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 transformational streams?
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 "focus."
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.

Convictions, commitments and coordination
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 community development
  • 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 communities."
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 transformation?
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 through corporate
spiritual growth

Experiencing the holiness of God with other leaders leads to repentance,
humility, and deeper life commitment to Christ and His mission in the

Relational Priority Fueling momentum for ministry through loving

Reconciling, forming and developing relationships of mutual love, respect,
and trust enables leaders to work together for the common good of their

Compelling Vision Aligning transformational efforts by maintaining vision
for the completed task

Ongoing clear, compelling and comprehensive vision casting that involves
everyone in the project brings about shared vision, values and strategy,
common language and goals, urgency to act and a bonded team.

Empowering Leadership Identifying leaders and initiating a process for
community transformation

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.

Loving Service
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 loving service.

Intentional Learning
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 purposes.

What are the signs of transformation? 5
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 Kingdom itself.

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 Cor. 12:12).

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).

A Conclusion
"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 all people.

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", Mission as
Transformation, Regnum, 1999.
3 Wheaton '83, sponsored by the World Evangelical Fellowship, provided a
platform for further clarification of the response to human need among
evangelicals. In the book containing the presentations made at the
"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 titled
"Transformation" reflects, by its very name, the call for societal
transformation (Samuel and Sugden 1987:254-265).
4 Jack Dennison, CitiReach
5 Adapted from Evangelism and Social Responsibility, written during the
international Consultation on the Relationship between Evangelism and
Social Responsibility, held at Grand Rapids, Michigan, June 19-25, 1982 in
which the term transformation replaces kingdom.


Every 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 requires:

  • Every strategy to be prayer-birthed
  • Every ministry to be prayer-based
  • Every activity to be prayer-bathed
Church planting pastors and leadership teams would do well to include these components in their philosophy and strategy of ministry from the very beginning:

Prayer Warriors
Every pastor should recruit prayer partners
Men (or women for female pastors) who meet with him for Prayer
Men & Women who prayer for him weekly
Recruit prayer support from partner congregations
Prayer Walking
The pastor should walk various parts of the community daily or weekly
Prayer teams should be assigned specific neighborhoods & hot spots
Prayer in Worship
Work diligently at an inspiring and engaging pastoral prayer
Inject prayer:
Before the service: Leaders gather for prayer
During the service: Volunteers pray throughout
After the service: Train a team to minister at the altar of in a prayer room
Involve the congregation in prayer:
Repeat-after-me prayers
Silent praying (through the bulletin, for example)
Kneeling or standing or moving (to a designated location)
With other church members; praying for identified needs
Prayer Weekend
For core leadership
Retreat together to pray for God's purpose and plans and power
Prayer Workshop
For prayer team and praying people
Training in:
The various types of prayer and when to use them
Evangelistic praying strategies
Ministry prayer (healing and strengthening)
Prayer Watch
Establish a regular rhythm of prayer among all the members
Daily: teach daily praying for family, church and community
Weekly: 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…"
Pray – "Lord, help us pray the promises of scripture and the purposes of God more than the problems of daily life."
Pastor – Meet with a group of local pastors
Monthly: Design an exciting, everyone participates, evening of prayer
Invite another congregation to join you in prayer
Schedule a prayer workshop
Bring in a special speaker to preach on prayer
Schedule a day of personal prayer
Read a new book on prayer
Retreat with your Pastors' Prayer Group
Call the entire congregation into a week of prayer
Pastor – Attend a major prayer conference and include your designated prayer coordinator



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