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Guiding Principles


Emphasize passionate spirituality. "Step One: Love God with your whole heart, and your neighbor as yourself." Transformational ministry begins as we submit our whole lives to God as instruments of Christ's love (2 Cor. 8:5). Faith without works is dead (James 2:20); activity without devotion is hollow (1 Cor. 13:3). So integrate prayer, theological reflection, and worship at every step. Bottom line: transformation is God's work.

Cultivate relationships. Incarnational witness is not born in a committee but in loving, accountable fellowship. Beware of reducing people to mere objects or means to ministry ends. Relationships are not distractions from getting down to business; relationships are the business of the Kingdom. Building community ministry on a foundation of relationships strengthens trust in your intentions and openness to your message.

Have the posture of a servant. Avoid showing up in a community with the equivalent of a bull horn and a bulldozer: "Listen up, all you miserable people! We're here to save you from your sins and fix your problems!" Encourage an attitude of ministering with and alongside the community, rather than doing things for or to people. Treat those with needs as honored members of Jesus' family (Matt. 25:40). Dream boldly; serve humbly.

Build on your strengths.
Each church has the capacity to make a difference. Explore ways to build on your strengths: a core group with a heart for outreach ... experience with short–term mission trips... a terrific youth ministry. Find out what people are good at doing and love to do, then help them connect this with an opportunity to share God's love in word and deed.

Focus on paradigms as well as programs.
Programs answer the question, "What do we do?"; a paradigm answers, "Why are we here?" Transformational mission flows from an understanding of church as God’s ?sent? people, submitted to the reign of God in every aspect of life, committed to pursuing justice and righteousness in a bent world (Amos 5:24). While this will engender programs, the missional journey involves a congregation's lifestyle, identity, and purpose as well as its activities.

Balance study and action
. David Apple writes, "Christians need to know what they're doing. And Christians need to do what they know." Don't wait until you've researched everything there is to know about transformational ministry before jumping in. Like Nike says: Just do it! On the other hand, study and reflection must accompany action steps to develop an informed, theologically enriched vision. Like the Boy Scouts say: Be prepared!

Celebrate small steps. Significant congregational change takes 5 to 7 years. So don't panic if you get to the end of year two, and things still look about the same. Experienced practitioners Mark Gornik and Noel Castellanos advise, "Think big, but be patient and proceed at a teaspoon pace initially." Allow people to wet their big toe before expecting them to take a plunge. Set doable goals, celebrate achievements—then raise the bar. Acknowledge progress, while remembering that transformational mission is an ongoing adventure.

Accept ambiguity. A degree of confusion, conflict and chaos are normal by-products of transformation. We become too comfortable with the illusion that we are in control. Blessed are the poor in spirit (Matt. 5:3): Realizing our desperate need for God is a step toward the kingdom. Feeling overwhelmed? You're on track to a God-sized vision.

Take ownership of the process. Every church starts its ministry journey in a different place, and follows a different path. You are the experts on your unique congregation. So don't be afraid to adapt and innovate. The journey is not about becoming like some other model church. It's about helping your church to become its own ministry model!