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Transformation is urged or promised wherever we turn these days—transformation of the church, of the culture, and of the world. But the literature of transformation—abundant in print and on the Web—is mostly evidence that American evangelicalism is being paganized.

One example came through our offices recently. The book, published by a leading evangelical house, comes with endorsements from no fewer than nine nationally recognized evangelical leaders. It is "about churches that have the courage to embrace change and to confront adaptive issues head on," called "transforming churches." The book is "firmly rooted in solid research" and introduces readers to the "Healthy Church Index," which tells them about "the five key indicators of church health."

The book is noticeably deficient in Scripture, especially the New Testament, as if the divinely inspired writings are not something we should be rooted in when we think about transformation.

And the five key indicators? (1) Church members should be "experiencing real life change." (2) The church should have "a clear sense of mission" and a "compelling vision." (3) The church must "embrace change" to fulfill its mission. (4) Leaders should be "effectively … mentoring and mobilizing" members for ministry. (5) The church should be "effective in transforming" the local area.

Such vague, trendy organization-speak is not unbiblical: a lot of the advice is sound, as far as it goes. But it is sub-biblical. The book—like so many others in its genre—is rooted more in modern social psychology than in the Bible's spiritual realities: "Christ in you, the hope of glory" (Col. 1:27).

Transformation is, in fact, a word used sparingly in the New Testament—only three ...

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In the Magazine

June 2007

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