The gospel itself–Jesus’ death and resurrection–is an overwhelmingly powerful story of transformation. When all hope seems lost, we see light. Something difficult becomes something beautiful. The Red Sea rolls back to reveal dry land. The new heavens and the new earth arise from the ashes of the old. That’s the story of the gospel. As a senior pastor, where are you currently seeing that kind of change? Even the kernels of such change can provide much-needed hope for your people.
If you yourself have been transformed by the grace of God, you can then go on to help others experience that same powerful change. Our God is a God who loves us too much to let us remain as we are. He has so much for us to learn, grow, experience, and do. Senior pastors are uniquely positioned to lead and guide others toward the joy and challenge that is spiritual transformation.
Fostering Spiritual Transformation
For the purpose of the Senior Pastor Profile, Fostering Spiritual Transformation means engaging and equipping others to deepen their walk with Jesus.
Jesus promises significant transformation to those who place their trust in him:
Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life. John 5:24
The very rite of baptism at conversion provides an image of cleansing, renewal, and rebirth, as it symbolizes crossing over from death to life. John the Baptist clarified: “I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me comes one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire” (Matthew 3:11). That is the power source of the change: God himself. If we are in him, we become a new creation. As the Apostle Paul wrote, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” (2 Corinthians 5:17)
The Christian faith is a continual retelling of a story of transformation, restoration, and new creation. “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Romans 12:2)
One important element to remember is that we, as mere humans, cannot generate spiritual formation in others. We cannot make it happen. Only God has the power to bring about spiritual transformation. We, however, can engage in behaviors that foster and promote it in others.
7 Habits that Demonstrate Fostering Spiritual Transformation
What does it look like for someone to foster spiritual transformation? Although it’s a bit different for everyone, here are some of the features held in common:
1. Cultivates prayer, worship, and listening to the Holy Spirit
If a senior pastor does not set an example of cultivating prayer and worship and listening to the Holy Spirit, how will the congregation learn? They need to see this example set and modeled and prioritized for all. That is how they will know what the church is called to be and do.
2. Creates relational environments for life change
Within every large group, smaller pockets of community need to be available for real-life interpersonal change. People need those close relationships to grow and change, sometimes fail, and then get back on their feet. Without it, each person will be ultimately alone and likely pretending to be somewhere they aren’t. How much better to be in an honest relational environment?
3. Delivers transformational messages
Transformation is difficult. That’s why we all need reminding… regular reminding. Preach about the coming Kingdom, the new heaven and the new earth, the small glimpses and tastes of that we experience here and now, and how we can move toward all that God has for us. Without a message of hope for change, the people wander and ultimately perish.
4. Helps people apply biblical principles in contemporary contexts
The Bible was written a long time ago, and not everyone has been to seminary and able to interpret all of the context. Yet everyone who believes does have the Holy Spirit within them to help them understand the word of God. As a senior pastor, provide guardrails and guidance for how to apply the Bible and its principles to everyday life. Point them to the essentials and how to live those out. Without that, people tend to become focused on the non-essentials and the divisive.
5. Shares personal experiences of spiritual growth
If the senior pastor isn’t growing, others won’t either. And if the senior pastor isn’t sharing about that growth–including the times when he or she doesn’t look perfect–others won’t open up either. If we are to be humans on a journey of growth where the path isn’t always straight, we need to hear the stories of others who have gone before us… and that includes from our senior leaders.
6. Facilitates growth that includes both inward and outward components
The transformative growth that we model isn’t just words and it isn’t just behaviors–it’s an entire holistic experience of change. Transformation includes emotions, ideas, joy, memories, actions, words, and initiatives that reach out into the world. It starts on the inside, but if it’s real, it works its way outward to ways the whole world can see.
7. Inspires people to godly action
We can help people not only learn the scriptures, but live them out in ways that promote godly action and real world impact. Setting the tone for change—and indeed, the expectation of change—is one of the essential elements of a senior pastor’s role. This is a faith based in resurrection, new life, and the world to come… and we all have a part to play in that coming Kingdom.
How well are you fostering spiritual transformation?
If you would like to assess yourself in this area, take some time to reflect on the following questions. Write out your answers for more complete processing, or talk them through with someone if you’re more of a verbal processor.
- How have you facilitated prayer, worship, and listening to the Holy Spirit in your community?
- What relational environments for life change have you created?
- To what degree does your preaching result in transformation?
- How do you help people apply biblical principles in their contemporary contexts?
- When have you shared personal experiences of spiritual growth?
- How have you facilitated spiritual growth that includes both inward and outward components?
- How have you inspired people to godly action?
Fostering Spiritual transformation is 1 of 12 qualities that have been proven to be essential to successful and healthy senior church leadership. To learn more, read The BEST qualities in a Senior Pastor. Next week, look out for another crucial quality for senior pastors.
Feeling the weight of fostering transformation on your own? Grab a few good folks and get them on board by walking with them through The Guide for Discipling‘s series on Community Transformation. Outward focus tends to start a softening work in people’s hearts. Once you see that work begin move on to the series on Personal Transformation. Bringing others on the journey will lessen your load and expand your influence. The studies have been adapted for the Vineyard, Lutheran, and Episcopalian denominations. You can find the full set of guides HERE.
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