“Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God–this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer 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 12:1-2, NIVSince I started attending World Changers projects back in 1993, I’ve learned a whole set of cliches and sayings that have a unique meaning and application to the setting of a project. The operations manual for a project is a three inch binder, with about 500 pages of information, most of which can be boiled down to a single saying, “Make it happen!” Sometimes, a lot of creativity needs to be employed in order to get the desired outcome.
I remember one particular day back in 1996, sitting on the roof of a house in Savannah, Georgia. Even at that early hour of the morning, the humidity and temperature were combining with the lack of breeze to make things sweltering hot. The night before, the pastor’s message had focused on the thought, “It’s not about you!”, using this same text from Romans 12 to encourage participants by reminding them that the hot, sweaty, hard work they were doing was an offering first to the Lord, and second on behalf of the homeowner for whom they were doing the work because of their need for it, and third, as a testimony to everyone who was able to see it, that the idea of working on someone else’s behalf for no pay or benefit was not the conventional thinking of the rest of the world. We were doing our best to keep everyone comfortable, hauling water up and down, using mists of water to help cool things down, and constantly saying, “Remember who this is for. It’s not about you!”
Some people might say it was coincidence, but when our lunch showed up, the lady from Immanuel Baptist Church who brought it to us had about twenty bags of ice in the bed of her truck that a grocery store manager had given to her when he found out where she was headed. And right after lunch, a storm front blowing in off the Atlantic caused a cool breeze to pick up as we went back up on the roof, while the rain miraculously held off until we had finished for the day, and had covered everything up. In the van on the way back to the school where we were camped out, I told the students I was confident that both of those things were blessings from God because we had been lifting each other up and encouraging one another. Setting aside personal comfort and preferences to serve God by serving others in his name produces blessings. Selfishness and inward focus do not.
“Brothers, I could not address you as spiritual but as worldly–mere infants in Christ. I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere men?” I Corinthians 3:1-3
In this passage, the Apostle Paul equates worldly thinking to jealousy and quarreling among believers in Christ, and cites this as an example that they are not spiritually mature, but are mere infants in Christ. The idea of spiritual maturity in the church is, as Paul says in the previous passage I quoted from Romans 12, to be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Worldly thinking is selfish thinking. It is the idea that your own needs and wants come before those of anyone else, including God. When your mind has been renewed by the indwelling Holy Spirit, as a result of your salvation in Jesus Christ, it should progress toward a spiritual maturity that is measured by priorities, with the idea that pleasing God should be the top priority, and meeting the needs of others as an act of service to please God should be next.
The church is the only place in the world where the priorities of a transformed mind are emphasized. Think about that for a minute, and you’ll realize that’s true. Ideally, and according to the clear instructions and examples of the New Testament, a Christian church made up of a body of believers in Christ, does not, at least in theory, exist to please itself. The purpose of its worship is not to entertain the congregation but to please God. Worship “styles” should be selected on the basis of their ability to assimilate the less mature, not on the personal preferences of the congregation. The more spiritual maturity a congregation has, the more it realizes how much it must set aside its own preferences for the sake of reaching and discipling those who are weaker in their faith. That’s a congregation with outward focus. The end is what matters to God. A congregation with an inward focus spends its time and energy making itself comfortable, pandering to its own preferences and arguing and quarreling about how to do that. The end is what matters to us.
Transformed churches are churches where the mature members have transformed minds, and they understand how to focus outward, rather than inward. If your mind is transformed, you don’t focus on what you get out of the worship service, or what benefit you receive from being part of the church. It doesn’t matter whether the church does anything at all for you. What matters most to you is whether God was pleased with your worship, and whether others are getting something out of the church as a result of your service to it. That’s the thinking of a transformed mind.