Transformational Churches

I have known about the book, but it is funny how something really grabs your attention after a while. I found this information online and have moved this book to the top of my reading list. How has the church gotten away from the original mission of making disciples, and growing an “army” of disciple-makers? And how do we measure our success, certainly it can’t be by the standards of the world. Take five to see this video. Who is doing this, and how has it worked?

Transformational Discipleship, by Eric Geiger, Michael Kelley and Philip Nation

A Christian’s desire to grow in faith is beautiful and biblical, best illustrated in Jeremiah 17 where Scripture describes “The man who trusts in the LORD” as being “like a tree planted by water… It will not worry in a year of drought or cease producing fruit.”

But how do people really grow spiritually? Transformational Discipleship describes the process that brings to life that kind of person described in the Bible. There’s no magic formula or mantra to recite here, but rather a substantive measure of research with churches and individuals who have wholeheartedly answered the call of Jesus to make disciples.

A compilation of their wisdom and stories, it guides church leaders and members to practice the intentional efforts needed to foster an entire culture in which people grow in Christian faith.

And people will grow, not because of human research, but by the power of God’s Word and of the Holy Spirit working through the church; the same way disciples have always been made. When the people of God engage in the mission of God through the Spirit of God, lives are transformed.

The Transformational Discipleship Assessment: The TDA is an online assessment tool that helps individuals and churches assess spiritual strengths and weaknesses. The goal is to help churches in the process of making disciples.

Anyone who would like to understand better where they might begin to grow spiritually should use this tool. The TDA was designed so that a small group, Sunday School class, or even an entire church could participate in the assessment.

Here are the eight discipleship attributes:

  1. Bible Engagement
  2. Obeying God and Denying Self
  3. Serving God and Others
  4. Sharing Christ
  5. Exercising Faith
  6. Seeking God
  7. Building Relationships
  8. Unashamed (Transparency)

Transformational Church: by Ed Stetzer and Thom S. Rainer

How are we doing? The church, that is. And how are we doing it? Congregations have long measured success by “bodies, budget, and buildings” (a certain record of attendance, the offering plate, and square footage). But the scorecard can’t stop there. When it does, the deeper emphasis on accountability, discipleship, and spiritual maturity is lost. Ignoring those details, we see fewer lives transformed, Christian influence wane, and churches thin out–a situation that is all too familiar across North America today.

It is time to take heart and rework the scorecard. According to Ed Stetzer and Thom S. Rainer, “Too often we’ve highlighted the negative realities of the declining American church but missed the opportunity to magnify the God of hope and transformation.”

Based on the most comprehensive study of its kind, including a survey of more than 7,000 churches and hundreds of on-site interviews with pastors, Transformational Church takes us to the thriving congregations where truly changing lives is the norm.

Stetzer and Rainer clearly confirm the importance of disciple making for all through active biblical engagement and prayerful dependence on God alongside of ever-increasing, intentional participation in mission and ministry activities. As the church engages these issues, the world will see the change:

  • More people following Christ
  • More believers growing in their faith
  • More churches making an impact on their communities

The transformation starts now.

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The Missional Church

I love this concept; it’s very simple and looks sneakingly similar to what we see happening in the New Testament. The early church met in homes in their communities (house to house; Acts 2:2, 5:42, Philemon 1:2), not just in a large “church” gathering.

Churches that are in traditional roles in the community will not think like this, perhaps like trying to turn an aircraft carrier (it takes a slow, wide turn). But even in this Navy ship illustration, the ship has to be moving in order to make the turn.

Take a look at this brief missional church video. What do you think? How can we change the “church” mindset toward making disciples who in turn make other disciples (making disciple-makers rather than more believers)?

Here is a video on authentic and biblical discipleship… how can we more effectively make disciples?

There are several questions that must be asked…

  1. Who is doing this?
  2. Where are you doing this?
  3. What is the context of your congregation’s community?
  4. What do you think is the key to transforming your congregation into a fellowship driven by purpose and mission?

The Vision of Small Groups

At King’s Grant Baptist Church, our goal is to develop people into fully devoted followers of Jesus. It involves a multi-step process whereby we move people from the outer ring of our target toward the center.

The best way to reach out to others is not in a mass mailing or the website; but rather person to person, reaching the people with whom we have something in common:

  • Same workplace
  • Same school
  • Same neighborhood
  • Same club or organization
  • Same hobbies

The church may provide activities that cater to the needs of people but it is relationship development that will help them move to higher levels of commitment to Christ and His church.

Our steps look something like this:

  • The Community: people who inhabit this city; who may have no idea we even exist, or perhaps that God exists.
  • The Crowd: people who for some reason or another have visited our church, expressing interest and have come to one or more of our events.
  • The Congregation: people who are actually attending our church fairly regularly; including nominal church members.
  • The Committed: people who are members of our church and active in its programs.
  • The Core: people who are actively involved in leadership and ministry of the church, and are passionate about the church motto, Knowing Christ and Making Him Known

Sharing the Vision:
To move people toward higher levels of commitment to Christ and his church.

  • To – speaks to a vision and a strategy, a word of action and direction
  • Move – speaks to progress and growth, never remaining static
  • People – speaks to the reason we do what we do, it’s all about people
  • Toward – speaks to a goal for which we are aiming
  • Higher – speaks to a closeness to God, moving toward the mountaintop
  • Levels – speaks to measurement toward our developmental goal
  • Commitment – speaks to our resolve and passion
  • Christ – speaks to our mission of knowing Christ and making him known
  • His – speaks of the real head and leader of the church
  • Church – speaks to this body of believers at King’s Grant

This series of posts will help to share the vision of what we can become and do for the kingdom’s sake. We must never settle for the status quo, but make a difference in the lives of those who are near us, in school, the office, and the community.

All living things grow, so if we are alive, we also must grow (individually and as a church). When we grow, we must have a strategy to develop people into fully devoted followers of Christ. My next post will address the need to fulfill the Great Commission through small groups.

Top 5 Church Growth Principles

Noting that hundreds of church growth principles have been put forth in the last thirty years, Charles Arn responded to a recent question, What are the top five church growth principles? Based on his own study and experience, these are foundational church growth insights that you can take to the bank. Whether you’re in a church of 20 or 20,000, these principles will help to invest the talents God has given to your church, so that when the Master returns you can return more than what you were given (Matthew 25:14-30).

Principle 1: Disciple-making is THE priority. As Arn explains it, A church can do many good things. A church should do a few important things. But there is only one essential thing a church must do: go out and train everyone you meet, far and near, in this way of life. (Matthew 28:19, The Message)

Principle 2: Social networks are the vehicle. There is a silver bullet’ that any congregation can use to reach more people. Here it is: Non-Christians come to Christ and the church primarily through relationships with Christians. Again, this may seem elementary,’ but I remain amazed at the number of churches and Christians who believe something other than friends reaching friends will somehow create growth.

Principle 3: Felt needs are the connecting point. Arn notes that most unchurched people aren’t nearly so concerned about their eternal destiny as Christians are. Right or wrong, they have on their mind something of immediate interest: their jobs, friends, health, kids, finances, hobbies. If the gospel of Christ is really relevant to all aspects of our lives, we need to show unreached people how it is relevant to their lives, as well. Don’t start with your agenda, start with theirs.

Principle 4: Relationships are the glue. What’s the primary ingredient that keeps people active in church? Friendships. Put simply, if people have friends at church, they stay. If they don’t have friendships, they won’t. According to one study, new members who stay beyond their first year made an average of seven new friends in the church. Those who dropped out made fewer than two. The implication for churches is clear we need to be intentional about creating friendships, not just acquaintances.

Principle 5: Transitions are windows of opportunity. Arn points out that unchurched persons in our community are not equally receptive to becoming Christians and members of our churches. Significant changes in people’s lifestyle move them toward spiritual receptivity. Such changes may be controlled events (marriage, divorce, relocation, retirement) or uncontrolled ones (death of a spouse, medical crisis, job loss). Churches need to encourage members to be aware of these events in the lives of those in their social network. And, churches can develop specialized ministries in response to these transitions.

From The Top Five Church Growth Principles by Charles Arn, president of Church Growth, Inc. REV, July/Aug 2009.

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