, Rainer and Stetzer found three principles that were common to transformational churches. These principles transformed people to look like Christ, congregations to act like the body of Christ and communities to reflect the kingdom of God.
In the first of a multi-part post on the book, here is a brief overview:
- Missionary Mentality – church understands the community and will minister in contextually appropriate ways to reach local people with the Gospel.
- Vibrant Leadership – leaders showing passion for God, His mission and its transforming power on people.
- Relational Intentionality – deliberately connect with one another; accountability, encouragement, long-term relationships.
- Prayerful Dependence – natural disposition of communicating with God about the hope for transformation; dependence on prayer rather than a program for prayer.
- Worship – expectancy; knew something great was going to happen; trusted God to deliver transformation rather than the musicians to deliver a good show.
- Community – activity of joining lives together through ministry systems.
- Mission – God’s mission to make disciples of Christ and to engage the world as Jesus calls; understand disciple-making as the normal sate of the Christian’s life.
Stetzer and Rainer develop these three categories of transformation as a loop that can be entered at any point.
Principles of the Loop
- Connecting to the Loop – All three categories and seven elements are necessary parts for a transformational ministry, but churches can begin anywhere.
- Cathartic Experience – The change to a transformational mindset begins with a moment of decision that is beneficial and liberating.
- Convergence of Elements – Churches with transformational disciple-making allow for a free convergence of all the elements.