Thursday, October 25, 2007

Transformation Ministries Begins on High Spiritual Note

Transformation Ministries began its annual meeting with a strong spiritual note of celebration and challenge. During the afternoon pre-convention session, Rev. Tom Mercer of mega-church High Desert Church, raised the roof with a spirited presentation of the “Best Evangelism Plan You’ve Never Heard Of.” Then, in the plenary session voices from a mosaic of ethnicities (African-American, Asian, Hispanic, and Caucasian) prepared for the sermon by Executive Minister Dr. Dale V. Salico.

Salico recounted statistics showing that today’s 16-29-year olds are more skeptical of and resistant to Christianity than were people in the same age group just a decade ago. Only 16% of non-Christians in this demographic have a positive impression of Christianity. And, only 3% hold a favorable view of evangelicals.

What were the common perceptions regarding Christianity? We are, they observed, judgmental, old fashioned, too involved in politics, anti-homosexual, and we no longer look like Jesus. 61% of today’s young adults—attended church during their teen years but, are now spiritually disengaged.

Salico hit on all of the right emotional and spiritual notes as he exposited Judges 2 as a paradigm for Christians today. In the text he found three generations in the history of Israel: The generation of Joshua (Israel’s “builder generation”), the generation of those who were first to grow up in the Promised-Land (“baby boomers”), and the children of Israel’s “baby-boomers,” the lost generation.

Israel’s “builders” (vss. 7-9) were courageous, inconsistent, sincere in their repentance, and willing to remember the great acts of God in their midst. The second generation of baby boomers (vss. 10-18) was complacent, prone to situation ethics, religiously relativistic, and powerless. The third generation was lost because they lacked the parental example of God’s deeds and faithful obedience by God’s people that their parents had seen.

Applying the message to his audience, Dr. Salico exhorted that “any generation of faith is just two generations away from a generation that is completely lost, with no memory of God and His ways.” In a series of practical applications, Salico reminded them that the spiritual battle will always appear daunting and overwhelming. Unless God chooses to “show up” there can be no hope. We are called to cultivate an environment in which faith can be understood and felt by the young, both in words and example. Added to this, and well beyond our own puny abilities lie the powerful call of a loving God and the submission of a willing heart.

The evening concluded with a powerful altar call directed at the pastors and spiritual leaders in the audience. Most of the ministers present could be found in the front of the convention center.
A participant from the other side of the U.S. commented that after a lifetime of Baptist ministry he had never before witnessed anything like this in American Baptist circles. Appearing genuinely moved by the spiritual tone of the meeting, he volunteered that there is something very special about Transformation Ministries.
[Full disclosure: While I write as an independent voice with opinions all my own and not to be confused with Dr. Salico, as of this annual meeting, the TM executive committee includes me as its treasurer.]

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