This is a story that will impact your life personally and directly. Although outwardly the Church denounces the world’s depravity, it has a secret love affair with it. The Church and the world have used each other to negotiate the tides of change throughout history. This unholy union has stained the Church’s testimony enough to cause many to question the validity of the gospel of Jesus Christ. In America, this scandalous affair has become the focal point in abortion, racism, immigration, and partisan politics.
At the heart of the Church-world relationship is the organizational design of churches patterned after business corporations and geared for growth and efficiency. But such a structure prevents the personal and social transformations that are the hallmark of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Father Abraham Has Many Sons and Daughters tells the story of relationships between God, His people, and the world from Abraham’s time. It demonstrates how the world’s tentacles have always reached deep into God’s community and how God has consistently saved a remnant for Himself.
Given the destructive and enslaving power of the world, this book highlights a pathway for communities of believers to the kind of transformation that the apostle Paul wrote about in Romans 12:2, “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.” [NLT]
An essential part of the book is the emphasis on relationships, as outlined in Complexity Theory studies. Individual attributes and capacities are essential, but complex behaviors are driven more by relationships. I apply this understanding of network theory and complex systems to discipleship and transformation in the Church.
Racism, greed, and politics: these are skeletons from the past that have come to haunt the Church, and the younger generations are demanding answers. In the United States, the African-American community is making severe charges against the “white church.” In the Middle East, the Church has negotiated a secular compromise that has gutted its testimony. Is the Church going to continue in denial, or is it going to face the issues and deal with them?
It is a time of reckoning for the Church; God is using current issues to confront His people with the need for real spiritual transformation, as commanded in Romans 12:2: “Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind…”
In Father Abraham Has Many Sons and Daughters, Dr. Sabra explores the history of transformation, or the lack of it, among the people of God and how it forms the foundation for our transformation story today. He states the reasons we need to change through the gospel of Jesus Christ, both personally and for the Church as a whole. He also proposes a pathway to transformation through relationships. The traditional approaches to transformation focus on the character of the believer as the primary driving force in the process of transformation.
Father Abraham Has Many Sons and Daughters brings a needed balance by focusing on relationships in the Church as the context of transformation. With examples from Complexity Theory, the way we relate to one another has as much, if not more, impact on our behavior individually and as a community.
My earliest association with the term “transformation” was when as a 10-yeard old I memorized Romans 12:1-2 in Sunday school. Even though I could not have explained what “transformation” meant, I found it intriguing and dynamic. It helped me begin to understand that conversion was life-changing and called for reorientation from self-centeredness to becoming God-centered. Over the years the various dimensions of transformation have enriched and filled out my understanding. Father Abraham Has Many Sons and Daughters expands, deepens, and challenges us to embrace this dynamic concept.
In Father Abraham Has Many Sons and Daughters, Dr. Rabih Sabra puts the concept of transformation in a broader and richer context by using it to describe the Body of Jesus Christ, as a family of transformed relationships. As a member of the thousand-year-old Druze community in Lebanon, God has used him to lead in establishing the first church among this people group. The Access Team initiative has introduced and cultivated multi-dimensional transformation that is personal, social, spiritual, and communal. I can think of no place on Planet Earth where this ministry of transformation is not urgently needed.
Wilbert R. Shenk Professor Emeritus School of Intercultural Studies Fuller Theological Seminary Pasadena, California
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