In my last blog I stated that, in a word, the point of the church is transformation. In a good and challenging comment Steve asked the important question, transformed to what? He also asks the difficult question, who or what gets to define the goal of transformation.
For me, the easy answer is, it depends.
The more complex answer is, well, more complex.
I believe we are called to be transformed into the image of God as revealed in Jesus Christ. As individuals we are to be transformed into more loving, caring, just, humble, servants of God and of one another. This transformation, or maybe I should say, these transformations, begin at a variety of starting points.
Marcus Borg talks about the three macro-stories of the faith: the exodus, the exile, and the priestly story. All of them illustrated in scripture, and all of them happening time and time again to people throughout the world.
The exodus: For some who find themselves in places of bondage, the need is to be transformed into liberated and free people. This can be freedom from anything ranging from addiction to persecution.
The exile: For some who find themselves in places of exile, the need is to be transformed into places of reconciliation. Some need to be reconciled with the fact that there is a God who loves them unconditionally and others need to have reconciliation within relationships with family members, friends, and others in their community.
The priestly: And for others still, who find themselves dealing with issues of sin and brokenness, the need is to be transformed into persons who know and experience forgiveness.
At it’s best, the church can be a place to help people experience all of these things on personal, social/communal, and theological levels.
In my opinion, the answer to Steve’s second question, who or what gets to define the goals of transformation, is multi-layered. Each and every person, through the guidance of the the Spirit has to work this out for themselves. And for each person there will be different goals for different situations and during different seasons of their lives.
The church, or faith communities can play a huge role in this through teaching, through spiritual formation and through worship. But, ultimately it is up to each person to set those goals for transformation of themselves.
Admittedly, this post has dealt primarily with transformation on the individual level. There is also a need for relationships, organizations, communities, governments, and more to be transformed through the witness of transformed/transforming people who are a part of the church. More on that another time.