Editor's note:

Mimi served as pas­tor of First Pres­by­ter­ian Church of Gold­en, Col­orado for 34 years. As part of a Ren­o­vare con­fer­ence at George Fox Uni­ver­si­ty in June 2018, Mimi was asked by Richard Fos­ter to share on her expe­ri­ence lead­ing a com­mu­ni­ty focused on spir­i­tu­al trans­for­ma­tion. The tran­script is below.

Lat­er in this con­fer­ence Richard Fos­ter gave his final major talk, Cast­ing a Vision: The Past and Future of Spir­i­tu­al For­ma­tion.

—Renovaré Team

As we begin our time togeth­er, I offer on all our behalf a prayer Dal­las Willard prayed in his recent­ly pub­lished book, Life With­out Lack.

Lord Jesus Christ,
we are so thank­ful to You that You have said,
Fear not, lit­tle flock,
for it is your Father’s good plea­sure
to give you the king­dom.“
We are thank­ful for the ease with which You walked upon this earth,
the gen­eros­i­ty and kind­ness You showed to peo­ple,
the devo­tion with which You cared for those
who were out of the way and in trou­ble,
the extent to which You even loved Your ene­mies
and laid down Your life for them.
We are so thank­ful to believe that this is a life for us,
a life with­out lack, a life of suf­fi­cien­cy.
It’s so clear in You, the suf­fi­cien­cy of Your Father
and the full­ness of life that was poured through You,
and we’re so thank­ful that You have promised that same love,
that same life, that same joy, that same pow­er for us.
Lord, slip up on us today.
Get past our defens­es, our wor­ries, our con­cerns.
Gen­tly open our souls, and speak Your Word into them.
We believe You want to do it,
and we wait for You to do it now.
In Your name, amen.

Imag­ine your­self as a liv­ing house.” C.S. Lewis wrote in Mere Chris­tian­i­ty.

God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, per­haps, you can under­stand what He is doing. He is get­ting the drains right and stop­ping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs need­ed doing and so you are not sur­prised. But present­ly He starts knock­ing the house about in a way that hurts abom­inably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The expla­na­tion is that He is build­ing quite a dif­fer­ent house from the one you thought of — throw­ing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, run­ning up tow­ers, mak­ing court­yards. You thought you were being made into a decent lit­tle cot­tage: but He is build­ing a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.

C.S. Lewis describes an expe­ri­ence that I expect is deeply famil­iar to us. I imag­ine that many of us became pas­tors with a cer­tain idea in mind of what to expect, and it has turned out to be some­thing quite different.

I became a Pres­by­ter­ian pas­tor thir­ty-nine years ago; I’ve been in Gold­en, Col­orado, for thir­ty-three of those years, serv­ing as the pas­tor of First Pres­by­ter­ian Church. In col­lege I had a life-chang­ing encounter with Jesus.

It was my hunger to know Him more deeply that drew me to sem­i­nary. Through the course of my stud­ies, I heard Jesus ask­ing if I would come love His bride” as pas­tor of a church. I accept­ed, and He and I began what became a most unex­pect­ed journey.

The day before I was to be installed at the church in Col­orado, I remem­ber stand­ing across the street with my father. He asked how long I thought I might stay at this church? I replied, I would like to stay long enough to help shape a com­mu­ni­ty devot­ed to Jesus that will be an encour­age­ment to oth­ers.” It appears that the day I envi­sioned thir­ty-three years ago has arrived. I imag­ine that my father is smil­ing with me in that shared mem­o­ry. Because of Jesus, it is a sto­ry worth telling.

As I began my min­istry, almost imme­di­ate­ly it seemed to me that noth­ing was what I had expect­ed. From the out­side, being respon­si­ble for a com­mu­ni­ty of faith looked and felt very dif­fer­ent than it did from the inside.

What I want­ed was to com­mu­ni­cate the pres­ence and love of Jesus, but I could not tell if my efforts were hav­ing any effect. Even more con­cern­ing was the fact that my pas­toral duties were requir­ing more and more of my time, which made it increas­ing­ly dif­fi­cult to main­tain my close­ness to Jesus.

I was in over my head, and I did­n’t know what to do.

Then a friend invit­ed me to join her for a sev­en-day con­fer­ence led by Richard Fos­ter. That week Richard put lan­guage to my long­ing for Jesus — but what had the great­est impact was the exam­ple of Richard him­self. He embod­ied an inti­ma­cy with God that shaped and informed all that he said and did.

I left the con­fer­ence encour­aged to recov­er my own lag­ging rela­tion­ship with Jesus and ask Him to shape my ministry.

So who is that per­son for you? Who has encour­aged you to keep your rela­tion­ship with Jesus in first place?

Up to this point, my pas­toral respon­si­bil­i­ties had neg­a­tive­ly impact­ed my rela­tion­ship with Jesus. I was so busy work­ing for Him, I had lit­tle time sim­ply to be with Him. Richard helped me see that what peo­ple need most from us as pas­tors is to see Jesus.

Our peo­ple need to see us liv­ing our rela­tion­ship with Him vis­i­bly and joyfully.

The first thing I learned about being the pas­tor of a trans­for­ma­tive com­mu­ni­ty is that as lead­ers, we go first.

Lead­ers Go First

Our peo­ple fol­low us into a deep­en­ing inti­ma­cy with our tri­une God. It does not hap­pen any oth­er way; we set the exam­ple by going first. We mod­el for oth­ers what a life-with-God looks like in practice.

As we embrace the rhythms and dis­ci­plines of Jesus, the char­ac­ter of His life-with-God begins to man­i­fest in us. And as we let our own light shine,” Nel­son Man­dela said, we uncon­scious­ly give oth­er peo­ple per­mis­sion to do the same.”

Peo­ple look­ing on begin see what is pos­si­ble, and are drawn to fol­low our example.

Lead­ers go first.

So I start­ed with our lead­er­ship body, the elders on ses­sion. I inher­it­ed what had his­tor­i­cal­ly been a con­tentious cul­ture. The pas­tor who pro­ceed­ed me encour­aged engage­ment through confrontation. 

I clear­ly remem­ber my first lead­er­ship meet­ing. When­ev­er any­one brought up a sub­ject for dis­cus­sion, it imme­di­ate­ly devolved into an argu­ment about com­pet­ing resources and val­ues. Sev­er­al of the lead­ers had spe­cial projects they want­ed to sup­port, and no mat­ter what was being dis­cussed at the moment, they would find a way to hijack the con­ver­sa­tion and fil­i­buster. The oth­ers seat­ed around the table would push back their chairs, raise their hands in frus­tra­tion, and look to me to take back control.

Deter­mined to change the cul­ture, I called and made an appoint­ment with Dr. John Stevens, pas­tor of First Pres­by­ter­ian Church in Col­orado Springs.

I knew of Dr. Stevens by rep­u­ta­tion. He had served his church for many years and was kind enough to give a young pas­tor some coun­sel and guid­ance. For four or five years run­ning, I went down annu­al­ly to share with Dr. Stevens what was going on in my church, and seek his advice. He helped me to under­stand that pas­tors always go first.

We mod­el for oth­ers; we lead by example.

Sur­pris­ing­ly, it did not actu­al­ly take that much time for the con­tentious cul­ture among our lead­ers to become first a coop­er­a­tive cul­ture, then, final­ly, a close-knit fel­low­ship char­ac­ter­ized by com­mu­nion.

Jean Vanier explains the distinction:

Com­mu­nion with oth­ers is very dif­fer­ent from col­lab­o­ra­tion or coop­er­a­tion. When peo­ple col­lab­o­rate, they work togeth­er toward the same end. There is a com­mon goal, but there is not nec­es­sar­i­ly com­mu­nion between them. They are not per­son­al­ly vul­ner­a­ble one to anoth­er. When there is com­mu­nion between peo­ple, they some­times work togeth­er, but what mat­ters to them is not that they suc­ceed in achiev­ing some goal, but sim­ply that they find their joy in one anoth­er and deeply care for one another.

I asked the elders on ses­sion if they were will­ing to adopt a dif­fer­ent approach to our gath­er­ings and process of mak­ing deci­sions. When they agreed, we stud­ied the spir­i­tu­al dis­ci­plines to help us deep­en in our rela­tion­ship to God and to one anoth­er. We explored ways to lis­ten for the lead­ing of the Holy Spir­it through a process of cor­po­rate dis­cern­ment. We agreed to retreat togeth­er annu­al­ly to prac­tice silence, soli­tude, and study Scrip­ture as a means to dis­cern God’s will for our church in the com­ing year.

As we embraced this new direc­tion, the entire nature and qual­i­ty of our cor­po­rate inter­ac­tion was trans­formed. We began to expe­ri­ence what Jean Vanier calls com­mu­nion.” Some­thing was hap­pen­ing, and mem­bers of the con­gre­ga­tion were curi­ous. We were tak­ing our first steps toward becom­ing a trans­for­ma­tive community.

Every Sun­day I preached from Scrip­ture with a sin­gle pur­pose in mind: to help our peo­ple grow in inti­ma­cy with the Trin­i­ty and learn to eas­i­ly and nat­u­ral­ly do what Jesus would do in their place. We talked about what is pos­si­ble in our life-with-God, and I helped our peo­ple to under­stand that there were things they could do to coop­er­ate with the Holy Spir­it in their per­son­al transformation.

This meant adopt­ing the rhythms and prac­tices of Jesus, so we insti­tut­ed a series of con­gre­ga­tion-wide exper­i­ments” to help our peo­ple try on” the spir­i­tu­al dis­ci­plines of Jesus.

For set peri­ods of time we exper­i­ment­ed with silence and soli­tude, prayer, tithing, fast­ing, med­i­ta­tion, study; we engaged in cor­po­rate God hunts” to strength­en our abil­i­ty to rec­og­nize where and how God is at work.

As peo­ple began to see that these things were with­in their reach, they devel­oped an enthu­si­as­tic I can do this!” attitude.

When the One Year Bible was intro­duced in 1986, every­one pur­chased a copy to read and re-read. For thir­ty-two years now we’ve mar­i­nat­ed in God’s writ­ten word. This has had the great­est impact in shap­ing our communion.

We designed a course of spir­i­tu­al for­ma­tion class­es with two pur­pos­es in mind:

  • To deep­en our knowl­edge of God’s Larg­er Sto­ry and how we fit into it;
  • To give peo­ple a place to work out their sal­va­tion” in the com­pa­ny of others.

We offered autumn, win­ter, and spring class­es, and 80% of our peo­ple chose to par­tic­i­pate. At every lev­el, in every con­text, we explored and strove to imple­ment our life-with-God.

We vet­ted and pro­vid­ed oppor­tu­ni­ties for peo­ple to put what they were learn­ing into prac­tice in acts of ser­vice. Every­thing we did and have done is geared toward a deep­er inti­ma­cy with God that express­es itself in our relationships.

Our lead­ers have tak­en the lead, and the con­gre­ga­tion will­ing­ly follows.

Spir­i­tu­al For­ma­tion Occurs in Community

Which under­scores anoth­er truth: sig­nif­i­cant spir­i­tu­al for­ma­tion occurs in com­mu­ni­ty.

For­ma­tion in Christ is not some­thing we can accom­plish on our own. It requires per­son­al vul­ner­a­bil­i­ty and a dogged perseverance.

Christoph Blumhardt sug­gests that one of the rea­sons that the church has had trou­ble stay­ing togeth­er and on track is that the mem­bers want to con­vert the whole world before they them­selves are ful­ly con­vert­ed. It is sim­ply not pos­si­ble to gath­er hun­dreds of thou­sands of peo­ple into com­mon fel­low­ship before the mem­bers them­selves are ready for this.

A friend who teach­es stringed quar­tets con­firms this prin­ci­ple. She explains that if one mem­ber of a stringed quar­tet leaves and is replaced, the new per­son quick­ly adapts to the oth­ers. But if two mem­bers of the quar­tet leave and are replaced, every­one has to start all over again.

It appears that the trans­for­ma­tive capac­i­ty of a group has a lot to do with crit­i­cal mass — whether it be a stringed quar­tet or a church. Every­one has to be all in;” every­one must be will­ing to see and be seen.

Jean Vanier confides,

Over the years, the peo­ple I live with in L’Arche have been teach­ing and heal­ing me. They have been teach­ing me about my own fears and anguish, my fear of being deval­ued or pushed aside, my fear of open­ing up my heart and of being vul­ner­a­ble or of feel­ing help­less in front of oth­ers. At par­tic­u­lar moments of fatigue or stress, I’ve seen in myself the capac­i­ty to hurt some­one who is pro­vok­ing me! That, I think, is what caus­es me the most pain — to dis­cov­er who I real­ly am, and to real­ize that maybe I do not want to know who I real­ly am! I do not want to admit to all the garbage inside me. And then I have to decide whether I will just con­tin­ue to pre­tend that I am okay and throw myself into hyper­ac­tiv­i­ty, projects where I can for­get all the garbage and prove to oth­ers how good I am. We all want to look good. The impor­tant thing is to become con­scious of those impuls­es in us and to work at being lib­er­at­ed from them and to dis­cov­er that the worst ene­my is inside our own hearts, not outside!

Roy Hes­sion agrees,

The first effect of sin in our lives is always to make us try to hide what we are. The only basis for real fel­low­ship with God and with one anoth­er is to live out in the open. Spur­geon defines it in one of his ser­mons as the will­ing­ness to know and be known.” We must be as will­ing to know the truth about our­selves from our broth­er and sis­ter as to know it from God. When the bar­ri­ers are down and the masks are off, God has a chance of mak­ing us real­ly one. There is also the added joy of know­ing that in such fel­low­ship we are safe.” There is no fear now that oth­ers may be think­ing thoughts about us or hav­ing reac­tions toward us, which they are hid­ing from us.

The require­ment stressed by both Jean Vanier and Roy Hussien is safe­ty.

Peo­ple can risk being trans­par­ent only when they know that they are safe. And safe­ty takes time to devel­op — lots of time. 

We dis­cov­ered that sig­nif­i­cant trans­for­ma­tion occurs over the course of years, not months. It may be pos­si­ble in a few months to grow a squash, but it take years to grow an oak tree.

We were sur­prised to dis­cov­er that trans­for­ma­tion takes time; we were also sur­prised to learn that the process is not linear.

Trans­for­ma­tion is Not Linear

Ear­ly on, I expect­ed that change would occur steadi­ly over time, like a long, slow crescen­do, and that it would be vis­i­bly mea­sur­able: there would be more of this, less of that. But our expe­ri­ence has been that sig­nif­i­cant growth often remains con­cealed until some pre­cip­i­tous event expos­es it — like a cri­sis or a sud­den loss. As a con­se­quence, trans­for­ma­tion is exceed­ing­ly dif­fi­cult to measure.

Blaise Pas­cal observed that when every­thing is mov­ing at once, as on board a ship, noth­ing appears to be mov­ing. Lack­ing a fixed point of ref­er­ence to mark our pas­sage, we can­not tell how we are doing or how far we have come.

Diet­rich Bon­ho­ef­fer offers this perspective:

Only God knows the real state of our cor­po­rate sanc­ti­fi­ca­tion. What may appear weak and tri­fling to us may be great and glo­ri­ous to God. Just as the Chris­t­ian should not be con­stant­ly feel­ing his spir­i­tu­al pulse, so, too, the Chris­t­ian com­mu­ni­ty has not been giv­en to us by God for us to be con­stant­ly tak­ing its tem­per­a­ture. The more thank­ful­ly we dai­ly receive what is giv­en to us, the more sure­ly and steadi­ly will fel­low­ship increase and grow from day to day as God pleases.

Com­mu­ni­ty shaped by trans­par­ent com­mu­nion devel­ops slow­ly over time as we sub­mit to the trans­form­ing work of the Holy Spir­it among us.

For our part, we choose to be authen­tic; we choose to be vul­ner­a­ble; we choose to stay. Stay­ing put in com­mu­ni­ty is essen­tial for trans­for­ma­tion to occur, which is why Bene­dic­tine monks make sta­bil­i­ty their first vow.

I par­tic­i­pate in three inten­tion­al communities. 

The first is Ren­o­vare. For over twen­ty years, this dis­bursed com­mu­ni­ty has been a spir­i­tu­al home to me.

My sec­ond com­mu­ni­ty is com­prised of eight church lead­ers from the Den­ver-metro area who meet bi-month­ly for reflec­tion on Scrip­ture and fellowship.

My third com­mu­ni­ty is the pas­tors in Gold­en. We meet week­ly to pray and lis­ten for the voice of the Spirit.

Sta­ble com­mu­ni­ty where we are safe enough to be vul­ner­a­ble with one anoth­er and speak into each oth­er’s lives is a require­ment for spir­i­tu­al trans­for­ma­tion to occur — both our own and that of the com­mu­ni­ties we serve.

The Nar­row­ing Way

A third truth I have learned about pas­tor­ing a trans­for­ma­tive com­mu­ni­ty, con­cerns this warn­ing from Jesus:

Enter by the nar­row gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruc­tion and there are many who go in by it. But the way to life is very nar­row and the road is dif­fi­cult; and only a few find it. —Matthew 7:13 – 15

Jesus warns that this road we choose is a nar­row way. In my expe­ri­ence, it is a nar­row path that keeps nar­row­ing as we go along. Cir­cum­stances squeeze us, like a tooth­paste tube, forc­ing what is hid­den inside to the sur­face. Because of this, a trans­for­ma­tive com­mu­ni­ty should expect to expe­ri­ence set-backs and losses.

Arthur Gish says,

We can­not sim­ply come togeth­er and car­ry the can­cer of the old soci­ety with us. Com­mu­ni­ty is only pos­si­ble to the extent that we leave our old selves behind and are cleansed. God keeps ask­ing more of us than we are able to give. After it seems like we have giv­en every last bit of our­selves and our ener­gy, God still asks more of us. But every time it hap­pens, God gives us a new strength we nev­er expect­ed. The Chris­t­ian call­ing is a cross on which all our desires, ambi­tions, and pos­ses­sions are put to death. It means sur­ren­der, yield­ed­ness, vul­ner­a­bil­i­ty, seren­i­ty, and peace. It is the meek­ness of those who have been bro­ken by the Spirit.

Being part of a trans­for­ma­tive com­mu­ni­ty is accept­ing an invi­ta­tion to come and die.” The process is messy; it is a death scene, and that is nev­er pretty.

When I first start­ed down this nar­row­ing road, I expect­ed that any oppo­si­tion and resis­tance we might face would come from out­side the fel­low­ship. As a con­se­quence, I was com­plete­ly unpre­pared for what happened.

After over fif­teen years of devel­op­ment as a trans­for­ma­tive com­mu­ni­ty, some of my friends in the church orga­nized with the expressed intent to chal­lenge my lead­er­ship and our com­mit­ment to trans­for­ma­tion. They con­tend­ed that my empha­sis upon Jesus and spir­i­tu­al for­ma­tion to be like Him was unre­al­is­tic, a goal that no one could achieve.

They argued that if I would focus less on Jesus and the cross, if I would sup­port a more plu­ral­is­tic approach, our church would benefit.

As mem­bers of the group pressed their case with our elect­ed lead­ers and sym­pa­thet­ic parish­ioners, the ses­sion, mem­bers of staff, and I did our best to listen.

We brought their con­cerns to the Lord in extend­ed times of con­fes­sion and prayer. It is impos­si­ble to con­vey just how dis­cour­aged we were.

For my part, I labored under two unex­am­ined expec­ta­tions. The first was that I believed it was my job as pas­tor to keep the com­mu­ni­ty hap­py and togeth­er. It was my job to give every­one a voice and a place to stand.

My sec­ond unex­am­ined expec­ta­tion was that anyone who saw Jesus would fall in love with Him — as I had done. They would see Jesus and love Him. The result? Revival! But it felt like it was all com­ing apart.

I took the blame. My prayer life col­lapsed into five repet­i­tive words: Jesus, I am so sor­ry. With all my heart, I had want­ed to show them Jesus. Despite all my effort, I had failed.

I went away on sab­bat­i­cal for three months. Dur­ing that time, Jesus put this Hump­ty Dump­ty back togeth­er again. I returned from that extend­ed peri­od of silence, soli­tude, and prayer in a dif­fer­ent place than I had been when I left. This is some of what I learned:

  • Jesus told me that the con­flict was hap­pen­ing not because I had failed to present Him, but because I had pre­sent­ed Him clear­ly, and peo­ple where choos­ing. Jesus said: Peo­ple get to choose.
  • Jesus explained that it is my job to intro­duce oth­ers to Him, but then what peo­ple do after that is between them and Him: It is none of my business.
  • Jesus assured me that I was right where He want­ed me to be, doing what He want­ed me to do: Just keep going, He said, and take courage.

When I returned from sab­bat­i­cal and gath­ered the lead­er­ship body, I encour­aged us to keep our hearts open and atten­tive to what the Spir­it was doing; to trust God for the out​come​.In the months that fol­lowed, things got a lot worse as the cri­sis slow­ly came to a head.

But what I can say now about that peri­od — with humil­i­ty and deep grat­i­tude — is that the Holy Spir­it used the momen­tum of oppo­si­tion to expose the real­i­ty of our help­less­ness, oblig­ing us to spend more time in prayer and dia­logue, mak­ing us under­stand that the com­mu­ni­ty is more than just a human real­i­ty, that it requires the Spir­it of God to live and deepen.

Jean Vanier con­tends that Ten­sions often mark the nec­es­sary step toward a greater uni­ty. Every ten­sion, every cri­sis, can become a source of new life if we approach it wise­ly, or it can bring death and division.

Our cri­sis, which last­ed near­ly two years, drove me and our church deep into prayer and strength­ened our reliance upon God. We emerged from the con­flict in a stronger posi­tion than we entered it. And final­ly, thank God, our long win­ter thawed into a spring­time of promise.

Which intro­duces anoth­er hard-won les­son: for­ma­tion includes seasons.

The Sea­sons of Formation

Our win­ter” of con­flict felt bar­ren. Cold. Unre­lent­ing. Dark.

Over­come by dis­may, we had lit­tle ener­gy for any­thing else. On the sur­face it appeared that noth­ing good was hap­pen­ing, every­thing appeared to have frozen in place. The Holy Spir­it gave us strength to endure the onslaught of con­tro­ver­sy with grace.

As our win­ter thawed into spring, beneath the soil, our roots were stretch­ing deep into the Trin­i­ty, and at the heart of our fel­low­ship, anoth­er ring was grow­ing; signs of new life began to emerge. We rev­eled in the sheer abun­dance of God’s good­ness. We basked in it and sang the songs of Zion.

As sum­mer turned to autumn, we reaped the abun­dance of sum­mer’s fruit and began to replen­ish our deplet­ed reserves. Our cur­rent sea­son is char­ac­ter­ized by a shared sense of deep gratitude.

But ear­ly on, we did­n’t know to expect con­flict. We did­n’t know to expect sea­sons in our for­ma­tion. So when win­ter arrived, we were con­fused and pro­found­ly dis­cour­aged. We did not under­stand the impor­tance of prun­ing, of dimin­ish­ment. We did not know that win­ter, as fruit­less and des­o­late as it appeared to be, was giv­ing us the oppor­tu­ni­ty to build our core strength and spir­i­tu­al resiliency. 

Today, while we may not exact­ly wel­come the sea­son, we under­stand the val­ue and impor­tance of win­ters’ sab­bath. A trans­for­ma­tive com­mu­ni­ty learns how to read the sea­sons, what to expect, and which of the dis­ci­plines are spe­cif­ic to the chal­lenges and oppor­tu­ni­ties of a giv­en season.

I will pause here to reflect on a cou­ple of questions.

  • Which sea­son are you per­son­al­ly inhab­it­ing right now?
  • Which best char­ac­ter­izes that of your con­gre­ga­tion?
  • The win­ter of prun­ing and deep­en­ing your depen­dence on God?
  • The spring of prepa­ra­tion and planting?
  • The sum­mer of fruit­ful­ness and growth?
  • The autumn of reap­ing, gath­er­ing, and giv­ing thanks?

Why are you here?

Might it be to iden­ti­fy the sea­son of your for­ma­tion and those dis­ci­plines par­tic­u­lar to where you are?

A trans­for­ma­tive com­mu­ni­ty is per­pet­u­al­ly watch­ing and lis­ten­ing for where and how God is present. We are ground­ing our small­er sto­ry in God’s Larg­er Sto­ry, we per­sist in prayer, we prac­tice for­bear­ance, and extend hospitality.

We name and cel­e­brate the par­tic­u­lar tal­ents of indi­vid­ual mem­bers which are like tiny stones that form a great mosa­ic, a mas­ter­piece greater than itself. With increas­ing clar­i­ty, we can iden­ti­fy the gift in each oth­er and call it forth in service.

Togeth­er, we are get­ting well, and we car­ry that well­ness with us into the world.

God’s Call to Bring Well­ness to the World

Which brings us to my final obser­va­tion about being a trans­for­ma­tive community.

Any care­ful read­er of the Gospels is bound to be struck by the obvi­ous effort of Jesus to make His hear­ers under­stand the nature of His cause. He told His fol­low­ers that they were the salt of the earth, that they were the light of the world, that He had turned over to them the keys of the kingdom.

At first the vari­ety of these fig­ures is puz­zling, but a pow­er­ful insight comes when we real­ize, sud­den­ly, what they all have in common.

The pur­pose of salt is to pen­e­trate the meat and thus pre­serve it. The func­tion of light is to pen­e­trate the dark­ness. Keys open doors!

These illus­tra­tions make absolute­ly clear what the func­tion of Christ’s com­pa­ny is meant to be.

God’s plan is that our life-with-Him find expres­sion in com­pas­sion­ate iden­ti­fi­ca­tion with our neigh­bors, with the poor and the mar­gin­al­ized — our lives poured out in com­pas­sion­ate service.

The church is nev­er true to itself when it is liv­ing for itself; its main respon­si­bil­i­ty is always out­side its own walls in the redemp­tion of com­mon life.

To sum­ma­rize, I have learned sev­er­al things about pas­tor­ing a trans­for­ma­tive community:

  • Lead­ers must go first,
  • Spir­i­tu­al for­ma­tion occurs in community,
  • Trans­for­ma­tion is not a lin­ear process,
  • It is a nar­row way that con­tin­ues to nar­row as we go along,
  • There are sea­sons in for­ma­tion, and
  • It is God’s intent that we car­ry our well­ness into the world as salt and light.

This is what I have learned as pas­tor of a trans­for­ma­tive community.

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