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 12:2).
Wherever you go, travel is a good way to understand the prevailing state of affairs. I have spent a great deal of time traveling and have noticed with apprehension that many times the means of transportation I frequent are in sad states of disarray. Airplanes are often delayed for much-needed “on-the-spot” repairs; roads are being fixed almost endlessly; even many bridges have already passed the proper deadline for the needed maintenance.
This is an unfortunate situation for those who must spend time commuting either by plane or on land. To make matters worse, very little work has been done to update the airline fleets, to redesign the road systems, or to build new bridges. One of the main reasons for the lack of updates, and understandably so, is that renewal is expensive. No one can afford it. This reality has only increased my level of anxiety as I use modern means of transportation.
I have seen a similar phenomenon in the church, and not just with buildings. Yes, many buildings are already showing signs of age. Pastors and leaders spend enormous amounts of time and energy making repairs. But this is just a sign of something even deeper.
Today’s church, as the contemporary expression of the Body of Christ for our place and generation, is also showing signs of age.
For decades, we have witnessed that some congregations have become stagnant, even to the point of crisis and decline. As good stewards committed to God’s kingdom, pastors and local leaders have looked desperately for ways to repair what is not working. We try new programs, new emphases, new structures; we even try new strategies. Urgently, we seek to fix the “potholes” in the journey or the dysfunctions that keep us from taking off. We live in a time of needed repairs.
The answer, however, is not found in systematic, structural, or even strategic repair. In his letter to the Romans, the apostle Paul challenged the church to avoid being entrapped by current troubles or by conforming to short-term solutions of the day.
He reminded these early Christians that becoming a pleasing, living sacrifice demands that they not conform to the patterns of the surrounding society, but rather, that they be transformed daily by the renewal of their minds. Paul warned that transformation requires renewal.
This is particularly fitting for our busy lives, accustomed to instant gratification and quick solutions. God demands more than just behavioral adjustments, programmatic nuances, or even a change in our spiritual practices. He demands a complete renewal from the inside out, a renewal that glorifies the sacrifice He made for us.
In other words, as each individual follower of Christ experiences complete transformation and renewal, the life of the church will be more than just repaired—it will be renewed! C. S. Lewis described it this way, “God became man to turn creatures into sons; not simply to produce better men of the old kind but to produce a new kind of man.”
As individuals seek God’s renewal in their lives, the church will be renewed. This is the time for the church to become new wineskins from which the Spirit of God is poured into each congregation, each community, each district, and each nation.
Addressing the church of his time, John Wesley reminded believers, “It is good to renew ourselves, from time to time, by closely examining the state of our souls, as if we had never done that before; for nothing tends more to the full assurance of faith, than to keep ourselves by this means in humility, and the exercise of all good works.”
While the society around us is spending a lot of energy and precious resources on making temporary repairs, God’s people have the opportunity to not conform, but to be renewed. In so doing, the church is transformed for our time and generation.
Gustavo Crocker is General Superintendent of the Church of the Nazarene.