The number one thing I wish I saw happening more at church is people living lives of actual transformation. I spent the first twenty-seven years of my life completely oblivious to the truth that transformation was a Gospel reality that was meant to be ongoing in all believers’ lives. Those first twenty-seven years of my life were spent in the church. I had given myself to following Jesus at the young age of nine. I had surrendered to a call to ministry when I was fourteen. I was dedicated to the mission and call of Jesus. I attended church regularly, attentively listened to teaching and preaching, and applied all that I could. I eventually became a children’s ministry and small groups’ director for a small church plant. And yet, somehow, the idea that all believers were meant to be engaging in powerful and life-altering transformation throughout their lives was somehow missing from my practical experience in the church.
What I functionally learned in my years in church was simply that you “ask Jesus in your heart” and then try really hard to be good. I learned that, yes, part of following Jesus was being close to Him and knowing Him, but also that part of following Him was staying away from all the bad things and instead trying really hard to do all the good things. This was my practical experience of the Christian life until I was twenty-seven.
Then at twenty-seven, I married a man who had radically come to know Jesus. From the moment he started following Jesus my husband walked in continual repentance and transformation. He was not afraid to admit that he was messing things up in various areas of his life. Plus, he was confident that Jesus loved him and could transform all the messy (sinful) areas of his life. He believed Jesus would actually change him. My husband wasn’t striving to be a good person, but was at rest in Jesus.
By his everyday example, my husband taught me the process of transformation. He showed me that it was safe to admit my failures and sins and struggles, because he admitted his failures and sins and struggles. He showed me how Jesus changes a person because my husband actively asked Jesus to change him. And Jesus would. My husband showed me a freedom from striving to be right by now he instead simply trusted Jesus to change him and then tapped into the power of the Holy Spirit to live differently. I would watch my husband be at peace while living differently than he had before because he was actually depending on the Holy Spirit to empower him to live in line with the changes Jesus was making in his life. My husband wasn’t striving to stay away from the bad stuff and only do the good stuff. He was openly admitting his failures, asking Jesus to change him, and depending on the Holy Spirit to empower him to live differently. This was a common and continual way of living for my husband.
I had never seen this before. In all my twenty-seven years in church and full-time ministry, I had never seen someone model for me a life of common and continual repentance and transformation. What I saw was a lot of nice people trying to be good while learning about God. This life of transformation that I was watching unfold before me in my early marriage was exponentially more powerful than the nice lives I had seen at church.
I wanted to experience what my husband was experiencing in his everyday life. So, I began cautiously admitting when I failed. I began acknowledging my sin and asking Jesus to change me. It was terrifying at first because I had erroneously learned in my years in church that being a good Christian was more about being nice and trying to do good than it was about admitting when you’ve done wrong. I erroneously learned in my years in church that sin and repentance were for the bad people and that good Christians shouldn’t have to struggle much with sin nor deal much with repentance. But this. This life of admitting even small failures was radically freeing. Not only was it freeing, but I was also touching into a power in God that I had not yet experienced. Jesus was changing me. I could feel the Spirit giving me power to live differently. This was what the Gospel was all about. And it was powerful.
Now six years later, I love this way of life. I want Jesus to keep transforming me. I long for this way of life to be commonplace in our churches. I long for church to be a place full of people who are being radically and continually transformed. I long for transformation to be the culture of the church. I long for the church to step away from behavior modification (nice people trying to do good) and to step toward powerful, everyday Gospel transformation in Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit.
For this transformation culture to become commonplace in our churches, though, actual transformation must be lived and breathed in our every day lives; it cannot simply be taught from the pulpit. When we start to experience Jesus really changing us and the Holy Spirit really empowering us, then this culture of transformation will burn like a wildfire. Those being changed will not be able to keep silent about the freedom and power and peace of being changed by Jesus. Lives will be lived differently by the power of the Holy Spirit. We, as a people, will get to tap into God when we run to Him with our whole selves and ask Him to change us. Actual transformation as our everyday reality is what I long for the church to express as its commonplace culture.