We talk much about spiritual transformation in the church and the lack of it among many believers. My own observation, however is that there are many lay people who are more concerned about true transformation and intimacy with God then those who lead them.
This may well be why there is a restlessness among many in our congregations for something more authentic in their Christian lives, something they are not getting or hearing from the pulpit. They are less enamored with theological knowledge and more hungry for the transformation and living waters that Jesus promises. Is their hunger a symptom of our own lack of hunger and therefore inability to deliver that living water to them?
I don't believe this is intentional but I do believe it can be dangerous for those of us in professional ministry. It is very easy to substitute our knowledge of all things theological for the hard work of translating that knowledge into our own lives. It is also easy to substitute our engineering of disciplemaking pathways in our churches for the needed transformational pathways in our own lives. In fact, while I believe in disciplemaking pathways, the truly transformed and vital spiritual life of a leader is more powerful than any pathway. You cannot ignore a life that is lived close to Jesus.
Since we cannot lead people to places we have not gone we cannot deliver living water that we are not drinking deeply from. Our enemy is our schedule, the good things we are doing for God (in our minds) and our theological knowledge. That knowledge is an easy but empty substitute for God's work in our own soul. In fact, I am no longer enamored by prodigious knowledge that is not also coupled by a deep hunger for God's transformational presence in one's life.
If our churches are seeing far less transformation than they want to see (as the Reveal study shows) is that possibly a symptom of our own lack of transformation as Christian leaders. It is uncomfortable for me to ask the question but I wonder.
The first and most important work of a Christian leader is to ensure that Jesus is our first love and highest priority. That we are allowing him to do the fundamental work of growth, transformation and stripping away of all things base in our lives. That takes time, introspection and the hard work of following closely after Jesus ourselves. Only then can we truly bring people to the living waters of Jesus.