There are many traditional expressions of church in the US that are attempting to transition to becoming more organic and missional. Instead of calling them transitional churches, I like to call them “transfusional churches.” The reason for this is that the idea of transitioning implies simply modifying a model or a system, and we have found that this would be useless without a transfusion of healthy DNA. The problems our churches face in the West are not structural, strategic or mechanical. And a mechanical fix is not a fix at all. The problem is a lack of life in the core, or perhaps a more diplomatic way to describe it is that they are lacking some healthy DNA. So every transition begins, not with a structural change, but with a transfusion of holistic and healthy disciples infused with the DNA. We want to see them fruitful and multiply enough that there is a growing emergence of health in the church body. Rather than simply use up those disciples in meeting existing ministry needs, we challenge church leadership to release some of them to start groups, perhaps even outside the walls of the congregation itself.
Think about the importance of DNA with me for a moment. When I speak, I sometimes ask if anyone in the audience would be willing to show us their DNA. Usually people laugh at the thought and someone eventually stands up with arms extended and says, “Here it is.” You see, DNA is in almost every cell of your body. If your DNA was somehow corrupted with a mutation, how would you fix it? You can’t conduct surgery on every cell of your body. You can’t just take a pill and hope that will fix things.
Changing your church’s model or mechanical structure is like trying to take a pill to fix your DNA. It can’t be done. But if we could somehow fix someone’s DNA, I would imagine we would need a more viral approach that brings change one cell at a time. To do that you would first need to introduce a healthy DNA cell that is capable of reproducing. The change would be microscopic and slow to begin with, but as each generation of transformed cells reproduces it would build momentum and change would eventually be noticeable.
Once healthy discipleship is underway, leaders can be trained not to get in the way of the growth in disciples, leaders, churches and movements. This is not as easy as it sounds because most leaders have been trained for decades in a certain way of thinking. At CMA we even talk about going through “detox” at this stage, because we have created such a dependency in our churches that none are self-sufficient or self-replicating. This detox creates a death. We must die to ourselves, to our past, and to our future ambitions in order to be born again to a new way of working. I sometimes even suggest that churches have an official funeral service in which the leaders go first. Everyone then has a sense of anticipation of what God may birth (It is also a good indicator of the willingness of people to change). Lest you think this too harsh, realize that this is the entrance requirement Jesus demands of any who would follow Him.