The definition of a rut is … a grave with both ends kicked out. In Transformational Church, Ed Stetzer and Thom Rainer wrote, “God calls us to make a transformational impact on the world, not provide a carnival of frenetic activity for ourselves. But to make this impact, we must engage in His mission for His sake and on His terms. Pastors and church leaders must move beyond entertaining consumers and into engaging Christ’s mission” (pp 3-4).
The church must create a new scorecard for understanding the church’s mission in the 21st Century. According to Stetzer and Rainer, the old scorecard is bodies, budgets and buildings. Are there more bodies in the pews, dollars in the offering plates and buildings on the grounds? However, the ultimate measure of the church is to see people following Jesus and living on mission. The new scorecard is seeing life transformation. This is what Stetzer and Rainer refer to as a Transformational Church.
What is a Transformational Church?
A congregation that joins God’s mission of sharing the gospel and making disciples. Those disciples become more like Jesus, and the church thus acts as the body of Christ transforming their communities and world for the Kingdom of God.
Transformational Church; Ed Stetzer and Thom Rainer
Transformation is non-negotiable in the gospel (2Cor 3:18). Life transformation should be the norm in the Christian life and church. The alternative to transformation is to pick a rut and make it deeper. In the first post in this series, Full Circle Discipleship, I presented the idea that evangelism and discipleship must be linked and inseparable if the church is going to be effective at seeing our communities changed by the power of the gospel. This is not to reduce the emphasis on evangelism, but to put it back into the Great Commission.
Acts 2:42-47 is our biblical case study for the principles for becoming a transformational church.
Life Transformation is a Spiritual Issue – Acts 2:42-43
Every issue is a spiritual issue. In Acts 2, there was a daily surrender to the Lordship of Christ. In v 42 the text teaches that the people “were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of break and to prayer.” The devotion was in the areas of spiritual disciplines … Scripture intake, fellowship, worship and prayer. A church that fulfills these spiritual disciplines will find that these disciplines produce spiritual character.
- Scripture Intake – right doctrine leads to right methodology
- Fellowship – Bible does not envision life to be lived apart from others
- Worship – worship is the heartbeat of the church out of which mission grows
- Prayer – find our power in the presence of God not in our creativity or effort
The life of this early church was so genuine and spiritually powerful that everyone, whether inside or outside the church, “kept feeling a sense of awe ….” (v 43). They were not awed by the church because of buildings or programs, but by the supernatural character of its life and ministry.
Life Transformation is an Expected Norm – Acts 2:44-45
Life transformation was a regular and normative pattern of behavior in this community. In the Biblical text, we are told that they met daily (Acts 2:46), cared daily (Acts 6:1), led persons to faith daily (Acts 2:47), searched the Scriptures daily (Acts 17:11) and increased in number in the church community daily (Acts 2:47). The context for all of this life transformation was the life of the local church. Why? Because the risen Christ was a living reality to them and His resurrection power was at work in their lives by His Holy Spirit.
Life Transformation is a Natural Result – Acts 2:46-47
The verses in Acts 2 do not specifically say the people were out doing door-to-door evangelism. Actually, the text does not promote one method over another. What it does promote is sharing the gospel with those around us. We know that a person must hear the gospel in order to respond to the gospel, so in some form the local church was verbally sharing the gospel and calling persons to surrender in faith to Jesus. What the text makes clear is that God was saving souls and transforming lives.
Churches are evangelistic not because of a program but because of the power of God at work in the lives of His people. God never intended for Pentecost to be the big end of the horn and then to diminish. God meant for Pentecost to be the little end of the horn and that faith was to grow in power and transformational impact in the world.
What does this life transformation look like? In the Transformational Church research done by Stetzer and Rainer’s team, more than 7,000 churches were surveyed to try to quantify what this life transformation looks like in the lives of people. The following are the identifiable marks of transformation they identify from the research:
- Surrender – Being willing to do what God asks
- Renewal – Sin happens in the mind long before it is carried out in the flesh. In order to live out gospel transformation, we need our mind renewed by the truth in the Bible.
- Service – Pursue opportunities to live our lives to impact others for Christ.
- Love – Love is the choice value the needs of others above our own.
- Diligence – Faithfulness to God. May also be known as “obedience”, which is doing what God says, when He says it and with the right heart attitude.
- Perspective – How we view our lives is how we will carry out God’s mission in our lives.
- Community – For lives to be changed, needs must be met. For needs to be met, community must be valued.
- Righteousness – Daily concern must be “how will Christ’s righteousness be displayed in me?”
In the words of the hymn writer, George Atkins, Brethren, we have met to worship and adore the Lord our God; Will you pray with all your power, while we try to preach the Word? All is vain unless the Spirit of the Holy One comes down; Brethren, pray, and holy manna will be showered all around.