Stetzer and Rainer have sought to discover the variables that cause churches to grow. A common observation made by both laymen and pastors alike is that when it comes to church growth “we are supposed to see transformation, but too often we see stagnation” (p. 2). “The old scorecard,” as Stetzer and Rainer have called the former way of assessing the church, “valued the external measures of the three Bs: “bodies, budget, and buildings” (p. 26). As a result, the authors sought to perform research that included both qualitative and quantitative methods to ascertain what makes the difference between stagnant and growing churches. Nevertheless the authors state that their research does not originate from a love of statistics; instead they hope to provide “guidance for local churches” (p. 22).
Stetzer and Rainer gathered information in two parts. First, in the “fall of 2008, we surveyed an initial five thousand of seven thousand Protestant churches to discover qualities of the top 10 percent based on select criteria” (p. 27). Second, “in the spring and summer of 2009 we interviewed more than 250 leaders from among the top 10 percent of churches qualifying as Transformational Churches in our description” (p. 28). To qualify as a transformational church, the local body of believers had to demonstrate numerical growth in worship attendance between 2003 and 2008. Another criteria to qualify for the study was “the percentage of worship attendees involved in some small group, Sunday School class, or similar group. Simply put, we believe churches that are transformational will have people in small community” (p. 28).
The findings resulted in what the authors labeled a “transformational loop paradigm.” They state that the paradigm breaks down further into seven elements. Missionary mentality falls under the category of “discern,” vibrant leadership, relational intentionality, and prayerful dependence (under the heading “embrace”); and worship, community, and mission (part of “engage”).
As a result of the research the authors recommend that churches follow certain principles rather than replicate another church. “Before you conclude this is simply another methodology book, keep reading. Although you will encounter numerous practices from Tranformational Churches, these practices do not take shape in formulaic packages” (p. 6). This volume is worthy of close examination by pastors and leaders of local churches. Hopefully it will spur conversation and critical thinking, and give guidance on how churches can be more effective.
About the Contributors
Prior to teaching at DTS, Dr. Kreider served as Director of Christian Education and then as Senior Pastor in Cedar Hill, TX. His research and writing interests include Jonathan Edwards, theological method, theology and popular culture, and our eschatological hope. Dr. Kreider believes that grace really is amazing; it is a thought that will change the world. He is married to his best friend, Janice, and they have two grown children and one granddaughter, Marlo Grace. He and Janice enjoy live music, good stories, bold coffee, and spending time together and with their rescue dogs—a terrier/greyhound mix named Chloe and a black lab named Carlile.