A missional leader desiring a transformational community must focus on both transforming the community and allowing the community to be transformative. “To see mission as integral to formation and formation as integral to mission – this is the challenge before us,” (Howard, A Guide to Christian Spiritual Formation, 201). Missional formation, the balance of spiritual formation and missional discipleship, allows for a truly transformational community.
Elaine Heath’s discussion of the mystics provides beneficial examples of missional formation. “Christian mysticism is about the holy transformation of the mystic by God so that the mystic becomes instrumental in the holy transformation of God’s people. This transformation always results in missional action in the world,” (Heath, The Mystic Way of Evangelism, 5).
This ideal should not just apply to the mystic, but to all Christians. Christianity is about the holy transformation of our selves by God so that we might become instrumental in the holy transformation of God’s people. This transformation, which is central to what it means to be a Christian, should always result in missional action in the world. The holy transformation of God’s people should lead to holy transformation of the world.
The holy transformation of God’s people should lead to holy transformation of the world.Tweet
A missional leader works as a catalyst and guide for this transformation, but they are not the cause of this transformation. “Those who could properly be called the great Christian mystics, such as St. John of the Cross, attained a radical degree of holy transformation as a result of their encounters with the Triune God,” (Heath, The Mystic Way of Evangelism, 5). God is the cause of transformation in our lives. Missional leaders help their communities experience transformation by modeling and teaching how to remain focused on God and how to continuously enter into the presence of God.
When a leader begins to focus too much on the church, they actually disrupt the transformation of the church. While this might sound counterintuitive, it is because the leader has begun to focus too much on the church and not enough on God. “Ironically, the more obsessively we focus on the church, the harder it is to focus on God, who is making all things new and is active in our everyday lives,” (Soerens, Everywhere You Look, 19). Transformation is a part of the gift of God’s grace. When we take our focus off of God, we inhibit our ability to accept this gift.
Leaning into another example of the mystics, a missional leader teaches their community the desires of God so that the community can make those desires their own. “Mystics are irresistibly drawn to become one with God and God’s purposes in the world,” (Heath, The Mystic Way of Evangelism, 9). The reordering of our desires to match God’s desire is constitutive of transformation, it is both part of transformation and produces more transformation.
“If we are going to experience a breakthrough, we need to have the courage to ask what God wants. To ask, ‘What is the desire of God?’ cuts to the chase in regard to what we believe about God. Then, in the next breath we must ask, ‘What do we really want?’ This question gets to the heart of discipleship,” (Soerens, Everywhere You Look, 32).
It is when we desire what God wants that we begin to joyfully live out justice, healing, and evangelism in a way that expands transformation past ourselves and the Church and into the entire world. Alignment with God’s desires forms our character so that things like justice, healing, and evangelism are not just things we do, they are who we are. Alignment with God’s desires is part of the transformative process that deepens God’s image within us.
It is when we desire what God wants that we begin to joyfully live out justice, healing, and evangelism in a way that expands transformation past ourselves and the Church and into the entire world.Tweet
This transformation is tested by our ability to love. Drawing once more from the mystics, “the greatest ‘proof’ of mysticism is in its fruit: love of God and neighbor,” (Heath, The Mystic Way of Evangelism, 9). Or in the words of Jesus, “A new command I give to you: Love one another. As I have loved you so you must love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another,” (John 13:34-35).
This type of missional leadership is not restricted to those in formal positions of authority. The burden of justice and healing does not rest solely on elders, deacons, and church staff. All Christians are called to be catalysts of godly transformation in the world.
Paul writes to the entire church in Corinth, “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ,” (1 Corinthians 11:1). This command comes at the end of Paul explaining that our freedom in God should always be used to build others up.
“So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks, or the church of God – even as I try to please everybody in every way. For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved. Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ,” (1 Corinthians 10:31-11:1)
Our lives should be lived for the glory of God. As discussed in the last post, justice work and healing work display the glory of God. All Christians are called to live for the glory of God, not just formal church leaders. All Christians are called to justice and healing work, not just formal church leaders.
John gives us a very practical example of this. “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth,” (1 John 3:16-18).
We are all called to live out God’s love as Jesus did, and thus we are all called to be missional leaders in our communities. Whatever your context, whatever your vocation, you have been extended the invitation to partner with the Spirit in the transformational work of God. Brokenness and injustice abound in the world. If we as Christians desire to remain faithful to God, we cannot turn a blind eye – we must respond with love through action and truth. We must partner with the Spirit to transform the community we live in. We must became the catalyst for redemption by modeling the justice and healing of God.
Whatever your context, whatever your vocation, you have been extended the invitation to partner with the Spirit in the transformational work of God.Tweet
Comment with any thoughts, ideas, or questions! I would love to hear what you think!
Books in this post:
- Heath, Elaine. “The Mystic Way of Evangelism: A Contemplative Vision for Christian Outreach.” 2nd ed. Grand Rapids, MI: BakerAcademic, 2017.
- Howard, Evan. “A Guide to Christian Spiritual Formation: How Scripture, Spirit, Community, and Mission Shape Our Souls.” Grand Rapids, MI: BakerAcademic, 2018.
- Soerens, Tim. “Everywhere You Look: Discovering the Church Right Where You Are.” Downers Grover, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2020.