If someone had nothing to go
on except conversations overheard among pastors at Southern Baptist Convention
meetings he might conclude that a successful church scorecard includes how well
the church is doing on “nickels, noses, and seating capacity.”
While nothing is wrong with “bodies,
budgets and buildings,” the latest research from LifeWay Christian Resources
suggests that the three Bs are not the most effective means of measuring a
church’s impact on its community and the world for the Kingdom of Christ.
Instead, the research
results — which serve as the basis for the book Transformational Church — offer
a new approach. “If we are not really making and producing disciples, then the
church is not really being the church and is not fulfilling the Great
Commission,” said Rick Hughes, Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC)
senior consultant for discipleship.
Hughes and Russ Conley, BSC
senior consultant for leadership development, led a “Transformational Church”
break out session Nov. 9 during the BSC annual meeting.
Rather than taking shots at
the state of many local churches, Transformational Church identifies the
positive elements noted in 250 vibrant and effective churches.
A robust research project
consisting of more than 7,000 churches led to interviews with churches among
the top 10 percent in categories such as baptismal growth, overall church
growth, and ratio of worship attendance to those participating in small group
or Sunday School.
Conley walked attendees
through the seven points of emphasis noted in the book by authors Thom Rainer
and Ed Stetzer.
The first focuses on a
missionary mentality when church members love lost people more than their idea
of how church should be done.
Church members must study
and understand their local community and meet people where they are in order to
introduce them to Christ. Transformational churches think like missionaries and
do what it takes to reach their community.
A vibrant leadership is a
must if the church is going to shift from a “mission” program to the entire church
being engaged in missions. Leaders must also shift the focus from the three Bs
to the mission of the Kingdom of God.
are also marked by relational intentionality. People, and not programs, are the
focus of the church.
Relationships become the
substance of the church’s culture. The cross should be the only stumbling block
to an outsider. Conley said this sort of thinking requires the church to begin
to think outward instead of inward.
Prayerful dependence is the
fourth emphasis of a transformational church. This does not necessarily mean a
prayer ministry, but rather prayer itself. Church members must pray for the
expansion of God’s Kingdom and should not focus all their prayer efforts on
other church members.
“The prayers of the people
in church will reveal what the church values most,” Conley said.
are focused on making disciples — not catering to consumers.
A worship service is not to
be reduced to a focus on style. Conley said God is the reason believers come
together to worship and so they must come with a sense of anticipation, knowing
man is not the center of worship.
Community also plays an
essential role in the life of the transformational church. People need to be
connected into “life on life” relationships with other believers. Once involved
in the community of the church an emphasis is placed on their growth, their
service and their being sent out on mission. True discipleship never takes
place apart from community.
Finally, the transformational
church emphasizes the mission of the church. Evangelism is a natural part of
life and so people should not be taught to rely on “canned evangelism” or
formal evangelism training.
Transformation churches are
not as concerned about coddling immature believers as they are with engaging,
winning and discipling the lost.