Leaders catalyze movements.
Movements change cities.
Changed cities transform culture.

This syllogism is at the core of our work with GoodCities. I first heard it when Mac Pier of the New York City Leadership Center spoke at a meeting of leaders on Manhattan in September 2010 just prior to the first Movement Day. The syllogism collapses without leaders. Consequently, books that help us understand how people are transformed into leaders will catch my attention.

Transformational Discipleship by Eric Geiger, Michael Kelley, and Philip Nation is such a book. Recently published by B&H Publishing and Lifeway Research, this book looks at the discipleship process in a holistic way and offers new insights into how we can be intentional about the transformational direction of our lives. Today I am posting portions of an interview with the authors of this book that will offer enough information about Transformational Discipleship that you will be able to decide whether it is a tool you’d like to have in your library as well.

Why is the book called Transformational Discipleship?

(Eric) Each of the words in the title is significant. Every person in the world is a disciple because everyone follows someone or something. That’s what a disciple is – a follower. But while every person is a disciple, not every person is transformed.

What we are really after as followers of Christ is transformation. That’s the process in which something actually becomes something else. So growing in Christ isn’t just putting on a new set of habits or behaving differently; it’s deeper than that.

Being a disciple is simply following Jesus to a greater and greater degree. And if we are following Him, then we are through our lives becoming something different. The Holy Spirit and He alone does this transforming work in the hearts of people. What our job is, as church leaders, isn’t to transform; it’s to set the conditions that are most conducive for real transformation to occur.

(Michael) In the book, we liken this kind of partnership to water skiing. The person behind the boat isn’t the one who lifts himself of the water or pulls him across the lake. The boat has all of the power. But the one with the skies on does play a part. He or she must place themselves in the right posture behind the boat, giving the one driving the boat a “thumbs up” sign, and prepare for the ride.

Spiritual transformation is the same. God is the one enabling His people to mature and grow while His people are invited to place themselves in the right posture.

The subtitle is How People Really Grow. So in a nutshell, how does that growth happen?

(Eric) We frame the process of spiritual growth in the book through three circles: Truth, Posture and Leaders. The place where those three circles converge is what we call the transformational sweet spot.

The sweet spot on a bat or a tennis racket is the place that has the most potential impact when you hit the ball. In the same way, when these three factors come together a church is set up to experience transformational discipleship.

Here’s how we articulate those three factors coming together: The transformational sweet spot is the intersection of truth given by healthy leaders when someone is in a vulnerable posture.

Unpack that definition a bit. Each of those words (truth, leaders, posture) are big terms. What specifically do you mean by them?

(Philip) In each of the three areas, we highlight specific ideas that aid transformation to occur. We call them lenses. So for truth, there are three specific lenses that contribute to transformation: the gospel, identity, and the spiritual disciplines.

It’s especially important for leaders to understand these lenses because they influence the way they present God’s truth to the people that have been entrusted to their care. For a leader, then, to present the truth, they focus on the gospel, understand that in the gospel a person’s identity is made new and different in Christ, and equip their people to participate in the spiritual disciplines.

Tell us a bit about the research that’s outlined in the book.

(Philip) In 2010, LifeWay Research embarked on an ambitious research project. We surveyed believers about their spiritual lives and level of maturity. We wanted to look into the major arenas of life where spiritual maturity takes place.

The research was done in three phases. First, we did a qualitative survey of experts in the field of discipleship. Members of our research team did interviews with recognized experts from multiple countries including pastors, professors, and church leaders from a variety of backgrounds.

From these experts in the field of discipleship, our research team gained a better understanding of what is taking place in the church both domestically and in other countries (specifically in the Hispanic context).

After the expert interview phase, the research team also conducted survey of 1,000 Protestant pastors in North America. The survey delved into the type of discipleship ministries being used in churches and the satisfaction level that they have with them. The survey revealed a great deal of paradoxes occurring between pastors’ hope that people are maturing and the level of satisfaction they have that believers truly are maturing.

Finally, the team at LifeWay Research did a survey of 4,000 Protestant Christians in North America. Of that number, approximately 1,100 were in Canada and the survey was done in three languages: English, Spanish, and French.

It was a really extensive project, and we’re excited to frame the results in this book.

Is this a research driven project?

(Eric) Yes and no. It’s certainly a project that’s supported by research, but we didn’t want it to read like a pure research book. We wanted it to be accessible for pastors and church leaders of all kinds. So while you’ll clearly see the research in the book, it’s driven more by biblical truth.

What are you hoping is accomplished through Transformational Discipleship?

(Philip) I’m praying that Transformational Discipleship will fill the church with hope. The good news is that the Holy Spirit is most definitely at work transforming the hearts of Christians. What we want to do in the book is reaffirm His work and try to give leaders some very helpful footholds – some ways of thinking that can inform and shape their ministries for the years to come.

(Michael) Discipleship is a big word to a lot of people. It’s intimidating, and while there is something mysterious about the way the Spirit works in the hearts of God’s people, discipleship isn’t reserved for some special class of Christians. So my hope is that through the book, the way people really grow in Christ might be de-mystified a bit. Not in the sense that we lessen the emphasis on the work of the Spirit, but in the sense that the way this happens becomes simplified in our minds.

(Eric) I want the church to enter into a day of playing offense rather than defense. The human heart isn’t something pure that needs to be protected; it’s something wicked that needs to be transformed. Jesus wants us to be on the move – to play offense. To take ground for the kingdom in confidence because of who He is. So my prayer is that the book helps us to see how we can be active partners with God to see people truly grow deep in Jesus.

Leaders catalyze movements.
Movements change cities.
Changed cities transform culture.

This syllogism is at the core of our work with GoodCities. I first heard it when Mac Pier of the New York City Leadership Center spoke at a meeting of leaders on Manhattan in September 2010 just prior to the first Movement Day. The syllogism collapses without leaders. Consequently, books that help us understand how people are transformed into leaders will catch my attention.

Transformational Discipleship by Eric Geiger, Michael Kelley, and Philip Nation is such a book. Recently published by B&H Publishing and Lifeway Research, this book looks at the discipleship process in a holistic way and offers new insights into how we can be intentional about the transformational direction of our lives. Today I am posting portions of an interview with the authors of this book that will offer enough information about Transformational Discipleship that you will be able to decide whether it is a tool you’d like to have in your library as well.

Why is the book called Transformational Discipleship?

(Eric) Each of the words in the title is significant. Every person in the world is a disciple because everyone follows someone or something. That’s what a disciple is – a follower. But while every person is a disciple, not every person is transformed.

What we are really after as followers of Christ is transformation. That’s the process in which something actually becomes something else. So growing in Christ isn’t just putting on a new set of habits or behaving differently; it’s deeper than that.

Being a disciple is simply following Jesus to a greater and greater degree. And if we are following Him, then we are through our lives becoming something different. The Holy Spirit and He alone does this transforming work in the hearts of people. What our job is, as church leaders, isn’t to transform; it’s to set the conditions that are most conducive for real transformation to occur.

(Michael) In the book, we liken this kind of partnership to water skiing. The person behind the boat isn’t the one who lifts himself of the water or pulls him across the lake. The boat has all of the power. But the one with the skies on does play a part. He or she must place themselves in the right posture behind the boat, giving the one driving the boat a “thumbs up” sign, and prepare for the ride.

Spiritual transformation is the same. God is the one enabling His people to mature and grow while His people are invited to place themselves in the right posture.

The subtitle is How People Really Grow. So in a nutshell, how does that growth happen?

(Eric) We frame the process of spiritual growth in the book through three circles: Truth, Posture and Leaders. The place where those three circles converge is what we call the transformational sweet spot.

The sweet spot on a bat or a tennis racket is the place that has the most potential impact when you hit the ball. In the same way, when these three factors come together a church is set up to experience transformational discipleship.

Here’s how we articulate those three factors coming together: The transformational sweet spot is the intersection of truth given by healthy leaders when someone is in a vulnerable posture.

Unpack that definition a bit. Each of those words (truth, leaders, posture) are big terms. What specifically do you mean by them?

(Philip) In each of the three areas, we highlight specific ideas that aid transformation to occur. We call them lenses. So for truth, there are three specific lenses that contribute to transformation: the gospel, identity, and the spiritual disciplines.

It’s especially important for leaders to understand these lenses because they influence the way they present God’s truth to the people that have been entrusted to their care. For a leader, then, to present the truth, they focus on the gospel, understand that in the gospel a person’s identity is made new and different in Christ, and equip their people to participate in the spiritual disciplines.

Tell us a bit about the research that’s outlined in the book.

(Philip) In 2010, LifeWay Research embarked on an ambitious research project. We surveyed believers about their spiritual lives and level of maturity. We wanted to look into the major arenas of life where spiritual maturity takes place.

The research was done in three phases. First, we did a qualitative survey of experts in the field of discipleship. Members of our research team did interviews with recognized experts from multiple countries including pastors, professors, and church leaders from a variety of backgrounds.

From these experts in the field of discipleship, our research team gained a better understanding of what is taking place in the church both domestically and in other countries (specifically in the Hispanic context).

After the expert interview phase, the research team also conducted survey of 1,000 Protestant pastors in North America. The survey delved into the type of discipleship ministries being used in churches and the satisfaction level that they have with them. The survey revealed a great deal of paradoxes occurring between pastors’ hope that people are maturing and the level of satisfaction they have that believers truly are maturing.

Finally, the team at LifeWay Research did a survey of 4,000 Protestant Christians in North America. Of that number, approximately 1,100 were in Canada and the survey was done in three languages: English, Spanish, and French.

It was a really extensive project, and we’re excited to frame the results in this book.

Is this a research driven project?

(Eric) Yes and no. It’s certainly a project that’s supported by research, but we didn’t want it to read like a pure research book. We wanted it to be accessible for pastors and church leaders of all kinds. So while you’ll clearly see the research in the book, it’s driven more by biblical truth.

What are you hoping is accomplished through Transformational Discipleship?

(Philip) I’m praying that Transformational Discipleship will fill the church with hope. The good news is that the Holy Spirit is most definitely at work transforming the hearts of Christians. What we want to do in the book is reaffirm His work and try to give leaders some very helpful footholds – some ways of thinking that can inform and shape their ministries for the years to come.

(Michael) Discipleship is a big word to a lot of people. It’s intimidating, and while there is something mysterious about the way the Spirit works in the hearts of God’s people, discipleship isn’t reserved for some special class of Christians. So my hope is that through the book, the way people really grow in Christ might be de-mystified a bit. Not in the sense that we lessen the emphasis on the work of the Spirit, but in the sense that the way this happens becomes simplified in our minds.

(Eric) I want the church to enter into a day of playing offense rather than defense. The human heart isn’t something pure that needs to be protected; it’s something wicked that needs to be transformed. Jesus wants us to be on the move – to play offense. To take ground for the kingdom in confidence because of who He is. So my prayer is that the book helps us to see how we can be active partners with God to see people truly grow deep in Jesus.