‘Some ramblings’ from Colin Baker at Grays Baptist Church
Transfer and Transform are two different words… don’t even sound the same do they… simples. Only problem is with the depth and richness of our South Essex parlance, the word ‘transfer’ has slipped subtly into the word transformation, causing it to become ‘transfermation’ by mistake and yet everyone really knows what we mean! Of course we mean transformation, the process of something changing from one shape, situation or even destiny into a different shape, set of circumstances with a new future.
Call it laziness or whatever, but we in the church may also have become that lazy. Putting aside the wonderful ministry to which the Lord has called us. Even celebrating the successes of seeing wonderful, vibrant followers of Jesus joining our fellowship. We can become excited and fooled into thinking, that because our worship gatherings are swelling with new members who have moved into the area and joined with us, that we must be doing something right and that God is blessing us.
Don’t get me wrong, God is blessing the church of Thurrock, but that blessing does come with a purpose. Seriously, why would God be excited at seeing your fellowship just swell with Christians from somewhere else – that is simply TRANSFERMATION. We are called as followers of Jesus to bring TRANSFORMATION. It isn’t easy to find scriptures that talk about the Lord or even his angels being excited about someone leaving one church to join another. However, imagine the excitement when just 1 person who previously didn’t have a relationship with the Lord coming to faith. Now, scripture tells us that there is something akin to a party. That’s what I am talking about. A new person, a new life and a new future.
Let’s talk more generally about the church of Thurrock and imagine how things might be if we only had TRANSFERMATION. I wont be long because the longer we talk about it, the more bored I become. Okay, I would concede that the church has needed a shot in the arm to encourage and develop ministries, and if that is what those Christians new to the area are bringing, then I celebrate it. I have my suspicions though? If church buildings are being filled to the brim with more people who just want to come and participate in worship, sample a sermon, get their kids churched, meet a few friends and that’s it for another week – then even the best definition of TRANSFERMATION would not be too tasty. The best I could suggest as a definition for TRANSFERMATION would be that the Lord has sent missionary people into the church of Thurrock to serve, equip and encourage current believers in the mission of Jesus in our communities. That would mean being actively involved in the prayer, worship and ministry life of the church and that includes taking the heart of the gospel, through social action, out into the public space. Anything less that the best definition of TRANSFERMATION would amount to pew fodder, seat warmers or at the very worst… luke-warm Christianity.
TRANSFORMATION, however, is a lot harder to describe because it is so fluid and dynamic. Rather like a fast flowing river that is constantly being refreshed with fresh water yet always building up to become a vast body of water which carries with it great potential energy as well as bringing with it a whole new life. Fast flowing rivers don’t become stagnated, it is only where the water hits resistance such as a rock that the waters can be held up and may become diverted into a pool which doesn’t get refreshed very often. I want to suggest to us all that a vital part of the life of a fellowship must be to see lives transformed. Obviously TRANSFORMATION is something that is always happening to those who are following Jesus, it is simply a consequence of our being transformed from one degree of glory to another. Surely though, the most dramatic of TRANSFORMATIONS is where for someone the lights of faith are switched on for the first time in their lives.
I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent. Luke 15:7 It is also true for the individual whose life is changed, the principle that the “recovery” of an object in danger of being lost, affords much more intense joy than the quiet “possession” of many that are safe (Barnes’ notes on the Bible).
Perhaps for me now, it is a reflection on the years of ministry where seeing the difference between those ‘new to faith’ and those ‘new to the church’ is all the more marked. Of course I would welcome the visitor (I absolutely love meeting people), but how much more exciting is it when we are having those all important conversations with those who are discovering what it means to become a follower of Jesus. Now, the question for all of us is: are you ready to welcome the visitor and to love the newcomer into faith?
Richest blessings in Christ,
pastor, Grays Baptist Church
chair, Transformation Thurrock