If numbers told the whole story the projected outlook
wouldn’t be very good for Transylvania Baptist Association.
Eighty percent of churches in the association are plateaued
or declining, according to Associational Missionary Chuck Campbell.
With the help of a new concept called Transformational
Church, the future is looking much brighter for this association.
Campbell is helping churches in the association take the
results from LifeWay Christian Resources’ latest study and apply them to a
process of transformation.
“Becoming more missionary-minded is what Transformational
Church is all about,” Campbell said. This process has helped churches in his
association, “quickly see how they can re-cast the vision.”
As a church health consultant Campbell is familiar with
working alongside churches. Transformational Church is different than any other
approach he has tried.
He said it gives churches a “look in the rearview mirror”
and helps them understand where they will end up if the direction doesn’t
Churches in Transylvania are looking for answers, and
through this process, are asking hard questions, capitalizing on strengths and
moving forward in their efforts to make disciples.
What is Transformational Church?
Last year Thom Rainer, president of LifeWay Christian
Resources, and Ed Stetzer, president of LifeWay Research and LifeWay’s
missiologist in residence, co-authored the book Transformational Church.
The book is based on LifeWay’s research study to discover
the characteristics of churches that are truly seeing lives changed by the
power of the gospel.
The study included a survey of more than 7,000 pastors and
hundreds of on-site interviews. The research pointed to these seven elements
that are present when a church is making disciples and seeing life
- missionary mindset
- prayerful dependence
- relational intentionality
- vibrant leadership
Transformational Church is about moving from a scorecard of
“bodies, budget and buildings” to one of discipleship and spiritual maturity.
Rainer and Stetzer write that, “a Transformational Church is not simply a ‘good
church’ or a church that does good things. Neither is it necessarily a big
church that offers excellent programming, preaching, and worship. A
Transformational Church focuses on the gospel’s ability to change people.”
An assessment tool is available to help measure the health
of churches and to explore strengths and weaknesses. A DVD discussion guide is
also available as a supplemental resource to the book.
Does it make a difference?
Most churches in Transylvania have experienced success
throughout the years.
Yet, people change and communities change, and what worked
in the past doesn’t always work in the future.
Campbell has seen churches become more aware of the
community around them and the people in the community who do not know Jesus as
their personal Savior. Sometimes a church doesn’t even know who lives around
Transformational Church can be a true wake up call for
churches; a reminder that if church priorities are not Kingdom priorities, the
church may eventually cease to exist.
“Transformational Church is not a plug and play. It goes
beyond a process to a lifestyle,” Campbell said. “This is how we do life; it’s
not how we do church.”
Transformational Church has proven effective in Transylvania
in large part because the change comes from within.
“It helps leaders birth action priorities, and then they
gain ownership of them,” Campbell said. “I’m not saying this is what you need;
they are saying this is what we need.
“Ultimately, I am just the coach and turn the process over
Ownership also comes when church leaders seriously consider
results from the assessment and begin to make changes based on the facts and
not on how things have been in the past.
Too often churches rely on things done in the past without
ever considering who lives in the community today and what approach will be
most effective today.
Campbell encourages pastors to walk leaders through the DVD
series and to give a copy of the book to every deacon.
He said healthy churches also have much to gain through
One of the greatest benefits for churches is a discovery
retreat. Church leaders meet with a coach, like Campbell, and walk through the
assessment results and begin developing action priorities that point toward
Although change is coming in Transylvania, it’s not instant
success. “It’s not an overnight turnaround,” Campbell said. “Be patient, be in
there for the long haul. Every church is different in how fast it will go
through the process.”
Campbell said change is coming because churches are
realizing they have been measuring their own fruitfulness, but never the
fruitfulness of the people they disciple. “You know you’ve made a disciple when
the one you are discipling is fruitful,” he said.
Where to start?
The Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC) wants
to help churches interested in Transformational Church. Through a partnership
with LifeWay, Congregational Services staff members have been trained as
Transformational Church consultants and are available to work with North
Carolina Baptist churches at no charge to the church. Although churches may
choose to work directly with LifeWay, there is a charge for church consultation
“Our staff is available to walk with you through every step
of the process as you begin the journey of becoming a Transformational Church,”
said Lynn Sasser, executive leader for congregational services. “We are here to
help you introduce the process to church leaders, facilitate a discovery
retreat, provide accountability and consulting, and help prepare your church
members for the journey.”
Sasser said he is praying that churches across the state
will embrace a new scorecard that focuses on disciple-making and transformed