Breakout Churches : Discover How to Make the Leap

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  • Copyright: 2010-01-01
  • Publisher: Harpercollins Christian Pub
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In Thom Rainer's latest book, Breakout Churches, he shows you how churches that were once healthy but had stagnated in growth have broken out to become great churches impacting lives and entire communities. Breakout Churches tells the story of these churches and their pastors. And, using a statistical approach, it identifies key patterns and characteristics common to churches that experienced turnarounds.


Breakout ChurchesCopyright © 2005 by Thom S. RainerRequests for information should be addressed to:Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Michigan 49530Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication DataRainer, Thom S.Breakout churches : discover how to make the leap / Thom S. Rainer.p. cm.Includes bibliographical references and index.ISBN 0-310-25745-X (hardcover)1. Church growth. 2. Christian leadership. I. Title.BV652.25.R365 2004253—dc22 2004008376This edition is printed on acid-free paper.All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible: New InternationalVersion®. NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission ofZondervan. All rights reserved.Scripture quotations identified as NASB are taken from The New American Standard Bible®. Copyright© 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by the Lockman Foundation.Used by permission.The website addresses recommended throughout this book are offered as a resource to you. These websitesare not intended in any way to be or imply an endorsement on the part of Zondervan, nor do wevouch for their content for the life of this book.All rights reserved. No part of this publication except for the Church Readiness Inventory may bereproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means—electronic,mechanical, photocopy, recording, or any other—except for brief quotations in printed reviews, withoutthe prior permission of the publisher. The Church Readiness Inventory in appendix E may be copiedwithout written permission.Illustrations copyright © 2005 by Jess W. RainerInterior design by Tracey WalkerPrinted in the United States of America05 06 07 08 09 10 11 / . DCI / 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1CHAPTER 1WHY GOODIS NOT ENOUGH:THE CHRYSALIS FACTORThe possibility that we may fail in the struggle ought not to deterus from the support of a cause we believe to be just.—Abraham LincolnIt is a sin to be good if God has called us to be great.Christians refer to Matthew 28:18–20 as the Great Commission,not the Good Commission. Jesus himself said that the words we readin Matthew 22:37 and 39 are the Great Commandments, not the GoodCommandments. And the apostle Paul did not call love something that isgood; instead, he said “the greatest of these is love” (1 Cor. 13:13, emphasisadded).The power of seeking to be great rather than good became clear whenI read Jim Collins’s book Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make theLeap . . . and Others Don’t, in which he began with the opening line:“Goodis the enemy of great.”With the encouragement of my publisher I electedto write a book on churches, modeled on the Good to Great framework.This book was inspired by Good to Great, and we borrowed the research15process, the structure and outline of the book, and the architecture of itsideas as the blueprint for this work.THE DIFFICULTIES IN FINDING GREAT CHURCHESThink of some criteria to measure great churches. Attendance increases?Number of conversions? Impact on culture? Transformed lives? If you havesettled on one or more criteria, name fifty churches that would meet them.Can you name forty churches? Thirty?Let’s make the search more difficult. Think of churches that meet your“great” criteria after being a so-so church for many years. In other words,discover some churches that have made the leap to greatness.Let’s make the test even more problematic.Name all the churches thathave made the transition without changing the senior pastor or senior minister.In other words, the church broke out under the same leadership.If you are having trouble naming several such churches, you have ataste of the difficulties the research team encountered in this project.Webelieve, quite simply, that there are very few breakout churches in America.In fact, although we have data on thousands of churches, we foundonly thirteen churches that survived the rigorous screening.But the lessons we learned from these churches are priceless.Figure 1A offers a quick snapshot of the incredible leaps taken bybreakout churches. Following the research methodology used by JimCollins in Good to Great, we compared the thirteen churches we foundwith a carefully selected control group of churches that failed to makethe leap. The factors distinguishing one group from the other fascinatedour team.As just one point of comparison, the chart looks at worship attendanceof the two groups of churches. The breakout churches had a clearly identifiedpoint at which they began to experience significant growth. Drawingupon the Good to Great terminology of “transition point,” we calledthis juncture the “breakout point.”We then took the five years precedingand the five years following the breakout point and compared the sameyears with the direct comparison churches.For the five years prior to breakout, all of the churches were strugglingto stay even in worship attendance. Then the difference between the twogroups is dramatic. The average worship attendance of the comparisonchurches declined for the next five years, while in the breakout churchesit increased 71 percent.16 ¡ BREAKOUT CHURCHESHow did churches with very unremarkable pasts become greatchurches? What took place in these fellowships that made them so extraordinary?How did these churches make the leap when more than 90 percentof American churches did not come close to doing so?Can a good but plodding church become a great church? We believethe answer is an unequivocal yes.We hope the stories you are about to readwill inspire you to move your church to greatness. Before we get too caughtup in the details, let’s hear from one church that made the transition—butnot without a great sacrifice at great cost.THE TEMPLE CHURCH FACES THE COST OF MAKING THE LEAPThe Temple Church opened its doors for its first worship service at theAmerican Baptist Theological Seminary in Nashville, Tennessee, in 1977.The congregation subsequently met in two other borrowed facilities beforeconstructing its own buildings in 1980. The founding pastor was BishopMichael Lee Graves.By most standards, The Temple Church was successful from its inception.Growth was steady, if not spectacular, in the early years.A Christianprivate school began. An adjunctive ministry, Samaritan’s Ministries,reached out to the inner city of North Nashville by providing nutritionalFigure 1A. Attendance of Breakout Churches and Comparison ChurchesWHY GOOD IS NOT ENOUGH: THE CHRYSALIS FACTOR ¡ 17support for the hungry, medical assistance, spiritual and psychologicalcounseling, and educational and vocational training. One leader in the communitycredited The Temple Church with playing a major role in reducingdrug and gang violence in the area.The list of Temple’s ministries exceeded fifty and was growing. Thechurch was one of the most respected African-American churches in theearly 1980s. A multimillion-dollar facility was complete. The membersbegan to see their identity with the church as a banner of prestige. TheTemple Church, by most standards, was making a difference. Then thecrash came.As researcher George P. Lee discovered, not many people recognizedthat a crash had taken place.True, worship attendance declined from 1,000in 1984 to 880 in 1985. But Bishop Graves, the only person to sense trouble,felt the decline in attendance was only symptomatic of greater problems.“There was a sense of apathy growing among the members,” Gravesreflected. More important, he sensed that God’s vision for The TempleChurch was for it to be a multiracial, multiethnic church for people of allsocioeconomic classes.

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