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Missional Strategy – Transformation

Note: This article is the fifth installment in a series called “Missional Strategy: Why we do what we do the way we do it.” Previous articles are always available at

As I suggested in last week’s article, the lack of Christian unity is a big obstacle the church encounters as it seeks to accomplish the mission of God. What can we do about it?

God’s Word teaches us that transformation of the mind is the foundation of the Christian life. If we allow God to transform our thinking, then the unity Jesus prayed for in John 17:20-26 can become a reality — and the mission can be fully accomplished.

Sounds simple, right? It is, but we’re good at turning simple into complicated. Why do we do that?

We do it because transformation is something only God can accomplish, and He just seems too slow at getting it done. So, we like to speed things up by making lists of rules for people to follow. We teach them the list and tell them to conform to it if they want to live in unity with other believers. List conformity is our shortcut to unity.

And that’s a problem because conformity is not unity. Oh, it looks like unity, but it isn’t. Let’s face it; most Christians are divided because we can’t agree on the lists. The problem with conformity is that it doesn’t change the way we think; it only changes the way we act — and real Christianity is not an act; it’s a transformed life.

According to Romans 12:2, we are not to conform to lists. Instead, we are to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. God knows that all acting rises out of thinking, so He wants our minds to be transformed until our thoughts are His thoughts — until we think as Jesus Christ would think. God doesn’t want us to be list followers; He wants us to think the way Jesus would think.

Jesus drives this truth home when He quotes Isaiah in Matthew 15:7-8, “These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are merely human rules.” There it is — conformity to human rules.

WWJD, “What would Jesus do?” is a great question, but before we can know what He would do, we have to ask, “How would Jesus think?” What He would think would bring about what He would do. You can’t skip the thinking just to get to the doing. Clearly, the transformation of the mind is required if we want to live like real Christians.

Paul confirms this principle in Philippians 2:5, “In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus.” To live in unity with one another, we must be driven by the same mindset that drove Jesus. Paul then shares the mindset of Jesus with us,

“Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death — even death on a cross.”

Because Jesus’ thoughts were right, His actions were right. As churches, we try to turn it around. We think if we can get people to act right, then at some point, they may start thinking right. It doesn’t work. Never has, never will — but we just keep doing it. Insane, right?

Real Christians don’t conform to lists. They don’t need to because their minds are being transformed — and transformation reveals God’s good, pleasing and perfect will. Paul urges us to understand this principle,

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God — this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is — his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Romans 12:1-2

Long ago, God declared this about you and me and the time in which we live, “This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel after that time. I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.” Jeremiah 31:33

Your church has a list, and so does mine. If we value our lists and elevate them above the transformative power of God, then we will continue to be divided — and the mission will fail.

But if we’re willing to (1) trust in the transformative power of God’s Word and Spirit; and if we’re willing to (2) give God the time He requires to work out His transformative work in each of us, and if we’re willing to (3) love and serve each other while He does His work, then He will be our God, and we will be His people. That sounds like glorious unity to me — and because unity powers the mission of God, we’ve got to get this right.