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Copyright 2005 by Thom S. Rainer
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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Rainer, Thom S.
Breakout churches : discover how to make the leap / Thom S. Rainer.
Includes bibliographical references and index.
ISBN 0-310-25745-X (hardcover)
1. Church growth. 2. Christian leadership. I. Title.
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Illustrations copyright 2005 by Jess W. Rainer
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05 06 07 08 09 10 11 / . DCI / 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
IS NOT ENOUGH:
THE CHRYSALIS FACTOR
The possibility that we may fail in the struggle ought not to deter
us from the support of a cause we believe to be just.
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
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.
THE DIFFICULTIES IN FINDING GREAT CHURCHES
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
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.
16 BREAKOUT CHURCHES
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 FACES THE COST OF MAKING THE LEAP
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
WHY GOOD IS NOT ENOUGH: THE CHRYSALIS FACTOR 17
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
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