Josh Hunt
Breakout churches 

With some authors, the buying decision is automatic. I walked through the mall last night and noticed Malcolm Gladwell had a new book out. I had enjoyed The Tipping Point so well that when I saw his new book--Blink--I bought it in the blink of an eye.


I was walking through the airport the other day and noticed John Maxwell's new book Winning with People. I hadn't packed enough books for the trip, but even if I had I suspect Maxwell's newest gem would have been an automatic purchase.


Thom Rainer is another author I admire. I bought his new book as soon as I could find it. I had seen it advertised in a magazine and was eager to have my own copy. I loved The Unchurched Next Door and was eager to get my hands on Breakout Churches.


Breakout Churches is based on the research originally done by Jim Collins in the excellent book, Good to Great. (I will buy the next one he comes out with as well.)


Good to Great studied plateaued companies that had a breakout--that is, they went from being mediocre companies to being excellent companies. Similarly, Breakout Churches studies plateaued churches that had a breakout and sustained significant growth. One other criteria was that these churches made this change without changing pastors. Here is an example of one Breakout Church:

What was it that caused the breakout? Here are a few things. Perhaps it will motivate you to read the book.

Acts 6/7 Leadership

Leadership is everything. But the particular type of leadership found in Collins study, and mirrored in Rainer's study was different. It was a careful blend of what Rainer calls confident humility. In the words of Collins: "The good to great leaders never wanted to become larger than life heroes. They never aspired to be put on a pedestal or become unreachable icons. They were seemingly ordinary people quietly producing extraordinary results."

Rainer describes some of these leaders as follows: "He is a very ambitious yet unassuming leader. He is a catalyst for change and growth without seeking the spotlight. He leads with single-minded direction without being self-centered. He has openly and publicly shared the credit for the church's success without a superb staff and lay leadership while being very self-effacing and taking very little credit for himself." Sounds a little like Jesus, doesn't it?

Acts 6/7 leaders take responsibility. They don't blame lack of growth on the deacons or the lack of commitment or this or that. They have a sense of personal responsibility for the health and well-being and, yes, growth of the church. They cooperate with what John Maxwell calls the law of victory--they find a way for the team to win.

Acts 6/7 Sunday School teachers take responsibility for doubling their class. I have heard every excuse in the book--some blame the pastor, some blame the music, some blame the greeters ("they never bring us any visitors!"), some blame the fact that they are located at the end of the hall and all the visitors make their way into another class. Acts 6/7 teachers take responsibility and find a way to win.

Acts 6/7 leaders also acknowledge the law of the farm. You reap what you sow. We live in a predictable universe. If you do this year what you did last year you will get next year what you have this year. Insanity is doing the same things expecting different results, and there is a lot of insanity in a lot of churches.

The ABC Moment

I call it the reality principle.   Breakout churches often had some moment when they faced the fact head-on. The Bible says, "know well the condition of your flock." Breakout churches face the facts of whether their church is growing or not. If it is not, they are the first one to point it out.

I have known pastors who hesitate to do this for fear that the congregation will think they are not doing their job. Breakout pastors don't suffer from this worry. They face the facts. In the words of Collins, they face the "brutal facts."

Here are some questions to consider:

  • When is the last time you looked at a 10 year attendance graph for your church?

  • How many visitors attend your church, as a percentage of overall attendance? (Magnet factor goal: 3%)

  • How many visitors join as a percentage of the number who visit? (Velcro factor goal: 33%)

  • How many join, on average, as a percentage of attendance. (Goal: 1% per week)

I did a detailed article on this some time back. To read this article, click here.

The Who/What Simultrack

Collins says it this way, "We need to get the right people on the bus, the wrong people off the bus, and the right people in the right seats." John Maxwell calls it the law of the inner circle. The inner circle, more than anything else determines the success of the leader. I have said, as a full time trainer of teachers, "Teaching is over-rated; recruiting is under-rated." Rainer's findings suggest the same thing: who is more important than what.

Who you have on the team is more important than goals or the vision statement or the strategy. Give me some fired up, competent people and they can get the job done with no strategy or the wrong strategy. Give me some sleepy or sloppy people and a good strategy is not going to help.

God always works through people. We would like to think if we had the right strategy, the right plan, the right model things would all fall into place. It is mostly about people. Once we get the right people on the bus, and the wrong people off the bus, having the right structure can help.

There are multiple applications of this principle:

  • Get the right staff and growing a church becomes easier.

  • Get the right teachers and growing a Sunday School becomes easier.

  • Get the right team in a class--Class President, Inreach, Outreach, Fellowship leaders, etc.--and growing a class becomes easy.

These three principles can help us become a Breakout church:

  • Acts 6/7 Leadership

  • The ABC Moment

  • The Who/What Simultrack

Next week, we will look at the remaining four principles. But, you don't have to wait. The books are likely available at your local book store. I also recommend Collins' work, Good to Great.







Online lessons

I write two lessons a week that follow a question and answer format. These follow the curriculum outline for the Family Bible Series and the Explore the Bible Series.

 For online lessons, click here.



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