Vibrant Leadership

Part 3 of a series on the book “Transformational Church

The second transformational loop described by Ed Stetzer and Thom Rainer is labeled Embrace. It contains three elements, the first of which is Vibrant Leadership.

Transformational leaders let God shape their church. The Transformational Church is Christ being presented to the community. Transformational Churches are tenacious about the vision and are people focused.

Understanding Transformational Leadership

  • Transformational Leadership understands that the church exists for the mission of God, and God gives leaders to help churches focus on the mission
  • Transformational Leadership focuses on leveraging every life for the kingdom of God around the world
  • Transformational Leadership is focused on the outside of the leader’s world
  • Transformational Leadership is missional in perspective and action-oriented in decision

Shift in Thinking

  • From one to many leaders
  • From “me” to “we”
  • From personal power to people empowerment
  • From church to the kingdom of God

Whether from bricks and mortar, programs, or just the inward pull of self, the church can become distracted from the mission of the kingdom. It did not take long in the early church for the epicenter of God’s activity to move away from house to house and life to life. With the advent of church buildings, the temptation was to become building-focused, inward, self-absorbed congregations. People became spectators. Scattering throughout the community as the church was replaced with the sacred, passive gathering in one place. When church is reduced to that place on the corner where we go on Sunday, we reduce the church and kingdom to something smaller than God intended.

The Leadership Structure of Transformational Churches

  • Traditional committees gave way to affinity-based teams
  • Membership is encouraged to discover strengths, spiritual gifts, and talents
  • Churches had less structure as opposed to more structure
  • Structures reflect confidence in their pastor and positional leaders
  • Congregational members did not vote on every issue
  • Small advisory teams and accountability groups worked alongside the pastor and staff

Jesus, Leading Transformation

  • Jesus invested in people
  • Jesus saw long and far
  • Jesus sent people away from Him on mission
  • Jesus grieved for communities
  • Jesus led a balanced life
  • Jesus embraced other cultures
  • Jesus gave up His will
  • Jesus surrounded Himself with lost people
  • Jesus’ harvest vision was leveraged by prayer
  • Jesus felt the needs of the people

Transformational Leadership Environments

  • Value a team approach to ministry
  • Values a sharper mission focus
  • Values new leadership priorities

Transitional Leaders advance through the following steps:

  • I join Him on mission or the “encounter” level
  • I lead others to join Him on mission or the “influence” level
  • I lead others to lead others, to join Him on mission, or the “leading leaders” level
  • I lead others to lead others to lead others to join Him on mission, or the “movement” level

The excerpts above are from the book “Transformational Church” by Ed Stetzer and Thom Rainer. Transformational Church is the result of a comprehensive study of thousands of churches where truly changing lives is the standard set for ministry.

Next: EmbraceRelational Intentionality

Previous posts in this series:



Missionary Mentality

Second in a series of posts from the book “Transformational Church

The first “transformational loop” in the transformation process is Discern – Transformational churches live out the essence of disciplemaking in their activities through worship, community, and mission. But they do so in the context of their culture.

To do worship, small groups, mission, leadership, prayer, and relationship effectively, you have to know the story of the people to whom God has sent you

Unfortunately, Christian leaders are often more in love with the way they do church than they are in love with people in their community.

Transitional Churches empower and release people to live on mission, with a missionary mentality, where they are right now – at the right time, following God’s activity and obeying His assignment.

The Missionary Mindset

  • Restless to look, learn, and live out the gospel
  • Activate ministries that are on behalf of the people to whom God has called them
  • God has called you to a people first and then to the task

Three Default Modes to Avoid

  • Deconstructionist – discontented tribe of leaders who obsess with what they will not do anymore
  • Methodologist – obsessed with what they will do better than the rest
  • Impressionist – students of conferences and successful leaders

Transformational churches demonstrate a passion to touch the world. They have learned to address the need to work both locally and globally.

Transformational Churches fully embrace missional without losing the mission:

  • They recognize it is God’s mission, and they are passionate about the mission as He describes it
  • They understand and obey God’s call to serve the poor and the hurting and are not afraid of a stronger engagement in social justice
  • They share God’s deep concern about His mission to the nations – that His name be praised from the lips of men and women from every corner of the globe
  • They are serious about joining God on His mission and obey His commands to disciple the nations

Transformational Churches are truly Acts 1:8 churches. They have a mindset to be a missionary in their community and ultimately to the entire world.

The excerpts above are from the book “Transformational Churches” by Ed Stetzer and Thom Rainer. Transformation Church is the result of a comprehensive study of thousands of churches where truly changing lives is the standard set for ministry.

Next: Embrace

Watching the Scoreboard

Last night I was watching preseason Sunday Night Football – maybe not quite the real thing (the Panthers played their starters for the first half only; ditto with the Jets), but to the teams playing, it’s real enough. They’re out there to play well, help their team score, and be ahead at the end of the game.

Couldn’t you say some of the same things about the church?

Congregations have long measured success by “bodies, budgets, and buildings” – a record of attendance, the offering plate, and the square footage of facilities. But for growing, healthy churches, the scoreboard can’t stop there.

Maybe it’s time for a new scoreboard – one that reflects transformation, not just information.

LifeWay CEO Thom Rainer and LifeWay Research president Ed Stetzer led one of the most comprehensive studies of its kind to understand what sets “transformational churches” apart from others. In their book “Transformational Church“, they take us to the thriving congregations where truly changing lives is the standard.

As a part of my responsibilities with Auxano, I am working with LifeWay and their Church Partners network. Transformational Church has been an integral part of their work for the last two years, so I thought it appropriate to take a deeper look into the material.

After distilling down their research, Rainer and Stetzer found three principles that were common to transformational churches. These principles transformed people to look like Christ, congregations to act like the body of Christ, and communities to reflect the kingdom of God.

In the first of a multi-part post on the book, here is a brief overview:


Missionary Mentality – church understands the community and will minister in contextually appropriate ways to reach local people with the gospel


Vibrant Leadership – leaders showing passion for God, His mission, and its transforming power on people

Relational Intentionality – deliberately connect with one another; accountability, encouragement, long-term relationships

Prayerful Dependence – natural disposition of communicating with God about the hope for transformation; dependence on prayer rather than a program for prayer


Worship – expectancy; knew something great was going to happen; trusted God to deliver transformation rather than the musicians to deliver a good show

Community – activity of joining lives together through ministry systems

Mission – God’s mission to make disciples of Christ and to engage the world as Jesus calls; understand disciplemaking as the normal sate of the Christian’s life

Stetzer and Rainer develop these three categories of transformation as a loop that can be entered at any point.

 Principles of the Loop

  1. Connecting to the loop – all three categories and seven elements are necessary parts for a transformational ministry, but churches can begin anywhere.
  2. Cathartic Experience – the change to a transformational mindset begins with a moment of decision that is beneficial and liberating.
  3. Convergence of Elements – churches with transformational disciplemaking allow for a free convergence of all the elements.

Tomorrow: Discern

The Gospel Project

As a lifelong learner, one of the most exciting developments announced at the SBC this week was The Gospel Project, LifeWay’s first new Bible study series for adults, students, and children in more than 10 years.

The Gospel Project (TGP) is a three-year, in-depth study that launches this fall. Over 12,000 churches have already participated in a pilot project this spring, and the response has been overwhelmingly positive.

TGP draws its focus from The Baptist Faith and Message, where the last sentence of the Scripture section states: “All Scripture is a testimony to Christ who is Himself the focus of divine revelation.”

Trevin Wax, managing editor of TGP said “The main emphasis is Jesus Christ, who He is, and what He has done for us. It’s centered on how all of the Bible tells us this one over-arching story of redemption about what God has done to save us through the work of Jesus Christ.”

For more information about The Gospel Project, go to

To see the video announcing The Gospel Project, click here.

History Being Made

Today, in all likelihood, the Southern Baptist Convention will elect an African-American as its first president in its 167 year history.

That says a lot about a group that has its roots in the politics of slavery.

The Southern Baptist Convention began in 1845 largely due to the refusal of Northern Baptists to recognize slave owners as missionaries. For over 150 years, the Convention remained silent on the issue. Over the past two decades, though, the Convention has taken steps to recant its past. At its 150th anniversary meeting in 1995, it passes a resolution of apology and reconciliation for its racist past.

Fred Luter helped write it.

Today, Fred Luter Jr., pastor of New Orleans’ Franklin Avenue Baptist Church, is unopposed for election as president. Perhaps the most eloquent description of Luter was given by Thom Rainer, president of LifeWay – read it here.

I’ve always loved history – but it’s really exciting being a part of it.

30 Years Ago…

30 years ago this week I was just finishing up the first year of my master’s program at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY. I was also employed by SBTS as an audiovisual technician, and I was working the convention in two roles: running the multimedia program for the Seminary’s alumni luncheon, and serving as a photographer for the Seminary’s new President, Roy Honeycutt, who had just been named the Seminary’s 8th president.

I was also a part-time staff member of one of the largest SBC churches in the state, serving as Minister of Media for Highview Baptist Church in Louisville. The pastor did a live radio show every afternoon during drive time, and using that connection, I was able to do live radio news reports throughout the convention.

1982 was still the “early years” of the controversy in SBC life, so there was a lot going on at the convention. I love history but am not a historian; I wrestle with theology but am not a theologian. This post is not about what happened in SBC life during the early 80’s – history records it.

This is about today.

I am in New Orleans this week, once again attending the Southern Baptist Convention. A lot has happened in 30 years…

This time around, I am attending the SBC Pastor’s Conference and the Convention as an Auxano team member. My role at Auxano includes that of convention manager, coordinating our team at convention events. I will also be working in the Exhibit Hall area, in the LifeWay exhibit where Auxano has a white board conversation space.

Last night I served as host of the Green Room for the Pastor’s Conference. The Green Room is like a speaker’s lounge, where the speakers and family can relax before and after an event. As it was father’s day, the opening lineup consisted of father and son teams: Bailey Smith and J. Josh Smith; Don Wilton and Rob Wilton; Ronnie Floyd and Nick Floyd; and Tony Evans and Anthony Evans. It was great meeting these men, and since several of them were Auxano clients, we caught up on where they’ve been – and where they’re headed next. Exciting stuff!

I will be Tweeting as time allows (@auxano) and also trying to make notes for later reflection. I would love to hear any comments you might have about the SBC, the past 30 years, and where you are today.