Friday, September 16, 2011

Church Transfusion: Releasing Organic Life Into Established Churches

My newest project is called Church Transfusion: Releasing Organic Life into Established Churches. We are offering a two day training, much like our Greenhouse, for those who lead an established church but would like to see more vital health and reproduction from organic church principles. There will also be a book forthcoming, published by Jossey-Bass in the Leadership Network series written by myself and Phil Helfer.

The Authors:

Phil is one of my oldest friends and the co-founder of CMA. One of the most radical organic thinkers on our CMA leadership team, Phil also happens to pastor a well established church of between 300-400 people. Because he is a Shepherd on our APEST (Apostle, Prophet, Evangelist, Shepherd, Teacher) team he will stay with his flock and has been a catalyst for much change. This one church has sent off four networks of organic churches over the last 15 years. He has learned in the trenches and paid the price to function organically in a traditional church climate.

Many might ask why I, a church planter, would write to established churches. Prior to starting churches, I led a well established church for almost a decade. During that time we raised up leaders from within and sent out church planters. I learned a lot in that context of what to do, and not to do, which not only informed my church planting, but will be pertinent to this book.

The Book's Content:

The first part of the book puts forth the idea that change is impossible with men, but possible with God. While there are many books available on church transition, we believe that it takes more than a assessment of where you're at, a new direction, a better set of bigger goals, a refined mission statement and a new logo and building campaign to truly change a church from within. As any who have read our material already know, the key to health, life and reproduction is in the DNA. If your church is already established and it obviously does not have a complete DNA is it possible to change? How do you change someone's DNA? Well, that is truly the realm of science fiction today...but so is the resurrection. With men these things are impossible, but with God all things are possible. This sort of change, however, is more than a church transition, it is a church transfusion. Healthy DNA must be released into the body to replicate, influence and even replace the unhealthy DNA from the inside out. The first part of this book examines what it takes to do this and presents several real examples of such churches that are each very different in their journeys to transfusion.

The second part of the book is about how to implement successful transfusion. Chapters cover practical subjects such as
  • Dying to live
  • The leadershift necessary
  • Detox from dependency issues 
  • Releasing and empowering people
  • The price a healthy church must be willing to pay
  • Healthy disciple-making
  • How to pilot change in a "skunk-works" type project
  • How to reproduce rather than simply clone
  • New ways of measuring success
  • How to equip people for influence in the world (not just the church). 
Like all our resources, this book will be chock full of real life stories and examples as well as the type of ideas that can only be forged in the flames of true experience. We will pull no punches. The book will tell the glory stories right next to the gory ones.

Church Transfusion should be released in 2012 from Jossey-Bass/Leadership Network.

Our first training opportunity will be Friday and Saturday, Sep 23-24, 2012 at Los Altos Grace Brethren Church in Long Beach CA. You can find detailed info and register for it here. There is still room available.

There will also be a half day workshop in Singapore Friday October 28th for those in S. Asia.


Chris Jefferies said...

I am so glad this book has been written and training meetings planned. In the house/organic/small world we sometimes think we have more truth than conventional denominations - maybe we do. But I don't think that's really the point.

Do we truly love the body or do we only love the head and the elbow or foot or whatever part we are most closely attached to?

Jesus loves the entirety of his body and wants it all to grow and flourish. This is a great way to reach across the divide (a divide that should not even exist).

I need to listen and talk and share, bless and encourage and challenge all of the body, not just the bit I happen to be attached to.

Great stuff Neil, keep on keeping on. You are appreciated and valued.

follower1 said...

Great idea and very needed. Change often initiates at the top of traditional churches. I wonder how organic principles grow and take root. Would it depend on the church leadership or could it be bottom up? I find people in the pews adopt these ideas sooner than paid staff.

Chris Jefferies said...

Follower1, you've touched on a serious issue. You are absolutely right, it's often the rank and file who pick up on the value and potential of organic ideas.

Unless the fruit of the Spirit is abundantly evident (Galatians 5:22-23), this will lead to tension and disagreement on the one hand or frustration on the other. The outcome can be distressing and unhelpful in the extreme.

If the change comes top-down it may result in home groups being released to do much more for themselves. If it comes bottom-up it is more likely to result in acrimonious splits.

Either way there's a great need for love, wisdom, prayer and gentleness along with an uncritical spirit.

But the potential dangers shouldn't prevent us making the attempt! We just need to be careful and wise.

Neil Cole said...

The book is still being written, so pray for us as we continue it.

One thing that is important to realize, those who serve as clergy are not the enemy, they are victims of a lie as well. Our true enemy is the liar himself, and the only power he has in in the lie. What heals is not to attack those who are victims of the lie, but to reveal the truth that evaporates the lie.

Pressing on,


Neil Cole said...

I have found that it is best to start where the good soil is and not necessarily the top or the bottom. If the leadership is against organic principles than you are likely not going to see a change int he church, that is true. If leadership is good than the change can come from the grassroots in a congregation.

SteveO said...

Neil, we are very excited to hear about this new project! We are in the planning stages of a discipleship / transfusion, and we really have to watch "boundaries" so that we do not alienate leadership before we begin!
Another leader and myself just finished CHURCH 3.0, and we were absolutely thrilled with what we saw and learned! We are eagerly awaiting this new project as we plan our own churches future discipleship and growth!
When might we expect the new book being released?
Thanks for all you do, and God bless brother!
In Christ, Steve

nate said...

Just finished "Journeys Into Significance" - incredible book! I'm sure the new book will help many pastors/ministers who feel "stuck" in the institutional gears of the machine to take small but giant steps toward missional/organic change in the local church. I recently learned the hard way that transfusing an established church's culture of consumerism with a Biblical mission-centeredness is a very risky deal. I could have probably used a book like this one to help with some of the issues at play. Now, I am forced to sit on the outside(currently without a job) and pray for my former church to not step back from where God has led them in the past 18 months.

Kathleen said...

Hi Neil,

I'm really excited to find a reference to your new book, "Church Transfusion", coming out later this year. I am currently writing a similar book, called "Church in a Circle." Of course, I don't know if they are similar at all - but my husband and I are passionate about seeing elements of organic church move into the established church, and change it from within.

I've started a blog at with some exerpts from my book. I have 4 young kids, so the writing process is taking some time, but I'm getting towards the end of the first draft. I wouldn't mind sending you a pdf for feedback once I've got an initial draft together? I've read some of your other books and like the way you think!

Thanks for your contribution to the church worldwide,


Chris Jefferies said...

Hey Kathleen, I'm interested to see your book when it comes out. There's a lot to say on this hot topic and the more people who speak out the better.

I quoted part of your comment in my latest blog article, Little and large