I’ve asked a couple of guys to read through Bob Roberts, Jr.’s, “Transformation” with me. I’m not really going to write a critical review, as much as think through what I read. My goal is to assimilate the information, as I prepare for the upcoming dialogue.
Overall, I’ve had a positive reaction to what I’ve read.
Part One begins with some questions. It is entitled: “Survival Questions for the Church.”
Practically every sentence jumped out at me to be remembered. What a frightening experience, since my memory is horrid.
He begins with the question: What would it look like for your church to turn the world upside down?
He continues in this vein. Ask probing questions, designed to force the reader to reflect upon his/her place of worship. In particular, he mentions that he had to “see my own dreams crash to see God and what he wanted.” Throughout this first section, there is a lot of giving up. Giving up assumptions, dreams, goals, attitudes of superiority; all to be empty so that God can fill us up with his intention.
He begins to mention how much he’s learned from the Church in developing countries. This is a theme. This is one of the things we give up. We are so convinced that we have the answer, we have what everyone else needs, yet we are the ones dying in mediocrity and secularism. The Church of the East, Africa and South are on fire for God, and are being used by God in the greatest Church Planting Movement to be seen. Here are some examples of what he means:
Things the Western Church knows/does, but where we are lacking:
- We have learned relevance and communication, but not transformation.
- We have learned purpose and functionality, but not essence and core DNA.
- We know so much of how, but so little of why.
- We want to change the world, and we become managers of organizations.
- We make people more religious, but no different spiritually or culturally.
That is just an example of this thoughts. So much rang true in my heart, it almost lead me to tears.
He asks a question, that haunts me at times: “Is this what I gave my life to?” He points out that church attendees live no differently from nonbelievers (which is found by Barna, 2003). We know how to weekend events, but no really community transformation. He makes the point that we try to hire people to change the world for us. I hear that as outsourcing the Great Commission. Whether it is churches hiring ministers, or us using Cooperative Funds to hire other, specialized professional ministers.
We have the funds, we have programs, we have systems, but we lack transformed lives. This kills me. We don’t make a difference, because no difference has been made in us. So, we need to see things a little bit differently. Less about us, and more about the Kingdom of God.
He goes on to give a definition of this. This kind of church will be “glocal.” Here is what he writes, “Glocal churches create disciples who, transformed by the Holy Spirit, are infiltrating today’s culture on a global and local scale with the undeniable message of a changed life.”
Wow! That has impact on me.
To some extent he believes the church has lost credibility in our culture. We don’t have changed individuals. We have religious people, we have religious style, but little actually depth and substance. We cannot “consistently live the message we herald to the world…” Yet, we are very successful at religious marketing. We’ve been taken captive by our culture. We can’t speak prophetically to it because we look too much like it.
Our goal is to help people upon the walk of Christ like transformation. For that we look to both the first century Church, as seen in Scripture, as well as what God is doing in today’s Church in developing countries.
Chapter one begins with the Church finding it’s voice again. To many in the world, the Church; and correspondingly God, just isn’t a player. He, and the Church, just don’t matter in their daily lives. We are left with only bringing some message to people when tragedy strikes. We are only able to see conversion when people are at their most emotionally unstable, and thus manipulative state. Is not the Gospel for everyone at all times of their lives? He seems to think so, and he begins to tell his story, and the impact it has made upon his ministry, and church.
Much is said about different experiences he’s had while traveling. Church looks so differently in developing countries. No big budgets, no bands, no big organs; just the Holy Spirit oozing out of the people’s pores. On the other hand, he shows where we got locked into the systems of modernity. How we believe discipleship is the transfer of information, which leads to a changed life. He shows the great disconnect. If anything, we are a case study in how the transfer of information really has little actually transformative qualities. We are self-centered and consumer driven. The difference between us and big business is simply the product. We’ve built large churches, based upon proven business strategies…leaving out the Holy Spirit. Our churches are larger than ever before, yet the national church attendance level is at an all time low.
Frankly, we need to import what it means to be Church from some of these developing countries. There is very little we need to export, along the lines of how we do Church.
So, the first chapter is setting up the argument for change, for transformation. He begins to define what it means to be Kingdom focused, more so than what we have been. For too long we’ve defined God’s Kingdom as our own local congregation. If we are growing, then the Kingdom is doing great! If giving is down, then the Kingdom is in strife. Yet, the Kingdom is so much more than this. It is doing fine, while the American Church is dying.
He mentions some writers that have had an impact upon him, in regards to recapturing Intimacy with God, instead of just Religion. Such writers are Willard, Foster and Tolstoy. There is a difference in discipleship here. We start to be defined by our intimicy with Christ, over just being able to preach well. We can truly say, “imitate me as I imitate Christ.” Something that religious entertainers, mega-star pastors, never seem to be able to do.
He mentions Ghandi, as one that used Christ’s Sermon on the Mount as a way of living, yet wasn’t a Christ follower. He did more with a 1/2 truth of Jesus, which he was willing to live out, than what most of us do with the full truth.
Yes, I felt convicted with that.
We desperately need transformation, of our own lives if we are going to be Kingdom oriented. He calls it “Kingdom in, Kingdom out.” He refers to Salt and Light. Salt would be our continued transformation. Us becoming that which gives people a taste of who Jesus is. Light is proclamation. Both are needed, and could be dangerous without the other.
This is the second time that I’m reading the book. As I take more time with it, I find it even more convicting and enjoyable.