Out of the Box [Postures of Transformation]

In times of transition… it is unclear where you are headed, but it also clear you cannot go back to where you have been. Transitions are times in-between. What is clear about a time of transition is that God first does a deeper work in those who believe, in order to do a wider work in those who do not.

Take for example John 20 and Peter.

When confronted by Jesus with three questions that all seemed the same, yet were different… the context of that challenge was Peter and the boys going fishing (John 21:1-3) the night before. Today’s pulpits have a done a good job declining the Greek words for “love” in verses 15-17, but my fear is that we have gotten the words right, yet may be close to missing the point.

“Peter, do you love me?”

In the context of that moment… and in the life of that leader… this question struck to a nerve in Peter and the issue of trust. Would Peter go back to what he knew and that which he could control, or would he move into the unknown? Fishing was the world he knew… life beyond Christ on earth… and the new thing that was about to happen… he did not know.

Peter… do you love me… Peter do you trust me.

It’s out of the box. We are in a transition. The question now in front of us is similar. Will we go back to what was and what we have known in terms of how we did church and ministry? Or will we go on from here and into that which is new and different… a new work of God. New forms… new ways… new expressions… all up ahead, unless we go back. There is such a strong pull to return, even when we acknowledge that what has been is broken and failing.

We are in route to a new place, and the Good Shepherd is leading. Good Shepherds take their sheep to new pastures. They do not allow them to starve and die of thirst. Good shepherds care for the sheep Good Shepherds are leaders. They do what’s required for their sheep to make it to the new pasture. Jesus told us that his sheep hear his voice and follow him. (John 10)

God is not the source of the death and pain that so many have experienced. But what is clear from history, and of little doubt today, God uses moments like these to shape His people. He uses people… events and circumstances. These are moments when the transformation is launched and the metamorphosis into the new begins. Personal renewal precedes and helps to catalyze corporate change.

Here are FIVE POSTURES that seed and produce transformation. Each fits the moment we find ourselves in. They are ways God begins to first work in His people in such a time as this:

  1. Stripping – This often involves many things (money, security, position, health, etc.) A core focus is this part of God’s transforming process is work tied to our “identities.” The in-between means a loss of influence. Who we once saw ourselves to seem to evaporate. In transitions, we also lose “title,” “position,” “prestige.” The playing field is leveled. We can become overwhelmed by the loss of security and certainty. We are stripped down to us and God and forced to re-examine questions we thought were answered. Questions related to trust and dependency. Stripping is painful. We often lament the loss; the death we experience what was. The transformation has begun.
  2. Questioning – The tearing down often launches a wrestling and anger/frustration with God. There is confusion. A search begins for the God we thought we knew? What got us to this place, and the things that have worked in the past often cease. Often it appears God is asking us to “not” return to what we know, have done, or accomplished? Questions surface related to: “Why?” What does all this mean for me? and “Where do I go next?” The early stages of a transition morph into lingering questions that remain unanswered. As time extends frustration builds. The transformation process now spins its web of pain around us as we feel the death and loss (the cross) of what once ways. Dying is hard. It is dark and offers no glimmer of light or hope..
  3. Deepening – A desperate intensity begins to grow as we remain isolated. We are caught in the almost, but not yet. This is a different kind of intensity unlike anything we experience in the busy and the normal we can intensity. A new, raw level of honesty and openness emerges. Weakness and brokenness begins to produce cracks in our clay pot. A deep cry groans from within as we are facing what it means to be lost and unable to move. This desperateness now shifts focus from answers to just being able to know God is there. Some run at this point. Uncomfortable with their nakedness before God. It all becomes too much, and too painful. All the easy answers are gone. It is what Jesus taught his disciples about being “poor in spirit.” (Matt. 5:3). The Transformation is often a “dark night”
  4. Surrendering – As God ushers us past all our answers and desire to be in control, we come to the end of ourselves. There is a release of that “which formerly brought security and comfort,” and a surrendering of all of who we are, and our future, to a greater sense of trust in all of who God is, and His faithfulness. The prize of surrender is revelation. Seeing and knowing is often a byproduct of “not having to see,” and “not having to know.” They are the result of being still and knowing He is God. (Psalm). Transformation begins to show the first signs of new life and hope, as what is old shatters its boundaries.
  5. Aligning – It is now a time of release and renewal as we realize again that which we have taken ownership of, and control, was never ours to possess. As we surrender and re-align with God and his purposes, we re-encounter Him and his deep love for us and our world. It dawns on us (again) that God himself is the prize, not the “answer(s) that we were seeking. We realize again… that our lives in Him “will always be about trust, and it always returns to the issue of love.” It’s not about our performance… but His love (Matt. 3:17), just like His response as Jesus came out of the water at His baptism. We are released from the prison He found ourselves in… and now ready for something that is about Him, not ourselves. We experience a renewed heart and new ways of seeing, hearing and joining Him as He does His work. There is now a quiet peace that has come, and as one considers the future there is hope, though answers remain off in the distance. We have been transformed.

Joseph was invited out of the prison to serve in ways not imagined… the wanderings in the wilderness by Moses and the people came to an end as they stood at the door of a promised land… Elijah’s death to self and sovereign perspective returned as he moved beyond the cave… Paul gained new spiritual eyes after the encounter in the road toward Damascus, and was sent to take the Gospel to the Gentiles. Each (and more) experienced a time of transition. Each were part of a country or people in transition. And each was transformed to be apart of a new move and work of God!

We end with verses that led up to the time of the cross:

2Jesus replied, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 2Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. 25 Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26 Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me. — John 12:24-27

What will be different?

Will we insist on clinging to the familiar and the normalcy we once found comfort in, or will we lean into this moment, and experience God in new ways? Will we align with him and his purposes or chose to go back?

What will life look like post-COVID-19?

It depends.


Terry coaches and mentors breakthrough for entrepreneurial, risk-taking leaders. He has authored several books on leadership and pioneered a variety of leadership development resources and processes with his organization, Leader Breakthru. Terry also serves as adjunct faculty at Fuller Theological Seminary.

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