Friday, August 27, 2010

Book Review: Transformational Church

Book Review: Transformational Church
'Creating A New Scorecard For Congregations'

Co-authors: @EdStetzer @ThomRainer
B&H Publishing Group, Nashville TN, 2010

Review by Neil Cox, @IndyChristian


I read a ton on the internet every day, and try to get through my Bible every year... so I have little time for popular books. I made time for this one. Why? I like well-researched information. I've followed @EdStetzer since he became the head of Lifeway Research. When he tweets, 25,000 people listen. When his co-author and boss @ThomRainer (President, Lifeway) tweets, 50,000 people listen.

And these days, the mere mention aloud of the word 'transformation' gets the attention of our driven Christians here in the Racing Capital of the World: we're thirsty to see evidence of real change resulting from the mission of the Church. According to other research, only 9% of Americans hold a 'biblical worldview'. If applied generally to the 400 Hoosiers who die weekly in our metro area between sermons, that means 364 are dying without such a perspective. And our cities look like it. Something has to change. And that something is us -- the Church.

Stetzer & Rainer aren't out to bash the church, but rather see it thrive. They clearly love the Church. And are now pointing us to key factors that characterize 'transformational churches' -- ie, those who are making a difference in lives & communities.

This quick video from their website will set the stage in a powerful way...

"We treasure the concept of 'transformation' because radical change is the heart of the Christian message and because the power of the gospel changes everything -- lives, churches and communities." (p1)

"Few churches use any system of accountability today. Many North American Christians perceive church-wide accountability as intrusive and overbearing. But we can only expect what we inspect. If leaders don't take a close look into the lives of believers, they should not be surprised when there is nothing worth reporting."

Stetzer & Rainer recite the three B's from the 'old scorecard'... "bodies, budgets and buildings"... which they allude to as the 'gold standard'... in need of revision.

"At its essence the new scorecard must measure how well we are making disciples." [Mature disciples.]

In their research, they selected churches by using an assessment algorithm that valued (at least some) growth, high rates of small-group participation, number of new commitments to Christ (per attendee), percentage who have then become active in the church, adults with regular responsibilities in the church, percentage of their adults actively serving in the community, and those churches whose constituents are regularly hearing reports of changed lives.

Moreover, the authors realize that this 'new scorecard' must go beyond measuring the tangibles to also measure some intangibles... suggesting these are some of the very things that make a church a church... eg. 'relational intentionality'.

And at its core... worship. "The motivation to see people of all nations become disciples of Christ is rooted in their desire to see God receive the honor He deserves." Stetzer & Rainer, both pastors, then explore some very keen insights about how TCs tend to worship. I'd love to share them here, but this chapter alone makes the book worth its price... $15.

And I've only touched on a few of its gems; there's so much more to be said. So let me just say 'Transformational Church' will someday be regarded as a classic, having re-focused the American Church on our mission.

And it begs a sequel. So let me take a stab at the outline of 'Transformational Church: The Next Generation'...
  • Since TC deals primarily with traditional churches of 50 or more, and presupposes active small groups, what if your 'small group' is your 'church'... and worshiping in your home?
  • Or expect to hear about Stetzer talking to your neighbor: "How's the church doing with Christ's command to 'love our neighbors as ourselves'... 1 to 5 stars?"
  • And digging through outcomes data, validating community transformation.
  • If so, I'm guessing we'll read reports of radical change perhaps most often documented among urban churches and neighborhoods. So what unique factors do we learn about from urban ministry? [After all... "Those the world regards as poor are rich in faith!"]
  • And if we've not yet researched Hispanic, Asian and African dynamics, what is yet to be learned from other cultures not only present next door, but also among #multicultural churches?
  • And won't a 'community scorecard' press us toward the obvious: our need for 'excellent teamwork' among the larger body of Christ in our communities? Expect to hear those stories.
Sorry; you can't buy that book yet. But you can buy this one and get started today.

Often a 'book' can accomplish way more than all the church-parking-lot discussions in the world. Transformational Church is one such book. So don't just buy it for yourself -- buy several copies to give away to the world-changers around you.

P.S... September 7th... a special Transformational Church webcast. Free.