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Almost everyone agrees that preaching should be transformational. But we need to define what it is that we are seeking to see transformed.

1. Conduct

This is the most obvious area of transformation. We all love to see a life transformed from worldly conduct to “Christian” conduct. But we also need to be wary. Consider Frank. Frank was a drinking champion. He could drink more than anyone else and still be standing—that is how he got respect in the pub. Then Frank saw a beautiful young lady going into the church next door. He started attending. He quickly realized he got no respect for his drinking abilities but would get respect for church attendance.  

Everyone in the church celebrated the transformation of Frank—“Look at what the gospel can do!” Really? Self-concerned glory hunting gave way to self-concerned glory hunting in a new context (worldly Frank in the pub became worldly Frank in the church). Not exactly gospel transformation. That’s the problem with conduct. It can be faked. It can also be manipulated from the outside.

Peer pressure and cultural conformity can bring about impressive results. But God’s involvement is not required. A Christ-gripped life will manifest transformed conduct, but it also goes much deeper.

2. Character

Again, let’s both affirm this and be wary of it. Character tends to be measured as the sum of the parts of conduct. Consistency in multiple areas of conduct looks like character. But if one area of conduct can be faked (for Sunday morning), then multiple areas can also be faked for each time someone is watching. The Gospel will change a character both profoundly and gradually, but if we aim to change character in people, we are still liable to apply pressure and treat them as self-moved autonomous beings (wasn’t that part of the lie in Genesis 3?)

3. Belief

Unless people are transformed in what they believe, any change in character and conduct will remain superficial. Belief is more than knowledge. I can inform people with knowledge, but how do I influence what they actually believe and trust in from the heart? That seems to go beyond what I can achieve.

All of these things are good and all will be transformed by biblical preaching in one way or another. Ultimately, though, if we are talking transformation, we have to go to the next level.

4. Affections

Call it heart, call it values, call it appetites, whatever. The gospel transforms a life from the inside out, from the heart outward. It takes the Spirit to plant an appetite (a relish) for Christ in the affections of someone. This is where I feel relieved of the pressure to bring about transformation, but I also feel the incredible privilege of my position as preacher. I don’t twist arms to conform to behavioral standards for the sake of church conformity. I do present Christ and the Gospel in all its wonder and majesty and sweetness, and I do so absolutely dependent on God to bring about transformation.

Biblical preaching transforms lives, but it occurs from the inside out. Anything more superficial will tempt me into acting like a mini-god pressuring mini-gods into self-moved determination, and that just smacks of a fallen world perspective on the whole thing. God’s Word invites all to trust Him; we should do the same.



Peter Mead is involved in the leadership team of a church plant in the UK. He serves as director of Cor Deo—an innovative mentored ministry training program—and has a wider ministry preaching and training preachers. He also blogs often at BiblicalPreaching.net and recently authored Pleased to Dwell: A Biblical Introduction to the Incarnation (Christian Focus, 2014). Follow him on Twitter

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Suresh Manoharan

commented on Nov 11, 2014

Well written...Brother Mead...for the transformed souls, preaching ought to aim at their spiritual growth...deeper level of commitment to Christ.

Ruth Thompson

commented on Nov 11, 2014

This is a good thought, however, preaching will only produce change if the listener allows it. Our task is to preach the Word. God's task is to produce the results. His Word won't return void, it will accomplish that which it was sent to do.

John Sears

commented on Nov 19, 2014

As messengers of the gospel, we are still responsible for targeting our sermons. Some people say "preach the word" and what they mean is, "I have a 'hot mess' every week that doesn't go anywhere and it's the Holy Spirit's job to clean it up." I believe the Holy Spirit can be much more effective in using a message that is targeted.

Duane Coller

commented on Nov 11, 2014

I think these points would be well to share with congregants too, as it could help them evaluate the depth to which they have allowed the person of Christ, His teaching and grace to penetrate their individual lives. Our natural self-evaluations can be superficial, based on one or two attributes.

Mitchell Leonard

commented on Nov 12, 2014

Thank you Brother Mead, Well done.

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