by Lifeway staff

How do you recognize a maturing believer? A new LifeWay Research study offers some keen insights for five-fold ministers looking for growth among their disciples.

In 2008, LifeWay Research surveyed 7,000 churches to discover the principles involved with healthy congregations. Last year, LifeWay’s researchers went back into the field to focus not on the church, but on the individual believer, asking more than 4,000 people about their spiritual lives and level of maturity.

The project has identified eight Biblical factors that consistently show up in the life of a maturing believer. Those “attributes of discipleship” are:

  • Bible engagement
  • Obeying God and denying self
  • Serving God and others
  • Sharing Christ
  • Exercising faith
  • Seeking God
  • Building relationships
  • Unashamed transparency

“Jesus called us to make disciples of all nations, so we wanted to discover the common traits for those maturing in their faith,” said Ed Stetzer, LifeWay Research president.

“We have collected and analyzed a huge amount of data about how each of these attributes leads to transformational discipleship in an individual believer, and will begin releasing the information about each factor this summer,” Stetzer said. “Due to the sheer volume of material, it will take several months to complete our analysis and release.”

Stetzer said the project’s purpose is to assist church leaders in discovering how to help their members grow, because “spiritual growth does not happen by accident.”

“God shapes congregations through the shaping of the individual members’ lives,” said Stetzer. “This shaping doesn’t just happen; it’s through intentional effort on the part of both leaders and church members.”

To help pastors, churches and individuals measure their spiritual development, LifeWay Research used the survey data to develop a questionnaire for believers. The Transformational Discipleship Assessment (TDA), which is available online, results in a report on spiritual maturity using the eight attributes of biblical discipleship. The TDA also provides helpful and practical suggestions for individuals to take the next steps in their spiritual development.

Scott McConnell, director of LifeWay Research, said the new assessment tool zooms in to the personal level.

“The Transformational Discipleship Assessment helps people see how they are doing with those eight attributes. It answers, ‘Are you growing? Are you consistently following Christ?'” McConnell explained. “It also helps leaders know where to focus sermons, Bible studies, events and other disciple-buildingactivities.”

McConnell said the research was conducted in three phases. First recognized discipleship experts were interviewed. Their input was used to revise a set of questions that have been effective in measuring dozens of specific biblical principles that may be reflected in a believers actions, attitudes or beliefs. Then 1,000 Protestant pastors in the United States were polled. In the final phase, more than 4,000 Protestants from both the U.S. and Canada were surveyed in three languages, English, Spanish and French.

The transformational discipleship project is the next phase in LifeWay’s long-term research project called the Transformational Initiative focused on discovering common traits of churches experiencing transformation in the lives of individuals, the church and the community.

The first findings were compiled in the book Transformational Church, released in June 2010 by B&H Publishing Group, and provides a big picture scorecard for the church. Transformational discipleship examines the details at the individual disciple level.

To learn more about the transformational discipleship research visit The TDA is available at


One Response

  1. Hey Chuck:I am a trained NCD coach and last November I aenttded the Transformational Church consultant training in Nashville. It was a little much to crowd into my little brain, but after much study, work, prayer, and soul-searching, I have come to the conclusion every church should be involved in Transformational Church.We too, like the church you stepped down from to serve Peninsula Baptist Association, are a church that is doing well – better than many other churches. We do a lot of missions in our community and around the world. We reach a few people here and there, and have a great discipleship ministry and numbers of people becoming “Grand Slam Disciples” every year. It is a process we are committed to. Unlike you, and your former church, my perception was different from our people. When we took the assessment tool, I saw what the true perceptions were of our people. I discovered that some of the things we do good, they scored us low, because they simply did not know we were doing those things. This is giving us an opportunity to be sure we lead our people to understand not only the “good” we do, but to get them involved and part of that mission or ministry. It also is helping us allow our people to be part of the process like never before. Boy is the training fun. I’m excited about that Discovery Retreat.Here is what Transformational Church did for me:Even though the word “revival” is not in the Transformational Church book, I am convinced transformation comes after “revival”. I have made revival the forefront of Transformational Church. I am convinced when we come before God in confession and repentance God honors that. I will never forget the deacons meeting when I challenged our deacons and asked them to confess and repent and ask God to let revival begin in us. It was a moving meeting as all those deacons prayed out loud in confession and repentance. I had never before, nor since, asked deacons to pray all at once and out loud. I felt moved to do so and it was a very moving moment in the lives of those men as we all poured out our hearts to God.There is no need for me to tell you what others need to do to have revival, so let me tell you about me and our church. I came home from Nashville utterly bankrupt – totally willing for God to do a work in me and in our church like never before. Boy, has the devil been mad ever since. Our people are responding to those 7 biblical elements – lives are being changed – we have seen more than the usual number of children, students, and adults trust Christ and become part of discipleship. I have been a pastor or minister of education for over 43 years. I have stayed long in churches, my last, 17 years. I became convinced that if I live out those 7 biblical elements before my people, and lead them to live out those 7 biblical elements in the home, job and community, God would honor that and we would start the process of becoming more transformational, that we would truly see our people act more like Jesus, our church become more like the body of Christ, and our community reflect the kingdom of God because of our mission/ministry in the community.It has been quite a journey! It is not the process (Transformational Church), it is a heart issue. Transformational Church and those 7 biblical elements help us understand the heart of God and lead our people to become transformed. By the way, if you are interested, check out my web site ( Blessings,Thomas

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *