Breakout Churches: Discover How to Make the Leap

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Breakout Churches¬ … what does it take for your church to break out of mediocrity? In search of answers, Thom Rainer and his research team conducted a landmark study on the church. Unfolding the findings of that study, Breakout Churches furnishes both principles and examples to show how you as a pastor or church leader can help your church break out of the status quo into unprecedented fruitfulness. Of the thousands of churches examined in the study, thirteen met the criteria for a “breakout church.” All of them ...

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Breakout Churches: Discover How to Make the Leap

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Breakout Churches¬ … what does it take for your church to break out of mediocrity? In search of answers, Thom Rainer and his research team conducted a landmark study on the church. Unfolding the findings of that study, Breakout Churches furnishes both principles and examples to show how you as a pastor or church leader can help your church break out of the status quo into unprecedented fruitfulness. Of the thousands of churches examined in the study, thirteen met the criteria for a “breakout church.” All of them experienced both a period of struggle and a time of sustained breakout growth under the same pastor’s leadership. Transitioning from mediocrity to excellence over several years, they grew to have an impact on the entire community. 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.

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Editorial Reviews

'...a refreshingly candid overview....A great read.'
'...a refreshingly candid overview....A great read.' -- enrichment
Publishers Weekly
From the subtitle to the research methods, this is a book-length, church-focused homage to Jim Collins's business bestseller Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap... and Others Don't. Rainer, a dean at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and president of a church consulting firm, sent a Collins-inspired team of researchers to pore through previously collected data on "effective evangelistic churches." The team was looking for churches that had gone through a period of stagnation before experiencing a "breakout" period of vitality, measured largely through membership growth-while keeping the same pastoral leadership. These criteria excluded both churches that had grown consistently or churches that grew after changing pastors. Of the 50,000 churches in the seminary's database, only 13 qualified. Rainer seeks to identify the secret of those churches' success and draws some telling comparisons with similar churches that were in gradual decline (and persistent denial). But his conclusions are consistently tainted by what statisticians call "post hoc bias"-there is no way to prove that the factors he identifies, which track closely with Collins's conclusions, were responsible for these churches' growth. The real value of this book is the hope Rainer instills that even churches that appear moribund can see remarkable change-if their leaders are willing, in Rainer's words, to "confront reality." (Feb.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780310257455
  • Publisher: Zondervan
  • Publication date: 12/15/2004
  • Pages: 272
  • Sales rank: 865,022
  • Product dimensions: 6.25 (w) x 9.25 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Thom S. Rainer es presidente de Church Central (Iglesia Central) www.Church y decano fundador de la Escuela Billy Graham de misiones, evangelismo e iglecrecimiento en el Seminario que ha servido como pastor y pastor interino en catorce iglesias y es presidente de Rainer Group Counsulting. Es autor de numerosos libros incluyendo Surprising Insights from the Unchurches and Proven Ways to Reach Them y The Unchurched Next Door. El D. Rainer y Nellie Jo, su esposa, residen en Louisville, Kentucky. Tienen tres hijos adultos. Puede comunicarse con el Dr. Rainer en www.Rainer Groupcom

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments 9
The Research Team 11
Preface 13



A Personal Postscript 201
Appendix A. Frequently Asked Questions 205
Appendix B. Selection Process and Research Steps 213
Appendix C. Selection Process of Comparison Churches 217
Appendix D. Synopsis of Churches Selected 219
Appendix E. Church Readiness Inventory 241

Notes 245
Name and Subject Index 253

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First Chapter

It 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 read in Matthew 22:37 and 39 are the Great Commandments, not the Good Commandments. And the apostle Paul did not call love something that is good; instead, he said "the greatest of these is love" (1 Cor. 13:13, emphasis added).

The power of seeking to be great rather than good became clear when I read Jim Collins's book Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap . . . and Others Don't, in which he began with the opening line:"Good is the enemy of great."With the encouragement of my publisher I elected to write a book on churches, modeled on the Good to Great framework.

This book was inspired by Good to Great, and we borrowed the research process, the structure and outline of the book, and the architecture of its ideas as the blueprint for this work.


Think of some criteria to measure great churches. Attendance increases? Number of conversions? Impact on culture? Transformed lives? If you have settled 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 that have 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 a taste of the difficulties the research team encountered in this project.We believe, quite simply, that there are very few breakout churches in America.

In fact, although we have data on thousands of churches, we found only 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 by breakout churches. Following the research methodology used by Jim Collins in Good to Great, we compared the thirteen churches we found with a carefully selected control group of churches that failed to make the leap. The factors distinguishing one group from the other fascinated our team.

As just one point of comparison, the chart looks at worship attendance of the two groups of churches. The breakout churches had a clearly identified point at which they began to experience significant growth. Drawing upon the Good to Great terminology of "transition point," we called this juncture the "breakout point."We then took the five years preceding and the five years following the breakout point and compared the same years with the direct comparison churches.

For the five years prior to breakout, all of the churches were struggling to stay even in worship attendance. Then the difference between the two groups is dramatic. The average worship attendance of the comparison churches declined for the next five years, while in the breakout churches it increased 71 percent.


How did churches with very unremarkable pasts become great churches? What took place in these fellowships that made them so extraordinary?

How did these churches make the leap when more than 90 percent of American churches did not come close to doing so?

Can a good but plodding church become a great church? We believe the answer is an unequivocal yes.We hope the stories you are about to read will inspire you to move your church to greatness. Before we get too caught
up in the details, let's hear from one church that made the transition-but not without a great sacrifice at great cost.


The Temple Church opened its doors for its first worship service at the American Baptist Theological Seminary in Nashville, Tennessee, in 1977. The congregation subsequently met in two other borrowed facilities before
constructing its own buildings in 1980. The founding pastor was Bishop

Michael Lee Graves.

By most standards, The Temple Church was successful from its inception. Growth was steady, if not spectacular, in the early years.A Christian
private school began. An adjunctive ministry, Samaritan's Ministries, reached out to the inner city of North Nashville by providing nutritional

Figure 1A. Attendance of Breakout Churches and Comparison Churches


support for the hungry, medical assistance, spiritual and psychological counseling, and educational and vocational training. One leader in the community credited The Temple Church with playing a major role in reducing
drug and gang violence in the area.

The list of Temple's ministries exceeded fifty and was growing. The church was one of the most respected African-American churches in the early 1980s. A multimillion-dollar facility was complete. The members
began to see their identity with the church as a banner of prestige. The Temple Church, by most standards, was making a difference. Then the
crash came.

As researcher George P. Lee discovered, not many people recognized that a crash had taken place.True, worship attendance declined from 1,000
in 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," Graves reflected. More important, he sensed that God's vision for The Temple

Church was for it to be a multiracial, multiethnic church for people of all socioeconomic classes. Yet by 1985 the church was the home largely of middle- and upper-middle-class African Americans.

"The vision of The Temple Church was a vis

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Sort by: Showing 1 – 6 of 5 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 24, 2006

    Never Lose Hope

    This was a really good book. The best part about it was that Rainer investigates 'real' churches - not the super-mega churches out there. It's hard to imaging duplicating the work of Rick Warren or Bill Hybels (who have done amazing things for the Kingdom) instead, Rainer takes you on a tour of churches that were not always growing like gangbusters yet turned things around. The book gives church leaders and members hope that they too can, with God's power, lead their churches to breakout of the rut or decline that is plagueing them.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 10, 2008

    A book that will score where your Church is

    This book will help you to score how far or close your church is to break out an move from a good Church to a great Church

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 19, 2014

    Highly recommend

    I loved this book. It is a must read for anyone who loves their church but feels like things are taking a turn for the worst.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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    Posted May 30, 2009

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    Posted April 6, 2010

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    Posted January 5, 2010

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