Transforming the Heart


Leadership is Broken Because Leaders are Unbroken

Nearly three hundred years ago, Jonathan Edwards wrote on of the greatest Christian classics of all time entitled, Religious Affections. By “Affections” Edwards meant the deepest desires and drives of the heart. For Edwards, this is what our faith is about, and, while he doesn’t need me to confirm him, I believe he is absolutely right. I also believe his perspective is missing in today’s thinking.


Edwards said, “. . . no one is ever changed, either by doctrine. . . or by preaching or teaching of another, unless the affections are moved by these things. . . . there is never any great achievement by the things of religion without a heart deeply affected by those things.” (p. 22).


Sometimes I think this concept is missing from today’s seminary training. I fear many graduate with the impression that their task is to inform the mind in what may be an unintended conclusion because the students are too young and immature to grasp the real point of what they’re being taught. It’s rather easy to inform the mind: it’s simply a matter of learning techniques that make our teaching accurate (exegesis), clear (transitions), interesting (introductions, word choice, illustrations), and relevant (application). Do that well, and you will inform the mind. But transforming the heart is a radically different reality.


Only a transformed heart can transform the hearts of others. There is no way around this reality, no matter how hard we strive to avoid it. Simply put, transforming the heart is a personal matter, a matter of radical internal change in me, not a standing outside of my listeners as I tell them what the text says but an entering into what the text means from the deepest part of my being. This demands that I allow both the text and my listeners into my heart, the text first with its burning power of conviction and transformation from the Spirit, then my listeners as I take them into the struggle of my transformation so they can see what this means for them. It’s as if my struggle and pain become contagious, a communicable experience of growth that results in significant growth in them.


That’s what Paul did in passages like Galatians 2:20 or Philippians 3:1-14 or Romans 7:1-25. Through his autobiographical vulnerability he showed how his heart had been transformed and even now, 2,000 years later, he motivates us to move toward transformed hearts. You see, we must keep the main thing the main thing. And the main thing, as Jesus showed us, is transforming the heart. No method will do this, only a man with a transformed heart. But can’t women do this? Of course. Women do this without needing any exhortation. It’s men with invulnerable and closed hearts that must be exhorted, who must be called from the fear of being known to the freedom of a transformed heart.

From "Discipleless Churches " on The Broken Leadership Blog is about changing the leadership conversation from what we are doing with our hands to what God is doing through our hearts.

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Bill Lawrence is the President of Leader Formation International, Senior Professor Emeritus of Pastoral Ministries and Adjunct Professor of DMin Studies at Dallas Theological Seminary where he served full-time for twenty-four years (1981-2005). During this time he also was the Executive Director of the Center for Christian Leadership for twelve years.

One Comment

  • cid Latty


    Dear Bill


    Thankyou soo much for this articles – transforming the heart is so key to what we do as leaders yet if left undone in the leader themselves it is leaves the church feeling unloved yet fully informed. Thankyou.