Everybody seems to be using the word “transformation” to describe the impact of what they are doing. There is transformational leadership, transformational management, transformational development, transformational business, transformational care, transformational learning, transformational marketing – even transformational grammar and math! Most troubling to me is the fact that the political left uses the term to describe socialist ideals of forced redistribution of wealth. That makes me wonder if we should still be using the term to describe our Christian ministries.
If we will continue to use the term to describe our Christian ministries, then we should be clear about what we mean when we use it. The Biblical concept of transformation flows from an intensely personal relationship with God. It is a complete regeneration of our being, thinking, and doing that works itself out in our families and communities. It is not something that is achieved by external force or theories of social change, but by a work of God in the heart. It is reflected in communities that are compassionate, just, and free.
God transforms from the inside out. As followers of Jesus, we have all experienced the transforming power of God at work in us – that quiet work of the Holy Spirit convicting us of wrongdoing, cleansing our hearts, shaping our character, changing our attitudes, and influencing our actions. We also look forward to a time when our lives and communities are completely transformed in the new heaven and the new earth.
There is a present as well as a future aspect to this Biblical transformation. We are growing in love, righteousness and holiness, but will not be fully like Christ until he comes again. In the same way, we work for peace, righteousness, and justice, but will not see the fullness of the kingdom of God until Jesus returns as judge and king.
The Pharisees once asked Jesus when the kingdom would come. He replied by saying: “the kingdom of God is among you” (Luke 17:21). The kingdom of God is present now. It is present when Christian people in the name of Jesus act to release the poor in the developing world from cycles of poverty and disease. It is present when relief is offered in the name of Christ to victims of a tsunami. It is present when the poor participate in the decisions which affect their lives and gain access to resources and knowledge. It is present where Christians facilitate reconciliation, justice, and peace. It is present where forgiveness of sins is proclaimed and Jesus is acknowledged as Lord.
Jesus taught us to pray “your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” (Matthew 6:9-11). This is the goal of transformational ministry. Transformation is God’s kingdom work: it is a process and an ideal, a present experience and a future hope, a means and an end, a struggle and a victory. God is at work among us today, and he will bring what he has started to completion when the Lord Jesus returns in all his glory. We will not know the fullness of the kingdom until our Lord comes again, but the king is here and his kingdom is among us.
God always transforms from the inside out – his work begins in our heart and works itself out in our life. He works in us, then through us, then among us.