Sunday, February 26, 2017

Institutional Transformation Follows Personal Transformation

Door - Monroe County Community College
Does your church have problems? If so, then you need to change.

So do I.

You are the problem in your church. So am I. 

We are the problem. What is needed is for us to change, systemically. 

James Van Yperen, in Making Peace: A Guide to Overcoming Church Conflict, writes:  "Spiritual transformation often follows systemic change." (38) Van Yperen outlines a process that brings systemic change.

  • examine, identify, and confess past failure
  • identify root needs, causes, or flaws in character, behavior, or thinking
  • unlearn negative habits practiced over time
  • relearn new habits of behavior and thinking
  • and reconstitute personal character and church culture. (37-38)
Spiritual transformation requires time and dedication to this kind of process. "To change any system [like a church], one must change the underlying structure—the system dynamic. Any change that fails to address the underlying structure is insufficient." (p. 38)

What is needed is deep change. (See especially Robert Quinne, Deep Change.) This applies to all meaningful spiritual transformation. If a person, an organization, or a church, continues to be what it has always been, it will continue to see the same results it has always seen. 

Recently I was talking to one of our church family members. He told me: "I've cried out to God for help in one area of my life. But I cannot find release from it."

I replied, "Yes, you've cried out to God. But you come to God only in emergencies. What you must do is cultivate of a discipline, a habit, of regularly abiding in Christ." (See the writings of James K. A. Smith, esp. You Are What You Love: The Spiritual Power of Habit)

This brings systemic, whole-being change. The underlying structure of his heart is transformed. I have seen, in the lives of pastoral leaders I have coached, that when new habits of spiritual discipline are formed, this becomes the arena where God's Spirit is allowed to morph the human heart towards Christlikeness.

Van Yeperen writes: "This is a thoroughly biblical principle. Throughout the Old and New Testaments, and especially in the ministry of Jesus, God brings spiritual transformation by turning the assumptions and expectations of His people upside-down, often by placing His people in a position where they must trust God completely." (p. 38)

I have learned that I cannot change other people. God once told me, "John, why are you trying so hard to change others, when you can't even change yourself."

But God can change me. The change that God produces in me will help my church community.

***
My recent book is Praying: Reflections on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God.

I am currently writing Leading the Presence-Driven Church (June 2017)

and How God Changes the Human Heart (A Phenomenology of Spiritual Transformation) (June 2018).