Tag Archives: transformational church

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What Do You Want?

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Two Kinds of Churches Part 6: What Do You Want?

I recall the year I woke up and began to establish a transformational culture within my congregation. I had been pursuing personal transformation for twelve years already. The truths I was learning were showing up in my sermons. But I was not intentionally discipling others about transformation as I now knew it. I had not developed a pathway to make accessible these life giving truths to people trapped by the reformational model as I had been. Yes, I was still leading my church reformationally. All of that changed when someone challenged me to start teaching a small group of men how to pursue intimacy with God. That led to a second go-round with these men, because they confessed that what they were learning was so different from past beliefs that they needed to hear it again. This revealed a reality I never forget—before people can learn the truth about intimacy with God, they have to unlearn lies they learned as truth.

As intentional as this became, it took some years before a transformational culture emerged, mainly because I was learning how to do it as I went along. The church’s leaders, disciplers, and counselors had to come to embrace these truths. We worked hard to make sure that we had a consistent message, not straying into shaming and false guilt. We had to learn to be transparent and confess our own sins. We had to actually restore people trapped by the sin of their choice gently and with humility, to see them receive freedom from the addictions that came from the deadly sin in me choices they had made. More importantly, we learned to hold up the pursuit of God as the ultimate goal of our life together. Like the Corinth church, it was messy. Not everyone wanted to go down that path. But for the vast majority of the congregation, it was amazingly hopeful and freeing.

This kind of transformational culture is possible for your church. But I cannot create it for you. This culture is the product of God’s work, first in you and your church’s leaders, then in the lives of the people who make up the congregation. To have it will cost you. You will have to deal with your own unfinished business. This will be painful at times and Satan will still try to take you out through his lies. But you will progressively emerge as the person you were created to be. You will never regret the process God has to take you through to get there. And, to paraphrase Jesus’ words to Peter in Luke 22:32, when you have turned back, you will be able to strengthen the rest of Jesus’ family.

Why establish a transformational culture? Here are a couple of reasons that I think are close to the heart of everyone who shepherds in Jesus’ church.

  • First, it’s about being the church Jesus said he was building. I am not talking about a new model of the church. I am sure that if you have lived long enough, you have seen plenty of new versions of how to do church come and go, just as I know that you probably have heard why your version sucks. This is not about how to attract more people through the door to have a larger congregation. This is about life. People need the life Jesus offers them. They need it made as plain to them as Jesus made it plain to his first disciples.

The life Jesus still offers is called zoe—life that Jesus gives means a new quality of life, life as it was created to be lived in Eden, full of joy, peace, love, God. This can never be had through a church model. It is God’s gift that grows more apparent as one is continually being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory (2 Corinthians 3:18).

  • A second significant reason is so people can be free from the mistaken belief that keeping the rules will make them whole. Rule keeping is epidemic in churches. Not wanting to offend God and recognizing that they don’t know what is exactly right or exactly wrong, people often adopt rules that they hope will help them resist sin. I grew up with a well-defined set of rules for living that people of my tribe can still recite at the drop of a hat. Where did these rules come from? Mostly from our negative reaction to the culture we were growing up in. But the rules did more to make us more anxious or foster rebellion in us than to help us become holy.

Wouldn’t you love to live with people who are becoming whole because of what God is doing in them instead of being held hostage by iffy rules that make no inroads to real change? To spend time with people who are learning to forgive as Jesus forgave them? To experience transparency in relationships, even if that means engaging in helping people with their inside mess while they are on their way to being changed? To see your church family producing people who are not afraid of God? To be with people who want to see their neighbors, co-workers—their city—transformed as they have been transformed?

To be part of a church that produces cutting-edge disciples, you have to be willing to do whatever it takes. To be willing to be on your own transformational journey, and then to take the time to invest the truths you are learning from the Spirit into those you shepherd. If this is what you want, don’t hold back for a minute. Go for it. And I am here to help if you need me.

-Steve Smith


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Why Do Obedient Christians Still Fail?

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Two Kinds of Churches Part 3: Why Do Obedient Christians Still Fail?

Is your church focused on teaching people how to deal with their symptoms OR, to deal with their unfinished business? If you asked me when I was part of the reformational church what I was learning about my inner mess, I would have said that they were nailing me. They were putting their finger on every symptom, every sinful flaw, every wayward tendency in me. They offered me a place of repentance and were willing to help me through accountability and by prayer.

But they never got down to asking where these symptoms were coming from. Nor were they showing me how to be healed and delivered from them—so I wasn’t.

Many biblical churches fail to disciple believers to look deep enough. We all know the story of the Fall of Adam and Eve. We learned that this was the genesis of our separation from God. We also know the gospel is the cure—the bridge over which God, in mercy, brought us back from our self-imposed exile. But the often overlooked consequences of the Fall still beckon each of us to personal destruction. We cannot by our own strength close our ears to their siren song because they are rooted in our hearts.

The first of these consequences is the hurts we have accumulated from living in a world where everyone has been affected by the Fall. As each of us lives our unconscious version of being god—determining what is good or evil for ourselves—our decisions inflict pain on the lives of others around us. These blows rock those we love—or don’t love—and act as a painful bone spur in their souls. Those people do it back to us as well. And none of it heals with time. Right now, you are possibly unaware of the multiple hurts guiding your life decisions.

The other consequence in your heart is sin living in you. Paul talks about this disconcerting truth in Romans 7. He is confused about why he does not do the good he wishes, instead doing stuff he’d be ashamed for his mother to find out about. When he sorts out the cause of his addictive behaviors, he finds his choices are coming from sin in him. Paul uses his own experience to explain why all believers continue to struggle with obedience. We all have sin present in us.

Here is the outcome of the presence of hurt and sin in our hearts. We were not created to live with pain. Therefore, when we hurt, we look for comfort. Sin offers an emotional release from the pain, so we choose it over being healed from the pain by God (remember, this is the result of our personal godhood myth). We do this unconsciously when we are young, but as we age, we can be very deliberate about this choice. The outcome is that our hurt and our sin choice bond together, becoming inseparable in terms of how we live. This bonding produces the destructive outward actions or symptoms that everyone can see.

I grew up in the reformational church. They were all about obedience to rules. They recognized that these symptoms were destructive. They preached hard against these symptoms, calling the symptoms out for what they were. People “Amen’ed” this kind of preaching.

What I and others who grew up in a reformational environment experienced was hopelessness. We lacked hope we would ever really do much more than manage these symptoms. One young disciple I know pushed back at his pastor with, “I sense you are saying that not only are we required to follow Christ’s commands, we are obligated to do them perfectly even though we don’t. We aren’t commanded to try really hard. We are told to live a life worthy of the Gospel. I feel like you’re pressing me to repent of some sin that I’m not aware of, and to start getting my act together ‘or else.’” He ended up leaving this church in despair of ever being able to be obedient enough for God.

Churches without a culture of transformation are, lamentably, a culture of disappointment and quiet desperation. They teach the biblical truths of how God has designed His people to live. They challenge people to reform—to stop acting out the symptoms and start acting on these truths until they reform the pattern of their lives. And so often that is what people in these churches do—they put on an act.

Transformational churches seek to address the root issues of believers’ unfinished business. They do this not just through sermons, but by discipling people to pursue intimacy with God so that their inside issues will be addressed by Him through the empowering presence of the Spirit. They counsel people that it is their unfinished business, not their symptoms that is wreaking havoc with their lives, their marriages, their children, their future. Transformational churches have a culture that communicates that believers are changed from the inside out by the Spirit instead of by modifying their behavior. This is the good news of the gospel, that where the Spirit of the Lord is, people are being set free (2 Corinthians 3:17).

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Is Your Church Reforming or Transforming?

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Two Kinds of Churches Part 2: Is Your Church Reforming or Transforming?

There’s a big push among North American churches to be transformative because leaders realize how spiritually impoverished the country has become. Both newly started and established churches are adopting the adjective ‘transformational’ as part of their current label: “We are a transformational church.” “We exist to transform people.” “We exist to bring transformation to our community.” Conferences are convened and seminars are offered to teach churches how they can have a transformational impact on their neighborhood. “And after all,” we might think, “where there is all this smoke, there must be fire.”

Or is it just smoke and mirrors? Maybe it’s just a lot of talk. You cannot have transformational churches if they are not producing transforming disciples. If you consider the kind of disciples being produced, it is not hard to see that transformation may not be what many churches actually are pursuing.

There are two kinds of churches. One is the reformational church, where people are taught God’s truth and encouraged to obey it without being taught how the Spirit, who is in them, is empowering their obedience. These kinds of churches present a reform-yourself-into-the-image-of-Jesus approach, which puts the entire obligation on the believer to be obedient.

In contrast, a truly transformational church, while teaching God’s truth, knows and teaches that no one can obey God in their own strength. This is why God gave the Spirit to everyone who puts their faith in Jesus. It is by his empowering presence that believers are conformed into the likeness of God’s Son. Because of our inability to be good for God in our own strength, transformational churches disciple people to keep in step with the Spirit—to surrender to his work.

All churches have the potential to be transformational because of the presence of the Spirit. But regrettably, they don’t necessarily focus their teaching and discipleship with this in mind.

Transformation is the practical application of this gospel we proclaim—that God sent Jesus to die and return to life in order to restore us who put our faith in him back to the persons we were created to be. Paul said this eloquently in Romans 8:29. “For those God foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of His Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.” Paul’s point is that Jesus is the second Adam—completely human in the way that was lost when Adam and Eve chose the lie of the enemy over the truth of God. Though the effects of the Fall in Genesis 3 were potent, the gospel is more potent still. No one who humbles themselves before God and receives what He offers should remain broken, rebellious, deceived, confused and soul sick. Instead, we are becoming the person we were created to be all along. We progressively become like Jesus. The topper to all of this is that God already planned to do this in every believers’ life and whatever He has planned, He will do—whether we go willingly or kicking and screaming.

The temptation at this point is to present a superlative description of the ideal transformational church. But the truth is that transformational churches are just as messy as any other living church body. If you look closely into one you will see lots of people making bad personal choices. You will see people who need restoration. You will see the mud that was thrown at others recently. These churches attract a lot of ‘extra mercy’ required people. The sinful nature shows up. Transformational churches are full of people who have a long way to go before they ‘reflect God’s glory with unveiled faces’.

Consider the Corinth church. In his two letters, Paul writes some of his most stirring transformational words—“by the grace of God I am what I am.”—“and we are being transformed into his likeness with ever increasing glory.”—“where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.”—“But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”—to a church that was full of factions and doctrinal confusion. Packed with believers who were taking each other to court and others having to be told that their freedom in Christ doesn’t stretch to cover having sex with temple prostitutes! Where the church bumper sticker might have proclaimed “I have the right to do anything!” Corinth was a transformational church in process, not a finished product.

If Corinth can be described as a transformational church, can’t it be argued that all churches are transformational? That’s a pretty good question, because ‘transformational’ is the trendy word for the church today.

In practice, many churches essentially follow a reformational model. In the reformational model church, people are encouraged to be submissive to Jesus and live out the Christian life laid out in the Bible. These churches—and they are legion—emphasize personal obedience and sincere effort, which has a strong flavor of rightness about it, but misleads people away from the essential core of the gospel as Paul characterizes it in Romans chapter 8. The gospel is not just about obedience. It includes a core change that takes place in us by the Spirit. We become like Jesus, demonstrating his character. Obedience is a by-product of that.

So is your church teaching people to reform or to be transformed?

-Dr. Steve Smith


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Is Your Church Making Cutting Edge Disciples?

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Two Kinds of Churches Part 1: Is Your Church Making Cutting Edge Disciples?

“It doesn’t matter whether you go to a traditional or a contemporary church. It seems that they are focused on what they do to attract people but they do not seem to be producing changed people.” I sat across from a friend of mine who worked for a major parachurch organization, listening to him voice his frustration over not being able to find a church in his neighborhood that he felt was making a difference within the community. He was not lamenting any lack of evangelistic zeal. He was questioning why so few churches were actually transformational. He wondered why they desired to be cutting edge in style but are generating so few cutting edge disciples— disciples who are becoming more like Jesus.

He’s not the only one to wonder about this. I often hear this lament from people. Why is it that our churches seem to be full of people more like the ones that crucified Jesus than followed him? People who are so careful about their personal purity they are ready to throw those who fail to measure up under the bus? Who are fine as long as the church rolls along in calm waters but become aggressive sharks when the pastor or the leaders falter? Why are churches full of people who wander away from the faith as casually as changing phone services? People who seem indifferent to holy living and stay spiritually underdeveloped long after the time when they should have gone on to maturity?

What if you could see deep change in the lives of those who claim to follow Jesus? What if you could be part of a church that is regularly having more and more of its people truly become more like Jesus? What if you could see this kind of deep change in your own life? What if you could become transparent about your own failures and bold in your dependence on God to transform you? What if you could see the people of your church impacting your community with the evidence of the gospel in their lives? Would you be willing to pay the price to become the person who initiates that?

You have to start by humbly admitting that your church has a culture that does not produce such people if it doesn’t. Maybe it produces hard-working people. Maybe it produces pretty obedient people. Or maybe it produces biblically literate people who are friendly and generous. I have been in many churches that have such people but have found fewer churches which produce disciples who have been changed deep down in their soul. Whose journey toward intimacy with God has given them unshakable hope even though they know they are not whole yet. Who know they are safe in His love for them. Who are changing the world around themselves by living as light in the dark, as salt.

Perhaps you describe your church as exciting and full of enthusiastic people. I sat in a new church that was popping out of its sanctuary with new growth. The place was electric with excitement. But when I checked in with the pastor later that week, I saw the underside of the congregation. Quizzing the pastor, I realized that excitement was a substitute for spiritual life. From experience, I knew that the excitement would pass just like that new car smell. When it does, people’s lack of knowing how to pursue God in intimacy would create a backlog of counseling for the pastoral staff. It always happens.

It’s possible you have never thought of this before because how you ‘do church’ feels so natural. You have never understood why people are not being deeply changed. Do you really want to see deep change in the people you do church with? Do you want to see them being used to change the surrounding world? Then be willing to unlearn what you think you know about transformation. Learn the truth that helps people pursue real spiritual transformation. Let me show you what it means to address the under-the-surface discipling issue that can allow you to build deep into the lives of the disciples you make.

More next week….

-Steve Smith

A book about this subject: Build Deep: Developing a Transformational Culture in Your Church

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Righteousness by Faith & the Cultural War

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Righteousness by Faith #23: Righteousness by Faith & the Cultural War

For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.” Romans 1:17

During my lifetime the pendulum of righteous living within our culture has swung drastically. And in that swing, it shows the difficulty of Christians actually being righteous within our culture.

Many believers lament the changing mores taking place. People who were ashamed of their lifestyles now parade and protest for their version of normal life to be, well . . . normal. And it seems that a growing chorus of opponents is marginalizing our version of influence over society.

But wait! When you take a walk through American history and the righteousness of the church, you get a mixed bag. I am not talking about ancient history. Some of the worst offenses in human compassion during the Civil Rights movement were from people in the church—even when their opponents were, often enough—other believers of a different skin hue. Not just in the South, either. In the name of Jesus, certain military operations were considered ‘righteous.’ Convoluted ideas about morality were advanced in an effort to keep God blessing America.

Today there is talk about war on Christianity. What this seems to mean is that people want to remove or redesign the public arena so that Christian thought no longer dominates our society. But this battle offers us an opportunity to rethink living out a righteousness by faith.

Paul sent one of his most powerful letters to the church in Rome. Now the first century Roman Empire hardly qualifies as a bastion of Christian faith. He starts by reminding his readers that God is the source of all righteousness—that the gospel reveals this aspect of God. I wrote about this truth in the first several blogs in this series. But Paul has a deeper purpose in mind as he pens this letter. He is bringing clarity to a problem that has dogged the early church for much of its brief history.

What do you do with the righteousness problem brought about by including the Gentiles as full members of the church? This was a hot issue for several reasons. They were a different ethnic group from the first believers, who were Jewish. They understood none of the niceties of the righteous requirements of the Law. They brought differing versions of righteous living to the table. They did not understand about clean and unclean foods and definitely had a suspicious former relationship with idols.

There were other reasons for this tension, but the point that Paul makes at the beginning of his letter comes from Habakkuk. “The righteous will live by faith.” Let me unpack that powerful verse.

When you seek to define how to live righteously in an ever changing world, we know that God is wholly righteousness. Unfortunately, we also live after the Fall, which means even we who are believers tend to use God to justify our unholy version of righteousness. We cannot be sure that the way of life we promote is not also part of the problem. The Jewish believers thought their version was the true one. The Gentiles couldn’t get some of the rules that their older siblings in the faith were trying to impose on them. Pride and control were getting in the way of being a life-giving community.

Who was right? Who was wrong? This verse cut right through the questions. You will live by faith. God’s way is not always so black and white that human morality can capture it in an all-encompassing document. But it is realized through an ever-increasing relationship.

By faith we humbly admit that God’s ways are not our ways; God’s thoughts are not our thoughts. By faith, we submit to midcourse corrections as we realize that the standards we hold are far from the character of God. By faith, we realize we cannot get life in community right without knowing God better.

I find this truth devastating at times. My own personal history has shown me that I was living by moral rules that prevented me from questioning my culture. I need to continually learn how to live out righteousness by faith through pursuing intimacy with God. It is God who is in the process of conforming me to the likeness of Christ instead of confirming me in my version of Christianity. Especially one that has the reek of self-righteousness as a substitute for a righteousness by faith.

More to come…

-Steve Smith

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Why Restoration Matters

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Restoration in a Transformational Community 24: Why Restoration Matters

I have had a hand in a number of people’s stories. A classmate restored to his wife and kids spent a decade as a hospital orderly post spiritual crisis. One day, the hospital’s administer invited him to his office and asked him to become the chaplain to the patients, noting his voluntary spiritual care for them made him an easy choice.

Another spent a year with a team exploring why her life choices had led to divorce, as well as other missteps along the way. She later initiated a spiritual transformational culture in a church, training people how to pursue intimacy with God so they would be healed from hurt in their heart and delivered from deadly sin choices.

Then there was the guy who did all he could to blow up his life and church by his destructive choices. Today he has a solid marriage, respect from people whose lives he is investing in. He has taken on ministry to one of the rough areas in town, knowing that he has something to offer from his own journey back.

Why restoration matters in the transformational church is that, while there may be runaways, we should never believe there are throwaways. A restoration process is the norm, not the exception, because one person is just as important to Jesus as the ninety-nine. Restoration is not just a rescue; it is about seeing someone who was caught in sin living whole and holy again—returned to his or her calling of being a witness of the grace and mercy of God.

As you can see from the above rest-of-the-stories, restoration has an impact that goes beyond the process. The team that worked with one person spent over eighteen months meeting regularly with him. We walked with him as he pursued renewal in his marriage, as he sought to be reconciled with his former employers and as he took temporary work in another area to pay bills (he had us write a letter to the pastor of the church he attended to let that pastor know of the process). We saw a man changed from the inside by the power of the Spirit. Our congregation was spiritually charged by the changes they saw happening in him. But just as important, he was in a place of being used by God again in the lives of others.

Restoration is at the heart of the gospel. Restoration is part of the message a healthy church announces into the community it is seeking to sow the gospel—that no matter how badly someone messes up, he or she is still family and we are ready to guide that person back to a healthy walk with God among us. Remember, Peter would not have been there on the day of Pentecost if this was not true.

Steve Smith

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6 Landmines on the Restoration Battlefield

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Restoration in a Transformational Community 23: 6 Landmines on the Restoration Battlefield

When you least expect it on the battlefield, a landmine can blow up in your face. It can cost you your life or your limbs. In the restoration process, you want to know what the landmines look like and where they are most likely to be buried. Here are six that I have seen over years of working with people caught in sin.

Failure to get to the root of why the sin happened. This is the number one reason restoration processes fail to help the person caught in sin. Therefore, do not accept the surface issues as the full truth. Most sin issues are rooted in unresolved issues and choices within the person. If these are not discovered, the person is in danger of repeating the sin or falling into another after the restoration process is completed.

Letting the person in restoration control the process.  Some people have strong personalities and seek to set goals and make demands of those leading the restoration process. If the team finds itself not strong enough to address this problem, ask for outside intervention to keep the person from derailing his or her restoration process. This includes calling the person to repentance if he or she does an ‘end run’ around the team.

Spiritual warfare. Always be aware that Satan lies to us all the time. He will use both the person’s sin and our compassion to frustrate the work of God in the process if he can. Knowing this, do not neglect prayer as a potent weapon in this process and watch out for his schemes to draw the person back into sin.

Anger. Be ready for anger, because all processes involve the person caught in sin being angry, either at the team or the church. Sometimes the family of the person becomes angry on his or her behalf. Do not quit the process just because anger arises. Persevere through the anger, and help the person to focus it on what is wrong, rather than on people seeking to help him or her.

Messiness. All restoration processes are messy and seldom follow a straight line to the end. Be at peace when things go awry—ask God to keep you from giving into negative emotions and quitting too soon. Do be willing to admit mistakes in the process without letting them become the problem.

Waiting too long to take next steps out of fear of other’s anger. Sometimes you can see that God is truly at work in convicting and drawing the person caught in sin more quickly than anyone would have expected. His or her heart is turned, but others who have been affected by the sin or maybe the church family who were hit by the sin’s revelation may not be ready. They might be angry that the person is not ‘suffering’ enough for his or her choices. Do not allow your fear of ‘what-will-people-say’ keep you from going forward with the person. Be ready to move forward as God shows you because He is the one who reigns over this process.

Steve Smith

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What If Someone Walks Away from Restoration?

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Restoration in a Transformational Community 22: What if someone walks away from restoration?

Nothing is as disappointing for a restoration team as someone walking away. It has happened several times to teams I initiated. One person abandoned the process several months in when the team began to look deeper under the surface. She felt she was ready to step back into ministry. They saw she had unresolved pride issues that would reemerge and claim her again. After explaining this to her, instead of a break through, they had a break away. She never returned.

Why do people walk away? To be honest, the reason isn’t always the person’s unrepentant heart. Sometimes the reason is an overbearing team full of people who are controlling and lacking in transparency as well as compassion. Or they are misguided in what help they are trying to give placing more faith in rules of conduct than the work of the Spirit. Or maybe they forgot to make sure the person was stable in their life, leaving them in a muddle of no work, no place to live, and feeling friendless. I know it is hard to assess yourself as a team on these matters when you are in the middle of seeking to restore someone caught in sin. But if someone does walk away, be humble enough to ask for an honest assessment from a wise person who was not on the team to see what you can learn about yourselves.

Yet people do choose not to get well. They resent the probing into private areas which led them to be caught in sin. Some want to control the restoration process out of their pride. Others choose not to pursue God in intimacy because they prefer to believe the lies of the enemy. They feel the draw of the pleasure of the sin from which you are trying to restore them and walk away because they cannot fathom that knowing God would bring them a better joy. Or perhaps they are not a true believer. This last exposes a painful truth we must face. Sometimes we are working with a Jekyll and Hyde person of non-faith. Nothing goes home to their heart because they have no faith, no Spirit within them to convict them of sin.

None of us knows the heart of another and I am cautious about assigning inward motivations to people who have professed Jesus as Lord in the past. But whatever the reason they say NO to the question of spiritual restoration, you have to let the person go. You can pray for them—grieve over them—but do not chase them. Their choice to walk away has put them in the way of God’s justice. He will deal with them because He is their Father.

Here is one more thing that may be hard to bear. Be prepared to hear that another pastor or church has embraced him or her. This happens all the time due to the fragmented nature of the American church, where people easily get away with lying about other churches. I have called pastors when I hear of someone washing up in their congregation, but I have found that they have readily believed the unrepentant person over me. This, too, is a matter for God, who reigns over His church.

Steve Smith

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First We Need Stability

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Restoration in a Transformational Community 18: First We Need Stability

The restoration process has four phases through which your team is to guide the person. There is no timetable for these phases. As you work with the person, you will be able to sense when you are moving from one phase to the next. Sometimes you may find yourselves working in more than one phase simultaneously. Do not be alarmed. The restoration process does not always follow a straight line.

The first phase in the restoration process is stability. This is the first guidance task of the team. It is during this phase that the person must make numerous decisions about his or her life—whether the sin issue affects the church, job, marriage, living arrangements, etc. A person will hesitate to move forward if he or she feels unsafe, so focus on bringing the person to a level of stability in life.

Do they need a job? Housing? A lawyer? Are they under court order to stay away from family? Have they initiated actions that will bring them or others grief? Those engaged in restoring the person must address whatever issues that distract him or her now so that attention can be drawn to the sin itself. This phase may be shorter for the person who has resources and maybe non-existent for the one whose sin has not caused him or her the least amount of discomfort—yet.

Do you know why your involvement in this phase matters? It is your statement of deep commitment to stand with a person at the worst moments of his or her life. To accept harsh words from people who are unhappy that anyone cares to help this ‘jerk!’ To identify with the person who has betrayed others, especially God and say he or she is still family. Perhaps to be lumped together with the person in the misdeed. I have experienced all of these responses.

Sin causes so much hurt in others. Do not go into this phase unaware. But be firm in your guidance. Do not let the person seek to lessen the blow by running away or giving up. Give direct advice when asked, but do not take over making choices that the person alone must determine. It is a delicate part of the process, but guiding the person caught in sin towards stability will prepare for the next phase, which is repentance and confession.

Steve Smith

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Where Do We Start?

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Restoration in a Transformational Community 17: Where Do We Start?

So how do you actually do restoration? It kicks into gear when the person caught in sin starts meeting with the team. Your team is not there to be the primary counselors for the person, but to be with the person throughout the time he or she is being restored and to guide him or her in spiritual restoration. Their insight will help determine when that person is ready for whatever is the next step. This team will pray and share with the person out of their own journey with God. They should be guided by humility, aware of their own struggle with sin.

They will meet weekly at the start of the process with the person, as long as the person is submitting to their ministry to him or her. As progress is made—which should be measured by people both on the team and in the leadership of the church family—the meetings can be reduced over time. If the person tries to run away from the process, your team must be ready to pursue him or her and bring the person back into the process (this takes humility and boldness, a powerful combination). It is up to the church’s leadership to determine when pursuit is no longer possible.

The team will hold the person accountable to fulfill all that he or she has been asked to do, whether it is to go to a counselor, confess sin before the church family, read and reflect on spiritual material, make restitution or any other requirement made to help restore him or her in their walk with God and to the church family. But their primary work is to seek to guide this person back into a deeper spiritual walk with God. This will call for transparency on your team’s part about their walk as well. Your team should work through spiritual transformation materials and read and discuss those together as they meet.

You have to be willing to ask hard questions when questionable behavior arises. You cannot let a false version of love for this person interfere with their being direct in challenging wrong actions or decisions. I once worked with a believer who had had an affair with another man’s wife. He had submitted himself to the restoration process and was in the early stages of restoration. Out of the blue he had sent a romantic card to the woman. Hearing from her husband, I took this information to our team and we confronted him. He got angry at us, but we loved him too much to let it pass. That became the turning point for him to pursue God for healing and deliverance.

Steve Smith

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