NPPN Article #65: Signs of City Transformation
By Luis Bush
Mission as transformation has emerged as a new paradigm at
the beginning of the twenty-first century. We are living in
a fallen, deformed world needing to be transformed.
Individuals are being called to be conformed to the image of
Christ. Churches are being challenged to be renewed and
reformed to align with God's greater purposes. Cities and
nations are being transformed.
What are the telling
stories of transformation?
The stories grow daily. There are sixty transformation
venues in Fiji alone. Tribal leaders are being reconciled,
denominational leaders have coalesced in heart, mind and
vision, the Prime Minister begins the day early seeking God,
the governmental cabinet seeks to do what is right and the
regenerative work of God is becoming evident in nature
itself. God is demonstrating His approval all over the
islands through regenerating coral reefs, returning fish,
growing fruit on plants that had ceased to bear for decades.
Torch lights carried village to village by enlightened
Fijian government officials symbolically impart revival to
catalyze other venues.
Transformational city-focused prayer initiatives have been
taking place since 1989 in Indonesia. More than 350 cities
currently have interchurch and intermission prayer
committees offering seminars for facilitators trained for
enabling transformational initiatives.
In Africa annual transformation prayer days have grown
exponentially over recent years. On May 2, 2004, more than
400 African stadiums in fifty countries will open their
gates to allow God's people to come in for several hours of
fervent, united prayer. A week of bounty precedes the prayer
day in Africa when God's people give generously to bless
communities, cities and nations. Positive changes are being
reported by secular newspapers.
In Latin America, city-wide transformational initiatives
have been taking place for well over ten years in Argentina.
The Cali, Colombia, story on video is about a city where
60,000 Christians jam the municipal stadium for all-night
prayer vigils every 90 days; where a multi-billion dollar
drug cartel has been brought to its knees.1 In Almolonga,
Guatemala, video footage tells the story of city jails
closed for lack of crime. The
presence of God is claimed by more than nine of ten people
and agricultural production beyond imagination.
What are the major
Four major transformational streams are flowing across the
world: the revivalist stream, the church growth stream, the
city-reaching stream and the stream engaged in the
transformational development of the poor. These overlapping,
diverse transformational streams converge into the same
"transformational river." This comprehensive movement to
bless the nations includes many emphases:
- Marketplace transformational initiatives seek to
bless nations in tangible ways.
- Transformational leadership engages a new generation
in participatory leadership with current leadership.
- Missional initiative among the last and the least
prioritizes the spiritually needy while integrating the
physically needy without leaving any country out of
We are being called not to dilute, adulter, temper, water
down, reduce, weaken or pollute that which the Spirit of the
living God is purifying and gushing forth on this dusty
plain we call Earth.
Christian leaders around the world made their voices heard
through the World Inquiry, calling for the whole Church to
take the whole gospel to the whole world. Mission as
Transformation global events have been scheduled for
Indonesia in 2005, India in 2006, Korea in 2007, Brazil
2008, Africa in 2009, the Turkic World in 2010, Beijing
2011, Monterrey, Mexico, in 2012. Approaches to
transformation vary, including.
- Transformational development of the poor through
- Saturation church planting
- Emphasis on divine visitation and revival. God acts
on the Church bringing revival and He acts on society
bringing spiritual awakening.
- Obedience to God as an apostolic people with an
apostolic mission to
- transform peoples, places and the culture within
which the Church lives.
An effort to define a comprehensive approach to
transformation must be "rooted in the theology of the
mission of the Kingdom of God and seeks to express the
Lordship of Jesus over every aspect of life, economic,
religious, personal, political. It does not give priority to
any area of life as an area for mission . . . but this
change will be effected whenever people address issues of
life directly, rooted in a gospel perspective."2
As the head of the church Christ initiates and His body
responds - as one body. Transformation associates are now
gathering to contemplate then seek to cooperate with the
beauty of God's movements. The basic idea behind
"transformation coordination" is that, not only can we do
more together than we can separately, but we move to a new
ministry realm which operates on entirely new laws of input
and output. Like the gushing forth of the waters the love of
God through the people of God unleashes multiple mission
initiatives in which divine resources are channeled through
willing servants to meet human needs to the glory of God.
The ultimate vision of transformation is for the power, the
presence and the peace of God experienced by all.
Shalom-Salaam embrace. The power of God shows. The peace of
God rules. The presence of God fills the earth.
Love and faithfulness meet together; righteousness and peace
kiss each other. Faithfulness springs forth from the earth,
and righteousness looks down from heaven. Psalm 85:10,11 (NIV)
How do we express this
mission of transformation?
"Transformation is a concept rooted in the New Covenant (see
John 4:14; Romans 12:2; II Corinthians 3:18, 5:17; I John
3:9). The term itself derives from the Greek word "metamorphoo"
which means to change from one degree of glory to another,
with ever increasing glory. It is the spiritual equivalent
of a caterpillar being metamorphosed into a butterfly.
Unlike reformation, it does not merely tinker with society,
it changes it from the inside out. It operates at the heart
level." George Otis, The Sentinel Group
Transformation is the progressive and ongoing measurable
supernatural impact of the presence and power of God working
in, through and apart from the Church on human society and
structures. In the church, this is characterized by
increased holiness of life, reconciliation in relationships,
and appetite for prayer and worship. Through the Church this
is characterized by accelerated conversion growth,
mobilization of gifts and callings, and an increased
relevance to and participation in greater society.
In the culture, this may be characterized by pervasive
awareness of the reality of God, a radical correction of
social ills, a commensurate decrease in crime rates,
supernatural blessing on local commerce, healing of the
brokenhearted (the alienated and disenfranchised),
regenerative acts of restoring the productivity of the land,
and an exporting of kingdom righteousness.
"To this end, a catalytic core of saints typically embrace a
lifestyle of persistent repentance, humility, and
sacrificial servanthood that attracts the favor and presence
of God, and breaks the predominating influences of the
ruling power structures of human flesh and negative
spiritual forces." Tom White, Prayer Summits
"Transformation involves seeking positive change in the
whole of human life materially, socially and spiritually, by
recovering our true identity as human beings created in the
image of God and discovering our true vocation as productive
stewards, faithfully caring for our world and people."
Bryant Myers, World Vision
Transformation is the change from a condition of human
existence contrary to God's purposes to one in which people
are able to enjoy fulness of life in harmony with God.
According to the biblical view of human life, then,
transformation is the change from a condition of human
existence contrary to God's purposes to one in which people
are able to enjoy fulness of life in harmony with God (Jn.
10:l0; Col. 3:8-15; Eph. 4:13). This transformation can only
take place through the obedience of individuals and
communities to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, whose power
changes the lives of men and women by releasing them from
the guilt, power and consequences of sin, enabling them to
respond with love toward God and towards others (Rom. 5:5),
andaking them "new creatures in Christ" (2 Cor. 5:17).3
"City reaching is the ongoing process of mobilizing the
whole body of Christ in a geographic area to strategically
focus its resources on reaching the whole city with the
whole Gospel, resulting in the transformation of the city
and its societies.
Dedication to mobilizing the whole Church requires the
initiative be inclusive of every believer in its approach.
Commitment to the whole city requires that the initiative be
comprehensive in its scope to include all peoples, problems,
and conditions that affect community life. The whole Gospel
requires methods that are holistic in nature requiring a
balanced integration of proclamation and incarnation. A city
reaching initiative by definition must be inclusive in
approach, comprehensive in scope, and holistic in nature.
Transformation is a reference to two points of time in a
city's history; where the city is now and where it once was.
For a growing number of cities the language that best
describes the degree of societal change occurring between
those two historic points is transformation. Deep and
profound change is possible in human beings and is equally
possible for the social organisms that we call cities and
Jack Dennison, CitiReach
"It is less important where a city is on the transformation
continuum than where it is compared to where it was." George
Otis, The Sentinel Group
What are the principles for
We are being called to seek God in all His holiness, to
humble ourselves as did Isaiah of old, to respond to God
with a "yes" when he asks "Whom shall I send?" to seek the
unity of God…s servants and to cultivate
creative transformational community initiatives to bless the
peoples and the nations.
Principles emerge in response to the question "What will it
take to achieve the vision for transformation?" Some of the
proven principles include the following: 4
Spiritual Vitality Laying the foundation for ministry
Experiencing the holiness of God with other leaders leads to
humility, and deeper life commitment to Christ and His
mission in the
Relational Priority Fueling momentum for ministry through
Reconciling, forming and developing relationships of mutual
and trust enables leaders to work together for the common
good of their
Compelling Vision Aligning transformational efforts by
for the completed task
Ongoing clear, compelling and comprehensive vision casting
everyone in the project brings about shared vision, values
common language and goals, urgency to act and a bonded team.
Empowering Leadership Identifying leaders and initiating a
Empowerment thrives from a growing base of committed leaders
and no barriers to keep them from doing a good job.
Effective leaders shepherd people and processes putting
together the structures and strategies to
carry out God…s vision. Strategy results from the prayerful
planning of leaders who recognize the activity of God in the
community and make the large-scale adjustments needed to
join Him in that activity.
Thorough Research Increasing understanding of the current
realities of one's community
If the Church wants to be relevant and effective in the
community, it needs good information that describes the
community's people and need, the condition of the church;
and the spiritual forces which influence current reality.
The Church must see the city as it truly is; not just what
it seems to be. These data will show leaders God's top
priorities and highest leverage (greatest results per
effort) ministries that will bring about
the most impact and lasting results.
Enacting high leverage opportunities to minister to the
community. Building bridges through acts of service and
kindness establishes relationships of trust and credibility
with the community. People open their lives to those who
genuinely care about personal and community needs
and more often will open their heart to the One who empowers
Making a fresh commitment to individual and corporate
learning around needed skills and effective ministry models.
Constructing the right structures and steps to work together
effectively means we must use the assets God has given us to
their fullest extent - committing ourselves to training and
ongoing learning. Finding out what the Church needs to learn
to bring about greater impact is crucial to achieving its
goals. For many of us, community transformation means a
shift in our underlying philosophies, as well as learning
new skills. Building the Church…s ability to facilitate
change in the city requires a community of learners who are
committed to discover news ways to achieve God's plans and
What are the signs of
Jesus did more than preach the Kingdom; he demonstrated its
reality with "signs of the kingdom," public evidence that
the Kingdom he was talking about had come. These "signs of
the kingdom," are the same as signs of transformation.
Since "the reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the
devil's work" (I John 3:8), he inevitably came into
collision with the prince of darkness. The signs of the
kingdom were evidences that the devil was retreating before
the advance of the King. As Jesus put it, once the strong
man has been overpowered by the Stronger One, his
possessions can be taken from him (Matt. 12:29; Luke 11:22).
Similarly, signs of transformation prompted by
God-initiatives often through transformed individuals and
the Church which is the body of Christ also evidence the
advance of the King of Glory in the twenty-first century.
The first sign of transformation was (and still is) Jesus
himself in the midst of his people (Lk. 17:21; Matt. 18:20),
whose presence brings joy, peace, and a sense of celebration
(John 15:11; 16:33; Mk. 2:18-20).
The second is the preaching of the Gospel. There was no
Gospel of the Kingdom to proclaim until Christ arrived. Now
that he has come, however, the Good News of the Kingdom must
be preached to all, especially to the poor (Lk. 4:18,19;
7:22). The preaching of the Kingdom points people to the
The third sign of transformation was exorcism. Although the
"principalities and powers" may have a reference to demonic
ideologies and structures, they are evil, personal
intelligences under the command of the devil. Demon
possession is a real and terrible condition. Deliverance is
possible only in a power encounter in which the name of
Jesus is invoked and prevails.
The fourth sign of transformation was and is the healing and
the nature miracles - making the blind see, the deaf hear,
the lame walk, the sick whole, raising the dead (Lk. 7:22),
stilling the storm, and multiplying loaves and fishes. We
all agree that these were not only signs pointing to the
reality of the Kingdom's arrival, but also anticipations of
the final Kingdom from which all disease, hunger, disorder
and death will be for ever banished. We also agree that God
is still free and powerful, and performs miracles today,
especially in frontier situations where the Kingdom is
advancing into enemy-held territory. Some Christians think
we should expect miracles as commonly as in the ministry of
Jesus and his apostles (e.g., John 14:12), while others draw
attention to the texts which describe these miracles as
authenticating their unique ministry (e.g., Heb. 2:3, 4; II
A fifth sign of transformation is the miracle of conversion
and the new birth. Whenever people "turn to God from idols,
to serve the living and true God" (I Thess. 1: 9, 10), a
power encounter has taken place in which
the spell of idols, whether traditional or modern, and of
the spirits, has been broken. God's power for salvation is
displayed in the Gospel (Rom. 1:16), and converts who have
been rescued from darkness to light and from the power of
Satan to God (Acts 26:18) are said to have "tasted ... the
powers of the age to come" (Heb. 6:5).
A sixth sign of transformation is the people of the Kingdom,
in whom is manifested that cluster of Christlike qualities
which Paul called "the fruit of the Spirit." For the gift of
the Spirit is the supreme blessing of the Kingdom of God.
Where he rules, love, joy, peace and righteousness rule with
him (Gal. 5:22,23; Rom. 14:17). Moreover, love issues in
good works. Thus, if the Gospel is Good News of the Kingdom,
good works are the signs of transformation. Good News and
good works, evangelism and social responsibility, are once
again seen to be indissolubly united.
The seventh sign of transformation is suffering. It was
necessary for the King to suffer in order to enter into his
glory. Indeed, he suffered for us, leaving us an example
that we should follow in his steps (I Pet. 2:21). To suffer
for the sake of righteousness or for our testimony to Jesus,
and to bear such suffering courageously, is a clear sign to
all beholders that we have received God's salvation or
Kingdom (Phil. 1:28,29; cf. II Thess. 1:5).
"The good news is that God wants to visit our communities.
Indeed He desires to make them His habitation. But He will
not be comfortable in our midst until we remove offending
spiritual roots and cultivate an appetite for holiness,
unity, faith, humility and prayer. In the end, divine
visitation is as much our responsibility as it is God's."
George Otis, The Sentinel Group
The word transformation and its cognates have emerged as an
expression of mission throughout the Christian world today.
For example, representatives from seventeen Christian relief
and development organizations met in February 2004 and
agreed on a statement that expresses their vision as a
collective association that the whole Church become a
transforming and transformed sign of Christ's Kingdom among
Different transformational streams, each with its own
approach, are flowing into a river of transformation. As the
river of transformation moves across the earth individuals,
churches, communities, cities and nations are being
transformed by the power of God through the people of God
for the glory of God.
Christians are engaged in a transformational mission at the
beginning of the twenty-first century. A cyclical pattern is
emerging of those getting involved. It begins with a fresh
awareness of the holiness of God which leads to greater
humility. The humility of the servants of God makes way for
a spirit of unity. Greater unity leads to the cultivation of
a transformed and transformational community sensitized to
discover, embrace and become servant catalysts on His
mission of transformation.
How can you join in?
1 George Otis, Jr in Transformations.
2 Vinay Samuel and Chris Sugden, eds., "Introduction",
Transformation, Regnum, 1999.
3 Wheaton '83, sponsored by the World Evangelical
Fellowship, provided a
platform for further clarification of the response to human
evangelicals. In the book containing the presentations made
"Consultation on the Church in Response to Human Need,"
edited by the co-
presenters of the topic "Evangelism and Social
Responsibility" a year
earlier, Vinay Samuel and Chris Sugden, the final document
"Transformation" reflects, by its very name, the call for
transformation (Samuel and Sugden 1987:254-265).
4 Jack Dennison, CitiReach
5 Adapted from Evangelism and Social Responsibility, written
international Consultation on the Relationship between
Social Responsibility, held at Grand Rapids, Michigan, June
19-25, 1982 in
which the term transformation replaces kingdom.
church planting leadership team has the opportunity, and
responsibility, to build prayer into the DNA of the new
congregation. Church planting pastors should learn from
those colleagues who have realized the importance of prayer
and are struggling to change an already set church culture.
Our Lord has never commanded us to build a house of
preaching and certainly not a house of programs. But He has
passionately made it clear that He expects us to become
households of prayer for all nations (ethne'). This
pastors and leadership teams would do well to include these
components in their philosophy and strategy of ministry from
the very beginning:
strategy to be prayer-birthed
ministry to be prayer-based
activity to be prayer-bathed
should recruit prayer partners
Men (or women
for female pastors) who meet with him for Prayer
Men & Women
who prayer for him weekly
support from partner congregations
walk various parts of the community daily or weekly
should be assigned specific neighborhoods & hot spots
Prayer in Worship
diligently at an inspiring and engaging pastoral prayer
service: Leaders gather for prayer
service: Volunteers pray throughout
service: Train a team to minister at the altar of in a
congregation in prayer:
(through the bulletin, for example)
standing or moving (to a designated location)
praying for identified needs
For prayer team and praying people
types of prayer and when to use them
prayer (healing and strengthening)
regular rhythm of prayer among all the members
Daily: teach daily praying for family,
church and community
establish Watch & Pray groups
Watch – "Lord
what are you saying to us through scripture and the
events of the week … We want to see what you see as we
Pray – "Lord,
help us pray the promises of scripture and the purposes
of God more than the problems of daily life."
Design an exciting, everyone participates, evening of
congregation to join you in prayer
Bring in a
special speaker to preach on prayer
Schedule a day
of personal prayer
Read a new
book on prayer
your Pastors' Prayer Group
entire congregation into a week of prayer
Attend a major
prayer conference and include your designated prayer