Transformation vs Assimilation

An important note: This conversation is not meant to invalidate the Organizational Church. Just put it into perspective as it relates to spiritual transformation strategies of a community.


“We have to know what we want and why we want it, before we can know if we are getting the results.”

l. Church Assimilation: “The task of moving people from an awareness of your church to attendance at your church to active membership in your church”. -Rick Warren

This area is one of the most talked about subjects in staff meetings. How to get them into the building and keep them from going out the back door. So much of our efforts go to this. We usually don’t realize how much effort physically and mentally we put into it.

What we measure the most is where we spend most of our time. Look closely at this one. Are we working to move people from an awareness of our church to attendance at our church to active membership in our church? If so, Church assimilation is what we are training our staff and congregation to do also. Like our kids, we tell them to do one thing but they end up doing what we do. Most discipleship (membership) 101 classes and volunteerism are infused with assimilation into the local church as the main product, yet isn’t our intended goal to create fully devoted followers of Jesus ?

Good Assimilation is usually seen as a sign of a healthy church. What is the final product though?. It’s exciting to see active members talking about their church, spending time volunteering, recruiting, and “being in fellowship”, yet how much discipleship is really going on? If we promote small groups, consider this. Churches that do small groups usually have a tendency to duplicate what a church ministry does and talks about. Events, attendance, teachings and so on.

The average local church attendance is 300 people or less, in a community of 250,000 or more. Everyday more of these Churches pass into obscurity or being merged into the larger, more successful churches. A larger, more functional church may be attracting more people, but when it comes to spiritual transformation of a community it’s like a couple ants trying to eat an elephant. It is something we rarely are successful at.

So what’s the answer?

Keep reading.¬† I can’t believe I didn’t see it sooner. I probably didn’t want to see it because it’s more messy. The veneer of ministry would fall from my shoulders and I would stand exposed. Looks like I was wearing my Sunday clothes instead of my work clothes.


ll. Spiritual transformation:

“Dramatic changes in purpose, attitudes, behavior and lifestyle, characterized by actions of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control that reflect a commitment and obedience to Jesus Christ.”

The local Church normally functions like a clipper ship that is constantly recruiting passengers to become sailors who end up spending their time fixing the holes in the sails instead of rescuing people. We watch as sailors jump ship to find a better one somewhere else. It’s inadvertently become a competition of who’s got the better ship just to keep people in it. Of course, there are those who just jump back in the water and start rescuing people.

The sailors who jump in to rescue people in the dark stormy waters are usually looked at as disobedient, undisciplined in the fine art of rescuing. The sailors looking for a different ship are too occupied to rescue the drowning people around them.

When the captain decides to jump in to rescue someone, more will join him in the water and use any means necessary to rescue victims. The rest of the crew either stay on the ship, look for a new ship or look for a new captain. Why? It’s because the majority of sailors became highly skilled in caring for the ship and never learned how to swim.

Here it is. Are we discipling people to fix and build ships so we can build more ships, or are we rescuing people using any means necessary to get them to shore as quickly as possible?


What do I do?

Discipleship 101: Matthew 9:37 The harvest is….

You can’t harvest a field unless your out in it. The more people are trained to work in the field with you the greater the abundance of the harvest will be.

“Train them in the field, not in the barn

It is the field where transformation and discipleship take place. The more knowledgeable we are about the field we work in, the more wisdom we will have about what the barn should look like when it’s time to build it. The barn protects the harvest. It does not bring it in. The “Church” (followers of Jesus) bring it into the barn after it has been harvested not before.

We who are the most qualified laborers and planters (Pastors, teachers and leaders) should not be living in the barn, but working in the field side by side showing people how it’s done. This is where we need to be spending most of our time. This is what discipleship is.

Ok, Sounds good in theory, but where’s the proof.


Examples of rescuers who put on their work clothes and went into the field.

Scott and Julie – A regular couple who opened their wealthy suburban home to many young people who were hurting and invested their lives with them every day for three years. 90% of these young people are now in the field doing the same thing all over the world. You’ll never know them or see their names in lights.

Franklin Graham: Samaritans Purse. He turned down a chance at celebrity status to go to where the harvest was. He has influenced more people outside the pulpit then he could ever do in it.

Dr. Bob Pierce, World vision: An international Christian relief and development organization working to promote the well being of all people – especially children. World Vision offers material, emotional, social and spiritual support to 100 million people in 96 countries.

The Dream Center in Los Angeles: “In the first four years of the Dream Center’s establishment, prostitution and gang violence dropped 73%, the homicide rate dropped 28%, and rape dropped 53%. The mayor and city council have publicly acknowledged the dramatic impact of the Dream Center and praise it’s efforts”. With over 150 active ministries reaching out at all times of the day and night, thousands of hurting people in Los Angeles now have a way of hope.

Bill Bright: Campus Crusade for Christ: This is one of the most influential ministries in the history of the United States. It would make a good case study. More Churches today have benefited from this man’s work than most church leaders realize. All because one ordinary man made a little booklet and went into the harvest field. If one man can do that to the world think what a little band of people can do in your community.

Look across the borders and across the sea’s and hear the amazing stories of millions becoming followers of Jesus. Whole tribes, governments and people groups becoming followers of Jesus even at the threat of death, transforming from darkness to into light. The Church is growing in all forms and shapes by believers of all walks of life, side by side in the field.


Dare to Think Different



2 thoughts on “Transformation vs Assimilation

  1. YES!!! I am so glad that this message is being spread. I only pray that more pastors begin to catch the difference between growing the church via assimilation versus discipleship.

  2. Great truths from the Bible. It is true to see that many leaders are misled by church growth. You have taken the word right out from the bible. “Pray.. that the lord may send out labourers into the harvest.” Matt 9:38.
    This is greatly seen in the life of Jesus and the apostles, they were always on the go reaching out to people right in the field.
    It is also crucial to understand that the church is an abode of security, a place for spiritual edification, spiritual growth and serving to enhance the faith of saved believers.
    I’ve witnessed the lack of interest in unsaved people when they were invited to come and listen to the gospel, how would they come… we need to go forth.!! But saved people would come knowing that the presence of the spirit is at church and use their time wisely for spiritual gain and exercise of the spirit.
    I was personaly very much benefited by your article. Praise to the Lord our God Jesus Christ and may he continue to use the wisdom he has given you.
    – Timothy Noel

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