Transformational small churches (2 of 3)

Continued from Part 1.

What are the common characteristics of churches that transform their members and their communities? The folks at LifeWay Research set to find out, and published their findings in a book, Transformational Churches. Last September, they held an all-day webinar specifically aimed at small churches, and here are my (sometimes disjointed) notes.

Transformational Churches and worship, with Mike Harland (1:10:25)

In transformational churches ( TCs):

  • there’s a sense of anticipation and expectancy surrounding the worship services
  • they see evidence of God changing lives as a result of worship services (i.e. it’s not just a rote thing)
  • people regularly make decisions to obey God as a result of worship services

The issue in worship should move from style to purpose. Worship is actively embracing Jesus. The human heart is designed to hold someone or something in high esteem, and God’s intention from the beginning was to hold that esteemed position.

Worship is our response to God’s revelation. It isn’t trying to get God to respond (see 1 Kings 18). If worship happens, it is because people see Jesus and give Him the praise that is due Him (not because of instruments, copyright dates, etc).


  • Place worship at the centre point of their efforts
  • Have such a love for God that they know worship is a manner of living, not a mode of church programming (Romans 12:1, Hebrews 13:15).

Worship isn’t a church growth strategy but a response to God. Worship is the fruit of our lives, how we live not just on Sunday but also on Monday at 8:30am.


  • Have high confidence that lives will be impacted through worship
  • Expect God’s presence to be real and transformative in their worship experience

Our expectations influence our experience in worship.

TCs value participation over performance: they understand the importance of getting the congregation involved (as opposed to having a band play the music up front).

Worship is a spiritual discipline that communicates a biblical meaning in a cultural form.

If the congregation isn’t worshipping, they’re not seeing who God is. TCs show people who Jesus is, and give them the opportunity to respond in worship.

Q&A (1:41:10)

Q: How do we help churches to worship God where they are?

A: A pastor needs to look around the church and see what resources there are to work with, however modest they may be. Don’t sacrifice the spiritual nature of worship, for example by hiring a professional musician who isn’t a believer to lead it. Look for people within the church that you can develop.

Q: What is the role of the worship leader?

A: He/She should be in step and in tune with the pastor. The senior pastor is, ideally, the worship leader, and should be the one to set the vision for the church.

Q: How, in planning, do we emphasise worship as a response?

A: Put the revelation of Jesus at the forefront. Ask yourself, What does the song say about Jesus?

Q: How does the need for churches to cultivate a missional mindset impact its involvement in music, the arts, etc?

A: When people encounter Christ, they’ll want to evangelise.

Mission, with Ed Stetzer (1:53:00)

Mission is showing Jesus through word and action. It is showing and sharing the love of Christ.

TCs engage their members in ministry within the church and mission without the church. In TCs church members understand the importance of sharing their faith with others, and evangelism is a natural part of life for them.

In TCs, membership is equated with a commitment to both the church and to serve the gospel to the community. They’re active—even aggressive—about service in the community.

The transformational activity we should crave is the advancement of the gospel in the lives of unbelievers. A cross-centered and resurrection-powered life no longer lives for itself. It dies daily for the new priority of kingdom mission: to save and to serve.

How can a church become mission-oriented?

  • Define success. Create a new scorecard: lives being transformed by the power of Christ.
  • Prepare: train people to be on mission. Don’t rely on surface-level orientation.
  • Provide personal leadership to believers through real-life examples and real-life conversations
  • Move into the community. TCs build a good reputation with the city. Get your church out of the building.

TCs intentionally provide service opportunities for their people to be engaged with the unchurched in their local city or community. As a result of this involvement in the community, people regularly become Christians.

Q&A (2:12:30)

Q: What about an older congregation? They can’t physically get around. Can they send money, for example?

A: Roles may change, but everybody who calls themselves a believer can do something. In addition to sending money, senior saints could pray.

Q: How does a church go about identifying needs in the community?

A: You could talk to people who love your community, people in local government, other churches in the same area. Get to know the community better than others.

To be continued…