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September/October 2006 Issue

GOD AT WORK IN DENOMINATIONS:
Transformers and Reformers

By Tim Peterson

Praying about issues is good, but let’s not neglect to pray for the individuals involved. When we pray for people, we grow to love them.

Have you noticed what happens when a brand-new believer connects with a Christian of experience? It seems to me that a powerful spiritual dynamic begins. The new saint is awestruck watching expressed grace at work. The seasoned believer is restored to the freshness experienced when first meeting Christ. The combination of the two is Christianity in perpetual motion.

A simpler way to say it is: veteran believers and newcomers to faith need each other.

Similarly, I’d like to suggest that Christians with different approaches to changing Canada for Christ – I’ll call them Reformers and Transformers – also complement each other.

At the risk of oversimplifying, let me describe Reformers as Christians who connect most strongly with a spiritual lineage going back to the Reformation. They see the historical tumult of the (universal) catholic church and, as a result, place a high value on the graceful order of personal liberty in a predictable setting, including thoughtful and orderly worship services.

Contrast that with Transformers. Although they appreciate the work of the Reformers, they experience a constant infusion of new believers and so connect with a spiritual lineage going back to what I call the Transformation – the birth of the Church on the day of Pentecost. Transformers want to experience the immanence of Christ in their contemporary setting.

Reformers want to help society reform its brokenness and return to higher, proven standards while the Transformers pray that individuals in the society will be transformed themselves, thereby impacting the world by the changes. Reformers believe that people can work to bring about godly change in their society; Transformers believe true change must happen to us (not by us).

When Romans 12:2 says “Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind,” it seems that Reformers emphasize one phrase (renew your mind) while Transformers stress another (be transformed).

But let me propose that, in the end, maybe the expression of Reformer-faith or Transformer-faith isn’t an either/or issue but actually a both/and reality that can ultimately impact society for the cause of Christ.

For example, when The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada began to take a pro-active stance in opposition to same-sex marriage, I stressed the need for sensitivity. “The persons who may feel attacked by us now,” I said, “are the very same ones we will be trying to touch for Jesus’ sake two years from today.” I was grateful for the EFC’s passion to preserve biblical standards, but I didn’t want to risk losing the chance of relating to the lives of individuals Jesus loves. Both are important.

As you can tell, I’m a Transformer at heart. Let me tell you something that happened in the last church I pastored which transformed me.

We had a wonderful, saintly organist whose husband seemed to revel in being an obstinate sinner. But then he contracted a terminal sickness. Friends of Marge came to his palliative care room to sit with him every day.

Near the end, he said to Marge: “Everyone who has visited has said that they love me, but they hardly know me. How can you love someone you don’t know?”

Marge’s answer changed my heart. She said: “The reason they love you is because they pray for you. Believers can pray about someone and not love them, but we can’t pray for someone and not love them.”

You’ll be blessed to know that he gave his life to Jesus. He wanted the love that had been shown to be real.

When we pray about the same-sex marriage issue (no matter whether we are Reformers or Transformers), let’s also be sure to pray for those we know who are caught in the tragic lifestyle. We will love them just like Marge’s friends who, following Jesus, loved those for whom they prayed. Those we pray for will see our love and listen.

Tim Peterson is president and general supervisor of the Foursquare Gospel Church of Canada, which is based in Surrey, B.C. and has about 56 churches in Canada. This article is the first in a series of columns from the leaders of EFC-affiliated denominations, which are listed at www.evangelicalfellowship.ca (click Affiliate, then Current Affiliates).

Other Articles
Sept/Oct 2006 Issue

Cover Story
Every Nation, Tribe & People: How to Become an Intentionally Intercultural Church

From the Editor
Sharing Space

Feature Article
How to Advertise the Good News: Professional Advertising Campaigns

Kingdom Matters
Website Brings Bible to Kids

The Gathering Place
An Uneasy Conscience

God at Work in Denominations
Transformers and Reformers

A Church You Should Know
Mill Woods Assembly, Edmonton

Ask a Theologian
What Does "Made in the Image of God" Actually Mean? 

   
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