In a time marked by instability and need, the Lord is raising up Kingdom movers and shakers to assume strategic roles of relevance in the world's infrastructures of business and government.
Within that context, a term being heard across a broad spectrum in Christian circles is transformation. It's a good term. Roman 12:2 speaks to the necessity of an individual transformation - of transforming our minds - as a requisite and standard for entering into the fullness of what we refer to as God's will. Transformation also bears on the impact the Body is making on society. While current focus on societal transformation seems to coincide with recent global upheavals and tragedies, it is not without precedent.
The early Church was an incredible agent for transformation. In city after city, most of the leaders Paul selected as the organizers of this extraordinary movement were new converts from the business community. They faced corruption, witchcraft, religious persecution, oppression and an unstable Roman government. In many ways, the dynamics and setting in the Former Soviet Union represent a close parallel to the risks and hurdles faced by the Church in Paul's day. The challenges both then and now, take courage and boldness, as well as a standard and wisdom by which the Body serves as agents of change.
Combining Excellence and the Power of the Spirit
Jesus taught us that God is glorified when people see a higher standard in our works (Matthew 5:16). Likewise, Paul was constantly admonishing the congregations he founded to operate with excellence. As the transformation process of his day took root, Paul wrote the Body at
"Working together with Him, we also urge you not to receive the grace of God in vain . giving no cause for offense in anything, so that the ministry will not be discredited." 2 Corinthians 6:1-3
Paul's exhortation is particularly relevant today, as a mobilization is underway to bring the transforming principles of scripture and the power of the Spirit into the economic, community and national spheres. Yet, the standard in this process of transformation strongly pivots on the J.B. Phillips rendering of Romans 12:2.
"The world around you" - "squeezing you into ITS mold."
Pete Holzmann, founder of the International Christian Technologist's Association (www.icta.net) comments on how the "world around us" can create blind spots that undermine the standard:
"Throughout history, the church has seen the task as primarily resource-limited, a notion that contradicts the business view of work. Ministries tend to say, 'Here are the (limited) available resources, so how much time is needed to accomplish the desired result?' In contrast, business asks 'we need to accomplish the desired result by a certain time, so how many resources (people, funds, etc.) are needed?"
As a former business owner turned mission strategist who birthed the 10/40 Window concept, Mr. Holzmann is a credible observer.
The mold spoken of in Romans 12:2 is just not determined by the ungodly. There is a standard in Christian circles by which we measure what we consider success. All too often it is a standard constrained by the limitations facilitating our own operational "worldview." It has become a mold with limitations that bears closer scrutiny to insure Kingdom efforts are not discredited.
The standard for "success" can be an evolving thing. In the process of change, the measures for success will also change. In Christian circles, if the standard has not kept up with modifications, it digresses into a mold that stifles and sets limits to the results tied to the "good and acceptable and perfect will of God." It bears on the mind-sets that can either release or restrain our walking into higher levels in the purposes and fullness of God. The standard in Christian circles likewise bears on our credibility - and with that, the stewardship of our efforts in building the
Understanding the Times
Jesus admonished us to be aware of the times and the seasons. Early in year 2001 a large number of major ministries began seeing significant drops in donations. The speculations as to the reasons for the nosedive in donations ranged from the economy to the aging of the faithful to changes in donor base composition. But despite an array of adjustments by specialists in soliciting donations, the downturn wouldn't go away. Then 9/11 hit. With it came an incredible outpouring of benevolence targeting the victims and the firefighters and those impacted by this terrible tragedy. The result was a further compression of the traditional funding directed toward a wide swath of Christian ministries. Now, years have passed since the early 2001 shaking, without a recovery.
As high profile ministries have faced these challenges, the dichotomy between the forces for God and the forces for evil, in the economic and governmental seats of power, have broadened. Simultaneously, within the Body is emerging a move of God focused on genuinely hearing the Voice of God. This move of God parallels a movement of Christian business and governmental leaders intent on using the transforming principles of Scripture and the power of God to make a positive impact on the fabric of society.
The early 2001 shift in the assumptions driving our standard ministry models, combined with the overwhelming need created by the world's burgeoning oppression, corruption and persecution demands a reevaluation of the mold and the standard by which we gauge success. These times call for those anointed as the men of Issachar, "who understand the times and know what to do." Likewise, as Paul admonished, we have a responsibility to "work together, with God, so that the ministry not be discredited."
This means a review of the realties of our traditional funding models, our standards for success, as well as the focus of our efforts. If the model, appropriate for its time, is aging and becoming a "mold" that constrains and limits, then it is time for change. It just may be that the Spirit of the Lord is positioning us to lift the lid to the mold required to support the work of the ministry when "something more" is in the wings of the wind.
Raising the Standard
The startling observation about Mr. Holzmann's resource-time-results conclusion is the amazing results that have transpired among fund-raising supported ministries despite a too frequent lower standard of efficiency in execution. It underscores the potent impact and need for the truths of Scripture and the power of the Spirit. It also begs a stewardship question of what would result if the standard were raised.
We have entered a time in which the world is probing. Some scrutiny is malicious, but some of it is valid. The issue bears not on the growth of the organization, or its PR statistics, or even the good intentions of the faithful - but on the substance behind Mr. Holzmann's resource-time-results matrix. It bears on the stewardship of donated funds. In a time when politically-motivated regulators are intimidating, attacking and attempting to condemn entire sectors of business for the sins of a few, we would do well to raise the bar.
This overzealous, scrutinizing trend combined with the shaking in the assumptions driving traditional fund-raising models should be a wake-up call for every organization called to build the
Proverbs tells us that the man who excels in his work will stand before kings. The generation that birthed the parachurch movement is transitioning into the generation that penetrates the seats of power of business and government. As this generation matures and emerges with a role to impact communities and nations, the standard of excellence in the stewardship of building the
The standard for Daniel operating in Bablyon was an excellence and wisdom noted by scripture as "ten times greater" than his worldly counterparts. Yet, even with that, he wound up in the lions den and his associates in the burning fiery furnace. Their deliverance was because they were without fault. There are indeed ministries, as well as Kingdom businesses with modus operandis that measure up to the standards and excellence suggested by Mr. Holzmann's matrix. There are others that have failed to make the transition, who would never survive the tactics of an Eliot Spitzer or the scrutiny of a 60 Minutes interview with a disgruntled employee, much less the probes of an eager, suspicious investigative reporter.
As the standard for scrutiny has been raised, so have the acceptable standards of excellence and professionalism tied to every sector within Christendom. The stakes and the opportunities before us are such that we cannot be held back by an aging mold. We indeed need God's supernatural intervention more than in any other time in history. The times are such however, that we also need the standard of excellence set during Daniel's tenure in Babylon - of ten times better - to be combined with the supernatural.
The Constraints of the Mold
Many within Christendom are asking where the next move of God will come from. Every major move of God has been tied to the breaking of outdated molds. Over the years, the Body has cycled itself through searching for that "something more" and the release, relevance and freedom in the Spirit that results from breaking the mold - only to create a new mold that we squeeze ourselves into.
We've indeed entered a time in which "something more," in terms of a new move of God is needed. Yet, the gateway resides with us. Transformation indeed is the key, but it will first require a fresh look at the mold that constrains us. With the need for this new move of God is the need for "something more" in our relevance, methods, standards and execution.
There's an unusual consequence from the shaking going on across the globe. We see undeniable evidence of it from the Middle East to
While the Body applauds the changes for good, apart from a few, it falls short in recognizing the parallel change needed in the mold that constrains our standards of relevance and excellence and limits our impact. Yet, the shaking is breaking us out of our mold and setting the stage as a new generation of leadership reflects a maturing Body that is returning to the early Church roots as an agent of societal change.
This is a new generation that will restore the focus on Christendom being a movement for change.
Jesus came to bring fulfillment to the purposes of God outlined in the law and prophets. God's people of His day were immobilized by a mold. They were fearful, self-absorbed, fragmented, isolated and out of touch. Jesus brought it all out into the open, broke the mold with the command to go into ALL the world. Jesus turned the mold into a movement.
Yet, since that time, the natural tendency has been to make new molds with constraints no different from those existing when Jesus first came on the scene. We use the term "planting" churches as a mark of the way the Church-corporate grows. The term "planting" is too static. It engenders a mindset that falls short of the vibrant spontaneity and mobilization tied to the societal transformation that Jesus set in motion.
Counting the Cost
Jesus taught us to count the costs. This next move of God will indeed break the mold. It will be characterized by a new level of the supernatural; that previously has only been evidenced sporadically in this generation. The book of Acts speaks of "unusual miracles" being wrought at the hands of Paul. So it will be as this move of God takes the presence and truths of God into the marketplace.
Yet there is a cost. John the revelator spoke of the end-time Church that would confront the forces of evil and the accuser of the brethren with the truth and power of God and would love not their lives unto death (Revelations 12:10-11). Jesus summed up the reality of the cost with the truth that, "greater love has no man, than he lay down his life for his friends." This was a standard by which the early Church penetrated the world around it on every level. It did so, unafraid. It did so, unrestrained - because of the recognized significance of the movement.
The Mark of the Calling
The eagerness to move to the forefront in this move of God, should be tempered with respect for the cost, maturity and realities faced by those anointed and called to lead it. There will be Peters who will be persecuted, imprisoned and then supernaturally released. There will also be Stephens who will pay the ultimate cost as the strongholds on the religious, political and economic infrastructures are confronted, challenged and broken.
No doubt there will be those who seek position and recognition at the forefront without paying the cost, as well as those who seek after the power for the wrong reasons. The story of Annanias and Sapphira in Acts 5 is one of a couple who sought to curry the favor and recognition of the apostles through a large gift, but did so foolishly by crossing the line and tainting it with deceit, manipulation and exaggeration. Likewise, Simon's spiritual immaturity caused him to seek the power of the anointing for the wrong reasons.
"He offered them money, saying, 'Give this authority to me as well, so that everyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.' Peter replied, 'May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain the gift of God with money! You have no part or portion in this matter, for your heart is not right before God.'" Acts 8:18-21
The book of Hebrews instructs us on faith. It speaks of those who wallow in the milk of the Word and have been trapped in a mold instead operating in the maturity that will make a difference. The calling for transformation involves a maturity that approaches the task for the right reasons in the right way. It measures up. It will attract attention, but the Eliot Spitzers and eager beavers in the press will not want to touch it, not only because of the awe, but because of the standard. Societal transformation will involve a massive reclamation. Yet those at the forefront will not be enticed, swayed or tainted as the process brings multiplication to the resource-time-results stewardship standard suggested by Mr. Holzmann. It will reflect a balance between there being no lack and the scriptural admonition that correlates eating with working.
The Dynamics for Transformation
Transformation involves breaking the mold. The days of the early Church were chaotic and oppressive. While religious leaders were playing politics, witchcraft abounded in the marketplace, with the government of the day being evil and corrupt.
Yet, amid the chaos was the demonstration of the power of God. The book of Acts describes it as a time when "great fear came upon all the Church and upon ALL who heard these things." So, it will be in this move of God. It's not going to be about programs. It's not going to require hype. It is going to reflect the supernatural power of God in a way that stops people in their tracks - and brings transformation as people recognize and embrace the awesome reality of the God of all ages operating in their midst.
It is time for the fulfillment that has so long been yearned for. Not unlike God's people in Jesus' day, we have become constrained by a mold. The result is far too many in the world around us viewing the Church as self-absorbed, out of touch, fragmented and isolated. Jesus brought it all out into the open and broke the mold with the command to go into ALL the world. Yet, we've operated by a standard that is in-bred and designed to bring the world in, rather than us going out. It is a mold that drives our perception of success and the entire way we approach the work of the ministry. It reflects a static mind-set of "planting" rather than it being a vibrant, transforming "movement."
The gateway of societal transformation is before us. Serving as agents of change will take new levels of courage, boldness and maturity, as well as a fresh standard of excellence and wisdom. It will break the mold, as we enter a passage through which the issues of friendship, commitment, sacrifice, integrity and honor take on new dimensions, as the Body faces a task that will bear the scrutiny of kings.
"Satisfy us early with Your mercy, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days! Let Your work appear to Your servants, and Your glory to their children. And let the beauty of the LORD our God be upon us, and establish the work of our hands for us; yes, establish the work of our hands." Psalm 90:14-17
2005 Copyright Morris Ruddick - firstname.lastname@example.org
Morris Ruddick is the author of "The Joseph-Daniel Calling" and "God's
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