Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Transformational Churches

Southern Baptist researcher, Ed Stetzer, posted this report from one of Lifeway's latest studies.

Transformational Churches and The Value of Community
Friday July 2, 2010

I'm a preacher who loves preaching. Even so, I know preaching doesn't accomplish the church's entire mission. In fact, preaching consumes less than an hour a week for the average preacher or listener.

In the Transformational Church (TC) research, the issue of community kept surfacing. "Community" means the small gathering of people for Bible study, ministry and accountability. Called everything from small groups to Sunday school, the purpose is the same: to provide an environment where gospel transformation can take place in the lives of individuals and the church.

Our study revealed that community is highly valued in Transformational Churches. Sixty-four percent of TC members agree (strongly or moderately, here and throughout) with the statement "New members are immediately taught about the importance of living in community with other Christians." In these churches, community is a way of life.

Here are three observations from the research:

1) Valuing community empowers people to do ministry. Sadly, empowering only vocational pastors to do ministry is a common problem in our churches. But in a TC, everyone is empowered to do ministry. Seventy-two percent of TC members agree with the statement "When people are plugged into a small group at our church, they are ministered to and well cared for."

2) Strong small community structure leads to a new reality of service. The "80/20 Rule" comes up - a lot - as I speak to pastors of varying backgrounds. For all the resources consulted and prayers offered, we still struggle to mobilize people. On the other hand, TCs do not. We found that 71 percent agree "Serving is considered normal behavior at our church." It's not 100 percent, but it's worth celebrating.

If serving were "considered normal behavior" at your church, how would it change both the members and the city? The recent flooding in Nashville, Tenn., displaced thousands, but churches mobilized to help. For several weeks, service was "considered normal behavior." In a TC, that mentality lasts.

3) Multiplying groups is a blessing, not a curse. There is a rule among small-group pastors and education ministers: Never say "split." "Start," "multiply" and "reproduce" are acceptable, but never, ever "split."

Small groups in TCs work to gather and to scatter. Gathering leads people into a relationship with Christ and teaches them to participate in His mission. Thus, the scattering. Starting new small groups gives room for new people and opportunities for new leaders.

In our survey, 69 percent say their church regularly starts new small groups. People will want to forge new groups once they understand the need to engage in God's mission of transformation.
God designed us to live in relationship with Him and one another. As church leaders engage believers in small-group communities, transformation occurs. Much goes into being a Transformational Church, but community is vital. It is critical to lead people from the rows of a preaching event to the circles of a small group.

This column appears in the Summer 2010 issue of
Facts & Trends, a publication of LifeWay Christian Resources. Some other articles about Transformational Church in this issue are:

LifeWay Research: 'Transformational Church' takes aim at real church health
LifeWay unveils Transformational Church website

3 John 8
Bill H.

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