NASHVILLE, Tenn. — During the 2009 SBC State Conventions’
Summit, held Dec. 8-11 in Nashville, Tenn., LifeWay outlined its “Transformational
Church” initiative, a multi-year project set to launch in mid-2010 with the
release of Transformational Church, a B&H Publishing Group book
co-written by Ed Stetzer, director of LifeWay Research, and Thom Rainer,
LifeWay’s president and CEO.
Citing a season of “evangelical malaise” — when people are asking,
“What do we need to think about differently?” — now is an “opportune time” to
talk about church transformation, Ed Stetzer, director of LifeWay Research,
told the participants.
churches make disciples whose lives are being transformed by the gospel so that
the culture around them is ultimately transformed,” Stetzer explained.
churches are deeply committed to the essential foundations of discipleship:
worship, community and mission. They practice and make disciples through
vibrant leadership, prayerful dependence and relational intentionality, and
they do so in their context with a missionary mindset.”
Spiritual transformation is the work of God in salvation,
drawing unbelievers to Himself, regenerating them, indwelling them and
conforming them to the likeness of Christ, Stetzer said. Spiritual
transformation is experienced in the lives of God’s people and His church. They
impact their communities and the world as living testimonies of the
transforming power of Christ.
The initiative is designed around research which will be
revealed in Stetzer and Rainer’s book, and will guide LifeWay as it produces
resources to help churches spread the gospel and promote spiritual growth,
“The goal is
not to give a church a book, tool or research that will help them make the
headlines,” Stetzer stressed. “Our goal is to help churches — any size, any
location — make a biblical impact.”
For months, LifeWay Research has been surveying thousands of
churches from multiple denominations that are leading examples of spiritual
transformation, Stetzer said. Those interviews are providing a framework for
the resources LifeWay is developing to guide local churches through the
Transformational Church process.
people who are doing what we want to do, how they do it,” Stetzer said.
Consultant training for Transformational Church will begin
in fall 2010, with other events and resources to follow, including pastor/staff
retreats and Transformational Church training conferences, Stetzer explained.
Ultimately, church leaders will be invited to involve their congregations in
the Transformational Church initiative by completing an internal survey and
tailoring TC resources to their people, churches and communities.
During a later session of the summit, Rainer told attendees
there are two motivating forces behind the Transformational Church initiative.
First, “we want to know reality. Facts are our friends and
they help us understand the current situation of the church in real terms —
good, bad and ugly,” Rainer said.
Second, “we see hope and possibilities in
what God is doing in local churches. This is what our research has shown us,
and we want to share this encouraging data with churches at all levels of
Drawing from the book of Zechariah and the seemingly
hopeless situation facing the Jews after their return from exile in Babylon,
Rainer said there are three reasons the American church has, in many respects,
lost hope: lack of focus, opposition from without and dissension from
The new data from LifeWay Research, however, reveals many
churches are passionate about the gospel and, as a result, are thriving, Rainer
important message is that churches are being transformed, and they are actively
engaged in the transformation of people and communities,” Rainer said. “Too
often we’ve highlighted the negative realities of the declining American
church, but we’ve missed the opportunity to magnify the God of hope and
More information about the project is available at