The Concept of Spiritual Transformation
The theme of transformational development, or spiritual formation, runs through the heart of each of these essays in this riveting book. Transformational development is no less than “our continuing response to the reality of God’s grace shaping us into the likeness of Jesus Christ, through the work of the Holy Spirit, in the community of faith, for the sake of the world”.
Each individual author in this collection of essays (each an “essayist”) are pioneers of ministries that have caused them to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the poor and oppressed. Many have intentionally chosen the path of downward mobility and voluntary poverty in responding to God’s call to become kingdom workers in order to establish the reality of His kingdom and justice here on earth.
Naturally, challenges abound – and the pressures of ministry do eventually cause hidden motivations, personal weaknesses as well as strongholds of sin to be exposed. In this regard, essayist Ruth Bryce echoes the words of missionary Laura Parker who says:
“I have cursed more, cried more, been more angry, had less faith, been more cynical and…have become in many ways a worse person during my last two years serving in Asia…”
Nonetheless, with candour and honesty, each essayist acknowledges that notwithstanding disillusionment and personal failures, God is faithful and true to take our clumsy attempts at showing love in order to demonstrate that His power is made perfect in our weakness.
Central Message of Book
It is not uncommon for a kingdom worker to become disheartened or burdened with the ills of society which they seem powerless to address:
“There is something about the daily exposure to poverty and other ills of society which tends to tear away faith and [ironically] make agents of change some of the most cynical people around.”
However, the fruits of transformational development are a renewed mind as well as a changed character. It results in emotional maturity and the empowerment of the individual for obedience for the kingdom mission.
For this reason, each Essayist recognises that transformational development is essential in their lives if they are to prevent themselves, as “agents of transformation” from ironically turning themselves into “agents of destruction”.
Drawing from their own personal experiences, the essayists speak of, amongst other things, the necessity of integration of action-and-contemplation, a steadfast adherence to certain non-negotiable spiritual disciplines as well as the importance of the art of lament.
Against this backdrop, an intriguing observation is made by essayist Margaret Loy — formal missionary and theological training does not, in her view, necessarily make any difference to the degree of a kingdom worker’s intimacy with God. Rather, transformational development it is the key to remaining faithful to and persevering in one’s vocation and calling.
Conclusion and Observations
This book represents the collective wisdom and fruit of many years spent in faithful ministry. It describes the common pitfalls which kingdom workers should expect to encounter in the course of their ministries, as well as tried-and-tested methods of overcoming spiritually destructive patterns of thought and action in order to fight the good fight of faith.
Accordingly, this book is mandatory reading for anyone involved to any degree in doing kingdom work. Kingdom workers would undoubtedly be emboldened and encouraged by the solidarity of the struggles and challenges faced by each of these Essayists, who are also sharing in Christ’s sufferings for the cause for the Gospel.
To that end, the valuable lessons and insights contained within this book are in no way only restricted to brothers and sisters involved in ministries on an international scale. The same lessons and insights are relevant to all who faithfully perform tiny, oft-overlooked acts of discipleship, living faithful, rather than visibly successful lives.
Ultimately, these essays are a timely reminder that there is a world and reality far from our own, a world with needs waiting to be met — and that there are communities, peoples and places where God’s kingdom and justice have yet to be established here on earth.
If we are not already practising transformational development, we ought to do so now. Picking up this book might be one way to start.
You can view a sample of Where Spirituality and Justice Meet here.
This review is written by YiHui, who is on a journey to unravel the secrets of the Father’s heart for humanity, and what this means for herself, Singapore and the nations. She is a lawyer, and in her spare time, enjoys taking long, contemplative walks with her canine companion, Marley.