For three decades I have been part of a group of pastors and ministry leaders praying together for our County. Initially our focus was on Christian unity and we met once a month. But as important as that need is, the Spirit would not let us contain Him and He expanded our hearts to include all the County, and all the people in the County and all the concerns of Jesus, the King of Washtenaw County. This is what I think of when I talk about ‘transformation’ — that our County would come to express the life of the Kingdom of God, not only in every church, but in every home, and business, and school, and neighborhood. That early group of praying pastors had our hearts ignited by seeing the videos about transformation taking place in cities and regions and even nations around the world. Most recently we have been encouraged by seeing what God is doing in the island nation of Fiji.
Is it too much to ask for? Are we being ‘unrealistic’ or ‘spiritually greedy’ or delusional? I don’t think so. Jesus taught us to pray ‘your kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven’. What else can this mean except a complete transformation of human life as we live it in the society of the United States to be the society of the King of Kings?
It is a huge prayer. It is hard to have faith for it to be answered. I find the Spirit encouraging me to remember that Jesus told me to pray this way, that the God to whom we pray is the maker of heaven and earth, and that people in places around the world are experiencing substantial, miraculous answers to this very prayer for their areas.
The Word of God was birthed out of a movement of renewal. The Lord gave us a vision for the renewal of the church. That in itself is a gigantic prayer—and one with a long way to go before it is fulfilled.
Over the last number of years, I believe the Lord has been inviting us as a community to refocus our attention on this particular County in which He has placed us. Without losing a concern for the renewal of the church, He has been giving us a heart to ask for the full transformation not only of the church, but also of the society of Washtenaw County.
This is why we have invested in Pastors Alliance for County Transformation, in Hosanna and the 40 Days of Prayer, in IMPACT and Operation Jumpstart. This is why the Lord has us planted in jail ministry and Hope Clinic, in Family Life Services and 12 step groups.
We are under no illusion that we are the only ones God is using to lead to transformation. He is the one who passionately longs to thoroughly save. He is organizing and empowering and bringing His Kingdom. I think that all we can do is follow a simple strategy: surrender ourselves, join with all those who have a heart for transformation, pray, and obey.
It doesn’t sound like a great strategy for organizational advancement, but I believe it is the way to Kingdom advancement in our midst.
Below you will find some thoughts on transformation by George Otis, Jr. who is the man behind the ‘Transformation’ videos. I think they help to give vision for what we are praying for.
In Matthew chapter six Jesus declared to his disciples, “This is how you should pray: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”
With these brief words we are reminded that God’s presence and purposes are to be the central focus of human society. They are to be realized and promoted not in some limited, religious manner, but as they are in heaven. In the words of the prophet Isaiah we are to “give (ourselves] no rest, and give him no rest till he establishes Jerusalem (or Chicago, Richmond, London or Singapore) and makes her the praise of the earth” (Isaiah 62:6-7). We are to “renew the ruined cities that have been devastated for generations” (Isaiah 61:4). If we do this, Ezekiel promises, “the name of the city from that time on will be: THE LORD IS THERE” (Ezekiel 48:35). While many Christians assume transforming revival is about growing congregations, it is actually a matter of renaming or re-identifying our cities!
Because transforming revival is a principle-based enterprise we can anticipate what God will respond to—namely humility, holiness, repentance, prayer, worship, compassion, faith (II Chronicles 7:14, Isaiah 58:9-12, Isaiah 62:6-7, Hosea 6:3). This allows us to prepare the way of the Lord with confidence: “If my people will..” then “I will heal their land” There is no presumption here, only obedience. He has removed all mystery from the discussion. We can also safely predict what the fruit of transformation will look like—because, again, God’s Word describes it for us (Psalm 144:14, Isaiah 1:26, Acts 11:20-24, Acts 19:18-20) and because we have seen it in microcosm in the lives of redeemed individuals. What we cannot be certain of are the means by which God will accomplish his purposes. These are as unique as snowflakes, fingerprints, and... cities.
The concept of ‘transformation’ has its most relevant and compelling application however as a descriptor of God’s broad spiritual handiwork. On a personal level He transforms our lives through the renewing of our minds (see Romans 12:2). On a family level He recasts our relational dysfunction into models of mutual respect and support. On a church level He replaces forms of godliness with genuine spiritual life and power. And this is only the beginning. In many parts of the world God’s transforming grace is now touching entire neighborhoods and villages. Indeed there are even reports of newly transformed cities, regions and nations.
Although rapid and substantial church growth is an important part of these corporate transformations, it does not fully define them. For the term transformation to be properly applied to a community, change must be evident not only in the lives of its inhabitants, but also in the fabric of its institutions. In the end, it is dramatic social, political, and even ecological renewal that sets these cases apart from common experience. For the term transformation to be properly applied to a community, change must be evident not only in the lives of its inhabitants, but also in the fabric of its institutions. In the end, it is dramatic social, political, and even ecological renewal that sets these cases apart from common experience. In short, a transformed community is:
A neighborhood, city or nation whose values and institutions have been overrun by the grace and presence of God. It is a place where divine fire has not merely been summoned, it has fallen. A society in which natural evolutionary change has been disrupted by invasive supernatural power and a culture that has been impacted comprehensively and undeniably by the Kingdom of God. A location where kingdom values are celebrated publicly and passed on to future generations!
George Otis, Jr.