Tourists in Turkey cannot help but be amazed by the collected remains of Ephesus. It is of course a place haunted by the apostle Paul who stirred up much opposition from the idol makers who worked for the temple of Demetrius. It is also the place where Timothy received two letters from Paul. Our group was even privileged to visit a cave (according to legend) where Paul lived, possibly to avoid the antagonism of the Ephesians. Ephesus is also the largest archaeological site featuring Greek and Roman remains in Turkey (I think). The reason has something to do with Ephesus being the fourth largest city in the Roman Empire at the time of Paul’s ministry.
What is striking today is how much Ephesus has changed and how little Christian presence is evident. Thoughts about the remains of New York City in 3500 AD come to mind. Will any of the foundations, facades, subways, sewers, or beams remain of the city’s structures for future archaeologists? What happens if global warming floods Manhattan and leaves Harlem as the only point above water? And will the inhabitants of the area we now call New York live there? Will they have moved to Buffalo? And will they be Christian?
The transformationalists don’t seem to think about cultural decay, archaeological ruins, or shifting populations. They seem to think that establishing the kingdom of God here and now means that what they do in the name of Christ in changing a city’s culture will last. But if Paul is any example, the work that he did lasted only to the extent that he proclaimed the gospel and established a pattern for the churches to proclaim that message and disciple believers. Chances are most transformationalists would judge Paul a success. If they ever visited Ephesus they’d likely have a different opinion, unless they changed their minds about the nature of transformation and how the kingdom really grows.