As we continue to consider “What characterizes our movement?” from The Navigators Vision Statement, we come to another characteristic: “transformed men and women.”
“God loves you just the way you are, but He refuses to leave you that way,” says pastor and author Max Lucado. “He wants you to be just like Jesus.”
This is at the heart of The Navigators work. It’s evident in our motto: To Know Christ and to Make Him Known®. What’s more, it’s the heart of the gospel. It’s the reason Jesus “became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood” (John 1:14, MSG).
The work to which God has called us has to be about much more than simply changing people’s behaviors. We want to see a lasting transformation that reflects Christ. The gospel must impact not just behavior but beliefs and values. People’s entire view of life should be based on the values of the Kingdom of God (for those values, see the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5-7).
Transformation begins with the individual—with me. God calls His people to be transformed by the renewing of their minds. This is contrasted to being conformed to the ways of the world (Romans 12:1-2, 2 Corinthians 10:5). Seeing life through the lens of the Scriptures and following the leading of the Spirit in community, we can both experience and help serve the process of spiritual transformation.
Transformation seldom happens in isolation. Jesus’ followers are part of the body of Christ. God designed it so members of His body would spur one another on to growth through modeling, encouraging, teaching, correcting, and “being Jesus” to one another.
Navigators see the value of missional communities. That is, we want to see small groups of Christ-followers who are deeply part of their broader community. They live out the values of the King and make a real difference where they are planted.
The term missional community is used a lot these days and can mean different things, so let me make clear what we mean. It’s a small group of friends engaging in life-rhythms together that overlap spiritual transformation, relationship, and mission. This group is part of a broader community—the neighborhood in which they are planted.
Throughout the New Testament, we see communities of believers actively serving one another and spreading the gospel in their spheres of influence. They belong to the Lord Jesus, to one another, and to their particular place. Often in our discipleship we emphasize “knowing and doing.” While these are important aspects of discipling, just as important are “being and belonging.” People need to understand who they are in Christ and what it means to be citizens of the Kingdom and members of God’s family.
Finally, time is essential to transformation. There is no instant pathway to maturity. Often, to our chagrin, God uses waiting as a part of our journey toward Christlikeness.
I learned a lot about waiting during my sabbatical. Embracing Soul Care by Stephen W. Smith was of great help to me on this topic. In the chapter “Cocooning Toward Change,” Stephen talks about the importance of learning to wait. Let me close this look at “transformation of men and women” with an extended quote from that chapter:
Something transformational happens when a person learns to wait. The caterpillar spinning its cocoon is not preparing a place of escape but a place to wait for transformation, a sanctuary for change. The time of waiting is actually a season of becoming. In the dark, the caterpillar waits for the moment of rebirth, when it emerges transformed, re-formed, and very different.
Transformation doesn’t come if we move too quickly. We need to make space for God. When we wait and are still, God comes near (Ps. 46:10). The place of waiting can provide asylum, not to hide but to hear God. Jonah heard God only in the cocoon of a fish’s belly.
Waiting, then, invites us to change, and change requires endurance. The invitation to change ushers in a different kind of living. During the cocoon time, transformation is spun around us, and there’s nothing to do but let the waiting do its sacred work. If we wait, we change.
Before we can be agents of transformation, we ourselves must be transformed. Missional communities can be both a cradle and a crucible in which this happens. And it all takes place over time, during which God lovingly designs a unique path of growth for each of us. Put another way, God uses transformed lives to transform lives.
For Your Consideration:
Reflect on the Beatitudes, Matthew 5:3-12. Which of these qualities would you most like to see develop in your life right now? How could the believers around you play a part in this?
How has being in community contributed to your spiritual transformation?
If you’re in an in-between time, what is God teaching you through this time of waiting?
Al Engler is the director of Nav Neighbors. To contact him or to learn more about his ministry, click here.
This is one in a series of articles unpacking the Navigator vision. The series begins with Unpacking Our Vision: An Introduction
and continues with "The Power of Smell