By Derwin Gray
Have you ever been attacked by a crying, snotty-nosed racist? I have.
After a service at Transformation Church, a physically distraught, white gentleman sprinted toward me.
I thought to myself, “What would Jesus do?”
Before I knew it, he was hugging me.
Then he said, “I can’t believe I’m in church. I’m so thankful someone invited me. And I can’t believe my pastor is black. I don’t even like black people.”
I’m happy to report this gentleman is no longer a racist. Jesus has transformed him into a what I call a “gracist.” I officiated his wedding about a year after that first meeting.
Transformation Church (TC) is a four-year-old church, and God has been gracious to us. We’re one church in three locations. We’ve also planted a church in Madrid, Spain.
According to Lifeway Research and Outreach Magazine, we have been one of the 100 fastest-growing churches in America the last four years. We’ve seen more than 2,200 people commit their lives to Jesus, and we have baptized more than 600 people.
How has this happened?
I believe it’s because the providential hand of Jesus is on us. But I also believe it’s because of our theological convictions concerning evangelism. From the beginning we developed a theology of evangelism and built it into the DNA of our church.
Evangelism must be rooted in a gospel-centered vision.
The gospel is the announcement that Israel’s King and Messiah has accomplished what He came to accomplish. Jesus has defeated sin, death and evil through His sinless life, His substitutionary atoning death on the cross, His resurrection, and His ascension to the right hand of His Father.
Jesus now rules His kingdom. And by grace alone, through the Holy Spirit’s power, people who trust in Jesus are redeemed and swept up into His glorious kingdom. This redeemed people become a “chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation,” who exists to know Jesus and make Him known (1 Peter 2:9-10).
At Transformation Church, our gospel-centered vision is rooted in the Great Commandment (Mark 12:29-31) and the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20). Our vision is, “We are a multi-ethnic, multi-generational, mission-shaped community (Great Commission) that loves God completely, ourselves correctly, and our neighbors compassionately (Great Commandment).”
Evangelism must be rooted in gospel-centered worship.
At Transformation Church, we believe gospel-centered worship is not simply singing, but a lifestyle. To express this, we use language adapted from Ken Boa’s book Conformed to His Image: upward (love God completely), inward (love self correctly), and outward (love our neighbor compassionately). These are simply Jesus’ words in the Great Commandment.
Recently, I was invited to preach at Kershaw Prison near Charlotte, N.C. When I finished, the men asked if they could watch my sermons on video during their weekly service. Eventually, this led to the launch of a new campus — Transformation Church: Kershaw Prison.
All of this happened because Robert and Pat Vinroot, a couple in their 60s, love Jesus and they wanted the men in Kershaw Prison to love Jesus too. Their lifestyle of worship and love of these men helped multiply our church’s ministry to this unique community.
Evangelism must be rooted in gospel-centered discipleship.
At Transformation Church, we have a clear definition of discipleship:
“Discipleship is not knowing more information about Jesus, but knowing Jesus and being transformed into His image through the constant exposure of the gospel of grace in the context of a local church. His life and mission becomes ours as we live by faith in Him in the everydayness of life by the Spirit’s power.”
To grow the Transformation family as disciples, we teach the following five spiritual disciplines:
- All of life is worship.
- Connect in a Transformation Church Group (Scripture study, prayer, accountability, community, soul-care)
- Use your gifting to serve in a ministry within Transformation Church and see your vocation as a way of serving the community.
- Give financially and generously to ministry, charity and the poor.
- Live an inviting (or missionary) life.
Spiritually mature people love Jesus and want lost people to love Him too. That’s why we place a heavy emphasis on discipleship.
Evangelism must be rooted in gospel-centered serving.
When Transformation Church first came to Indian Land, S.C., we said, “If our community doesn’t change, then we shouldn’t be here.” One of the most effective ways we found to impact our community is through serving our public schools. Thus far, we have adopted four public schools.
We serve them by having teacher appreciation lunches, mentoring students, funding leadership programs, and feeding more than 125 families per weekend through our backpack ministry. Through serving our schools, we’ve seen students, administrators, parents and teachers come to faith in Christ.
Evangelism must be rooted in gospel-centered living.
We believe that reaching the lost must go beyond having concert-style worship experiences. Church is more than a weekend event. Church is living out the Great Commission and unleashing thousands of missionaries who have been transformed by Jesus.
Evangelism must be rooted in gospel-centered reliance on the Holy Spirit.
Transformation Church has never had enough money; we’ve never had enough of anything. Our lack of resources taught us how to rely on the infinite resources of God the Holy Spirit. We’ve found the bigger the risk we take to reach lost people, the more lost people come to faith through the ministry of our church.
Evangelism in the 21st century is the same as the 1st century: saved people longing to see unsaved people come to know Jesus.