November 5, 2018
Rev. Dan Pezet, Director of Church Development for our Conference, has brought to us a process he used in the Alabama-West Florida Conference that helps churches implement their plans to be healthier and more effective for God’s Kingdom work. We are calling it the, “Transformation Journey” process and we ask for your prayers as it unfolds.
Rev. Pezet contracted with me to be the Transformation Journey Coordinator and part of my responsibilities have been to recruit the Guides who will sojourn with Transformation Journey Churches. This will be a three-year journey where the church identifies through Biblical study, prayer, and intentional conversations the areas where they discern God is calling them to emphasize. Capable Guides, who are clergy and laity from our conference, are sent to these churches to help them complete the ministry goals they have set for their church.
Transformation Journey is designed for churches with a minimum of 125 average worship attendance, who are in an area with potential for growth, and who are relatively healthy and desiring to take the next steps to becoming more effective as the body of Christ.
Churches will do a study of Romans 12:1-18 as a part of a thirty days of preparation prior to their Discovery Weekend where they will discern up to five areas of emphasis. In this passage the Apostle Paul writes to the church in Rome: “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God---what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Rom. 12:2)
But even prior to this passage the Church was birthed in a dramatic act of transformation through the power and presence of God’s Holy Spirit. Look back at Acts 2:1-21 for the story of Pentecost. Pentecost is called the birthday of the church, but I think that is too tame an image. It’s more of a launch day, a catapult, an explosion, a revolution, and certainly an astounding day of transformation. Our Conference Mission is to, “Follow Jesus, Make Disciples, and Transform the World.” What an audacious claim to be able to “transform the world.” How dare we make such a claim? How can we not?
What is extraordinary about what happened in that Upper Room on Pentecost is that those cowering disciples were not only changed, they were transformed by the power of God’s Holy Spirit. They had hidden there just weeks before, probably not daring to raise their voices for fear they would be arrested by the Roman soldiers. Peter had denied even knowing Jesus in that dark courtyard. Thomas had hidden away alone and missed the first return of the resurrected Jesus into that Upper Room. Jesus had returned a week later and allowed Thomas to touch and see the wounds of his crucifixion.
When the Holy Spirit descended upon them it was like fire and a mighty wind. The cowering became the proclaiming zealots charging into the throngs of gathered pilgrims not only speaking boldly the name of Jesus but laying the blame for his death at their feet without care of reprisal. Peter preached and 3,000 came forward to accept Christ into their lives. It was sheer evidence of the Holy Spirit’s power to transform people and communities.
But there was some preparation work done by those fearful disciples that God honored we should claim for ourselves. At Jesus’ Ascension he had told his disciples “And see, I am sending upon you what my Father promised; so, stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high. Then he led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up his hands, he blessed them. While he was blessing them, he withdrew from them and was carried up into heaven. And they worshipped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and they were in the temple continually blessing God.” (Luke 24:49-53)
First they were present with one another. The text reads, “they were all together in one place.” I think we often think an experience of the Holy Spirit as a private encounter reserved more for those who seek solitude. At Pentecost each of them experienced the power of the Holy Spirit resting on them but it happened when they gathered together. The text emphasizes,“All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the spirit gave them ability.”
Second, they were obedient to Christ. They did as he commanded. They didn’t demand to know how they would be clothed with power from on high. They didn’t ask how long it would be before it happened. They didn’t ask for guarantees that such power coming upon them would be to their benefit. They trusted him. They worshipped him. They went to the city in an attitude of great joy and spent their time together in the temple blessing God.
When we join the church, we take membership vows that we will support the Church with our prayers, our presence, our gifts, our service, and our witness. Being present isn’t just about each of us promising to attend worship but we promise to be present for the sake of each other. Coming together says we each belong here; we are a called and claimed family of God by virtue of our baptisms. We promise in our Baptismal liturgy to surround the newly baptized person with a community of love and forgiveness. God’s Holy Spirit descends upon communities of faith and transformation happens.
Transformation through the Holy Spirit happens when we are obedient to the commands of God. Not just to the traditional Ten Commandments, but to the teachings and witness of our Christ. We are obedient to Christ’s Great Commission to go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that Christ commanded, and we do so knowing Christ abides with us.
And we obey his Great Commandment that we love our neighbors as ourselves. And we do so not asking for guarantees that people will respond, or be grateful for our efforts, or that we won’t get hurt in the process. It is about being faithful; doing the next right thing as an act of trust that God oversees the outcomes and our lives.
The Transformation Journey process is not a program or a quadrennial emphasis. It is a structure whereby congregations are helped to connect to God’s calling and to the transformation power of God’s Holy Spirit. It will look differently from one church and community to another because each setting is unique. The common theme will be to strive to be pleasing to God. Please pray for the Transformation Journey process and for the congregations who will embark on that journey. Contact our office if you want to know more.