If “fostering transformed lives” is our mission, how can we accomplish that mission? What means and methods will we use? How exactly do we, as a church, plan to foster transformation?

People aren’t transformed overnight, as if by magic. God does not change people against their will or without their cooperation. Transformation requires a partnership between a powerful God and a willing people. And it takes time. It requires us to open our lives to God’s transforming work—today and tomorrow and the day after—and to encourage others to do the same.

Because time and cooperation are involved, transformation often looks less like a miracle than a maturing. People grow up. They develop. They “become.” Not that something miraculous isn’t happening; transformation—when it occurs in the world and in our lives—is always a result of God’s supernatural power. The most miraculous thing in the world is a heart changed from selfish to selfless, from proud to humble, from greedy to generous, from addicted to free. But because such heart-change happens slowly and because it requires our cooperation, it often looks like the normal, natural, ordinary process of growth and development.

In fact, Scripture frequently uses the “maturation metaphor” when talking about God’s transforming work in our lives. We are expected to “grow up” in Christ (Eph 4:15; 1Pe 2:2), to “mature” spiritually (Eph 4:13; Col 4:12; Jam 1:4), to stop being “infants” (1Cor 3:1-2; 14:20; Heb 5:13) and develop into strong spiritual adults (Heb 6:1; Eph 4:11-16). We are told to “put off” old, unspiritual ways and “put on” new, godly ways. (See Eph 4:20ff; Col 3:1ff.) The goal of the Christian life is to grow up into the “image of Christ” (Rom 8:29; 2Cor 3:18; Col 3:10) and live out the “fullness of Christ” (Eph 4:13; Col 2:9-10).

One of the most common ways the Bible talks about this maturing process is by comparing our lives to a tree—a potent metaphor for maturity. Lives that start as seeds and sprouts, in time become saplings, and finally develop into strong, stable, towering, fruitful trees.

Notice how the comparison plays out in Psalm 92:12-14 (to use but one example):
   The righteous will flourish like a palm tree,
       they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon;
   planted in the house of the LORD,
       they will flourish in the courts of our God.
   They will still bear fruit in old age,
       they will stay fresh and green.

Here comparing “the righteous” to a tree helps us understand what God expects of his people if they want to “flourish.” First, they must be “planted” in godly soil (“the house of the Lord … the courts of our God”). Then they respond by growing tall and strong (“they will flourish like a palm tree”). Finally, they bear fruit (“They will still bear fruit in old age”).

As the Tree Graphic to the right shows (and as anyone who has seen a tree knows), trees are comprised of roots, trunk, and branches. Roots push deep into rich soil and “feed” on the nutrients that promote growth. Trunks provide strength to the tree, letting it grow straight and tall. Branches, of course, support the leaves of the tree and eventually bear its fruit.

In a similar way, our spiritual lives (and our church) must be planted in Christ, “roots” reaching deep into God’s soil and “feeding” on the nutrients that promote growth. Our “trunks” must grow strong and straight and tall. And, eventually, our “branches” must bear godly fruit. With time, you and I can grow up into something strong, beautiful, and fruitful—a reflection of the character of Christ and a blessing to those around us.

If pursuing the life God created for you is your goal, welcome to the North Central Church. If encouraging the world to be the Garden God intended it to be is your ambition, welcome to North Central. If growing up into the fullness of Christ—if becoming the mighty spiritual oak God made you to be all along—is your aim, welcome to North Central. We invite you to join us on the transforming journey as—together—we grow up in Christ.

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