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Knowledge to Revelation to Transformation

Knowledge to Revelation to Transformation

Why aren’t more churches producing the kind of disciples who stand out in a crowd?  Why aren’t more children in our youth ministries changing the culture more than the culture is changing them?  Why aren’t more churchgoers shaped into parents who raise children that crave, grasp, and reflect God’s infinite love?

The answer to those questions lies in the fact that churches aren’t getting enough members through the three-step process of Knowledge, Revelation, and Transformation.  It is our Father through the Holy Spirit who accomplishes those outcomes in our lives, but churches are commissioned for the critical work of helping people navigate that process.  Most churches are not intentional about leading congregations through each of the three steps, likely discounting revelations still occur as conspicuously as they did in the Bible.  Yet all three are necessary.  We can’t circumvent recognition of God’s movement in our circumstances since that was always part of the biblical transformation process, but many Christians miss and dismiss His interventions.

The Father’s Agape love for His children is not something that we can just fathom in concept.  The only way to internalize it, such that we’re transformed by it, is to experience it first-hand.  We must be prepared to receive and act on revelations for God’s glory, not our own.  As J.I. Packer in his classic book Knowing God wrote, “Wisdom is divinely wrought in those, and those only, who apply themselves to God’s revelation.”

Today, most churchgoers stop at conversion without reaching the point of surrender because they never encountered God’s love in earth-shattering, eye-opening ways.  Some have attended and served at church for decades but are just going through the motions. Their “faithfulness” is driven by a sense of duty, not a heart filled with love through the Holy Spirit.  As a result, they settle for lesser forms of conditional “love” that invite accusations of hypocrisy when heart, words, and actions only seem to align well at church, not in the public arena.  However, it’s easy to understand how those with superficial knowledge (about God) yet have never seen God’s Kingdom supernaturally brought to earth (through revelations) would struggle with an otherworldly concept like transformation through the Holy Spirit.

Knowledge Leading to Revelation

My heart as a child to know God was no accident.  I was seeking the love of a heavenly Father.  Despite the challenges that precipitated my search for a loving parent, I consider my childhood a gift from God.  I met Jesus in high school, and through Him found the meaning and purpose I lacked growing up.  I was anxious to learn (and experience) all I could about my newfound faith.  That strong biblical foundation would later serve as the underpinning for the remarkable revelations of God’s love that were to come.

Churches can nurture our desire to know God or squelch it before knowledge becomes revelation (or transformation).  The rise of the “Dones” in America is an epidemic.  Many of those “done” with church consider God guilty by association, implicating Him for what church leaders or fellow members did wrong.

What makes a church a catalyst for, not an impediment to, graduating members from intellectual understanding (knowing about God) to radical transformation (knowing our Father)?  The following are a few characteristics of churches that foster advancement through the three-step process we see in the lives of all the heroes of faith in Scripture:

  • Eradicates consumerism, commissioning churchgoers as Kingdom employees to pursue the Church’s intended “customer” as defined by Jesus’ mission statement
  • Intentional about making world-changing disciples, not sedentary “pew potatoes”
  • Refuses to subscribe to contemporary church growth principles, like attracting and retaining rather than equipping and deploying into neighborhoods and workplaces
  • Realizes the Lord unveils the depth and breadth of His unconditional love primarily between Sundays, when the real work of “church” takes place
  • Doesn’t make youth group more entertaining to attract and oblige parents worried about children becoming missionaries rather than doctors or lawyers
  • Intensely and personally disciples all those it comes in contact with, so they become parents who pass along the knowledge of God’s love to their children
  • Bridges the knowledge gap between pastors and members rather than creating dependency that breeds loyalty (at the expense of revelation and transformation)
  • Not concerned about members leaving if church leaders push too hard for surrender (i.e. by emphasizing accountability, holiness, and repentance)
  • Won’t compromise teachings regarding “blessings”, “favor”, or God’s love as our Father (which can include discipline) to appease consumers
  • Assesses whether members bear the fruits of the Spirit, choose the road less traveled, take steps of faith without a second thought, and show uncommon levels of mercy

Any of those steps will move churchgoers closer to transitioning from head knowledge to experiential revelations, which set the stage for irreversible life change.

Revelation Leading to Transformation

Our knowledge of Scripture and the state of our hearts determine our readiness to receive, perceive and interpret the Holy Spirit’s activity in our lives.  It takes wisdom through education and observation to understand the revealed love of God and respond in kind.  But since the supernatural is God’s purview, it’s fair to ask whether churches and pastors can really play a role in facilitating the occurrence of revelations in someone’s life.  If not, then the paradox is how will churchgoers reach transformation if nearly every story of radical faith in the Bible involves revelations that proved God’s love to them beyond any shadow of a doubt?  All pastors seek transformation of their congregations and communities, so if Scripture is a guide, churches must take part in pushing members past step 1 to step 2 in the process – otherwise few will reach step 3.

Revelations of God’s grace and love occur as we take each step of faith – first small and then larger as our confidence grows that the Lord will catch us if we fall.  If we’re too fearful to take the next step, then we miss out on remarkable revelations of God’s provision that we likely would have seen.  We must step out over the ledge, urged forward into the rescuing arms of a loving Father by a disciple-making church who knows God will show up in those moments.  Churches whose primary metrics are attendance and revenues, quickly pull new converts into the safety of internal programs and ministries rather than pushing them forward into risky ventures (like evangelizing while they’re still on fire for their newfound faith).

Church assimilation or indoctrination can slowly extinguish the enthusiasm of new believers.  If they knew enough to commit their lives to Jesus, then they’re certainly qualified to tell somebody else about Him.  We’re most excited to share and serve (the poor and lost) when we first accept Christ as Savior.  But we risk losing our first love when churches rope us into their process (classes, studies, “chores”) rather than God’s process (knowledge, revelation, transformation).  Churchdom often stifles and suppresses.  Kingdom always equips and empowers.  Revelations do far more than any church engagement strategies to show us the love of God.  New believers are not far removed from regularly choosing fear over faith before coming to Christ.  They desperately need early opportunities to elect faith over fear to overcome any old habits or lingering doubts.  Each time they dip their toe in the water and then muster the gumption to wade in up to their knees, doubts dissipate as God reassures them that He will not leave or forsake them.

Taking a class at church or serving as a greeter is not the kind of high-risk forays into the river rapids of faith that lend themselves to dramatic revelations of God’s love.  Yes, providing knowledge to Christ-followers is the Church’s responsibility, but so is the segue to applying that knowledge Monday through Saturday in shark-infested waters.  The longer Christians delay in confronting fears, praying for God to reveal whatever He has in mind for them, and then follow the Lord’s will regardless of the cost, the less likely they will be to hear from the Lord in the future or to take steps of faith when He does speak.  Each decision not to take chances deprives Christians of additional revelations.  Think of all the revelations we likely miss by not being part of a disciple-making church.  What if we are never transformed but only live out our faith at church, with family, or with Christian friends?  Then we would be like most churchgoers today.

The fact is it doesn’t take much knowledge to start receiving revelations.  When God decides to reveal Himself to us, He’s looking at (and fully aware of) the sincerity of our hearts to know and follow Jesus.  He’s most likely not choosing to intervene based on how much wisdom about Him that we’ve accumulated.  Our relationship with the Lord is what matters to God.  If we seek a stronger relationship, more intimacy, and a greater understanding of His love, then the Lord will show up.  He will do His part to make Himself known even if we’re not certain at first what the revelations mean – or whether they were actually from Him.  In fact, part of the reason we don’t need much biblical knowledge before God starts revealing Himself is because the revelations themselves give us additional insights into the Lord and His character.  Therefore, churches shouldn’t forego or bottleneck the Bible’s three step transformation process by trying to ensure attenders are well educated and engaged in church activities before pushing them into deeper, experiential waters.

Yes, our relationships with Jesus are personal, but churches should be nosy.  It’s ok for pastors and staff to ask if we’re devoting enough time and energy to building our rapport with Christ.  How can we expect God to feel welcomed to intervene in our affairs if we’re not abiding in Him?  The Lord invests in His walk with us as we invest in our walk with Him.  It’s also ok for churches to take our temperatures on whether we’re resting in the Lord’s redemption or wrestling control of our lives away from God on a daily basis.  It’s ok for disciple-makers and mentors within our church to hold us accountable for sin and disobedience if we’re failing to live out the Great Commandment to love God and our neighbors.  It’s ok for our church family to point out instances where we may be hesitating to take steps of faith, not following where God is leading.  Loving rebukes may open the door to revelations if they lead us to surrender and to trust God implicitly.  Finally, it’s ok for church leaders to pry into our personal lives to ask whether we’re sensing moves of the Holy Spirit.  Otherwise, we may miss out on important ways in which God is speaking to us and revealing His will.

However, pushing members toward next steps in their faith journey isn’t consistent with church growth principles.  It’s conducive to disciple building but not to church building in our consumeristic society.  The Knowledge, Revelation, and Transformation process grows the Kingdom but could shrink a church due to uncomfortable levels of dedication and sacrifice required.  The priority and mission for Christians should always be the Church (universal, capital “C”) over a church (individual churches, small “c”).  Churches and Christians alike should lay aside selfish interests for the sake of the Kingdom.  The transition from knowledge about God’s love (which changes minds) to revelations of His love (which changes hearts) directly benefits the universal Church.  But any church that tries to facilitate that transition by urging its congregation to take risky steps of faith could lose lukewarm attenders.  Yet that’s a chance worth taking – otherwise transformations (through God’s love) will not occur, and the Kingdom will ultimately suffer.

It’s Your Turn…

Is your church filled with fearless disciple makers inspired by God’s amazing interventions, or regular attenders reluctant to take next steps, content to know about the Lord but missing the chance to truly know Him?

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