Monday, March 1, 2010

A Focus On Transformation

By Kelly Shrout

LifeWay President Thom Rainer knows a great deal about church health.

Prior to taking the helm of LifeWay in 2006 he led a church and denominational consulting firm and provided church health insights to more than 500 churches over a 15-year period.

Yet, Rainer said a new initiative by LifeWay is based on one of the most “significant research projects ever done in the American church.”

The initiative is called Transformational Church and is set to launch mid-2010 with the release of a book by the same title written by Rainer and Ed Stetzer, director of LifeWay Research.

The book “Transformational Church” is published by B&H Publishing Group and will reveal data from groundbreaking research gathered from hundreds of churches, representing multiple denominations, that are leading examples of spiritual transformation. Accompanying the book are a DVD and study guide produced by the church resources division.

LifeWay Research gathered data for months through surveys and personal interviews with church leaders. The data provide the framework for the upcoming resources LifeWay will develop to guide local churches through the Transformational Church process.

Training of consultants for Transformational Church will begin this fall, with other events to follow including pastor/staff retreats and Transformational Church training conferences.

Ultimately, church leaders will be invited to involve their congregations in the Transformational Church initiative by completing an internal survey and tailoring resources to their people, churches and community.

The assessment tool will interact with seven elements drawn from the book: mission mindset, vibrant leadership, relational intentionality, prayerful dependence, worship, community and mission.

Recently Rainer and Stetzer presented the Transformational Church initiative to church leaders attending the SBC State Conventions’ Summit. Rainer told attendees there are two motivating forces behind the Transformational Church initiative: The reality of the American church as explored in the survey, and the positive data indicating what God is doing in local churches today.

“Facts are our friends and they help us understand the current situation of the church in real terms – good, bad and ugly,” he said. “This is what our research has shown us, and we want to share this encouraging data with churches at all levels of effectiveness.”

Stetzer added that there is no better time to talk about transformation.

“Transformational churches make disciples whose lives are being transformed by the Gospel so that the culture around them is ultimately transformed,” Stetzer said.

“Transformational churches are deeply committed to the essential foundations of discipleship: worship, community and mission,” he said. “They practice and make disciples through vibrant leadership, prayerful dependence and relational intentionality, and they do so in their context with a missionary mindset.”

The goal of the Transformational Church initiative is to help churches make a biblical impact, Stetzer said.

“The most 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 transformation.”

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Until next time...share the journey and enjoy the ride!