RoxMiss 08-06-79  

The Missional Leader

Equipping Your Church to Reach a Changing World


Alan J. Roxburgh and Fred Romanuk

Jossey-Bass, 2006, 218 pp., ISBN  978-0-787-983253



Alan Roxburgh is a pastor, teacher, writer and consultant.  He works with the Allelon Missional Leadership Network.  Fred Romanuk is an organization psychologist who leads strategic planning initiatives for major organizations and works with senior executives in developing leaders.  This is an advanced book that uses spiritual formation language that is unfamiliar to many.  It may need some interpretation for evangelical church leaders. 


Its primary contributions are 1) addressing the transition to a missional model of church, 2) suggesting that the future comes from the ordinary congregation members and not a grand vision from leaders, and 3) the role of leader as cultivator vs. visionary or organizer. I had some difficulty understanding the spiritual formation concepts and I wasn't clear about the end goal of life transformation through the power of Jesus.  We are repeatedly told to engage our communities, but it isn't very clear to me what the results are supposed to be. 


Interestingly, Who Stole My Church by Gordon MacDonald seems to illustrate some of these processes in a very understandable fashion in a fictional story.



This book addresses the question: "How do we transition from a consumer model of church to one that is essentially missional in nature?" (Foreword by Eddie Gibbs, xiii)


"Our training models are conditioned by a Christendom mind-set and the agendas of the academy.  As a consequence, we neglect…the gifts of apostle, prophet, and evangelist."  (Foreword by Eddie Gibbs, xiii)


"Mission is therefore not a program or project some people in the church do from time to time (as in 'mission trip,' 'mission budget,' and so on); the church's very nature is to be God's missionary people.  We use the word missional to mark this big difference." (Introduction xv) [I wonder where this leaves the process of sending beyond our community and those we have sent? dlm]


Part One: The Context and Challenge of Missional Leadership

1.  Six Critical Issues for Missional Leadership

Most churches repackage the old business and counseling models using missional language.  But "missional leadership is about creating an environment within which the people of God in a particular location may thrive." (6) 


Continuous change develops out of what has gone before and can be anticipated and managed. Discontinuous change is very disruptive. (7)  "Many rules and assumptions about leadership need to be reexamined and rewritten."  "[We] are now in a place where we must all learn new capacities if we are to achieve effective missional results."  "We are all learners on this journey." (10)  "The game has changed and the rules are different." (11)  Congregations require the formation of a unique imagination as a social community of the Kingdom. (14)


2.  Cultivating the Imagination of the Missional Leader

A fresh imagination is needed to overcome the widespread malaise among congregations.  When leaders cultivate such an environment, it fosters hope.


"God's future is among the regular, ordinary people of God.  It is not primarily in great leaders or experts but among the people, all those people most leaders believe don't get it." (20-1)


"Organizational culture shapes how we think about and see the world.  Forming a missional community requires asking hard questions about the organizational culture of our congregation." (22)  "…listen and discern again what is happening to people in the congregation and in the community…." (24) 


Most small groups focus on care and resourcing themselves.  God is not the center of focus.  A new set of skills is required to shift the focus from self and each other to God. (26) 


"At its core, missional church is how we cultivate a congregational environment where God is the center of conversation and God shapes the focus and work of the people.  We believe this is a shift in imagination for most congregations; it is a change in the culture of congregational life.  Missional leadership is about shaping cultural imagination…" (26)  The missional leader is a cultivator of an environment.  (27)


Rather than having plans and strategies, the leader cultivates an environment that invites the people of God to discern what the Spirit is doing in, with, and among them as a community. (28) 


Leadership as cultivation is an art requiring new habits, skills, beliefs, and attitudes. (31)  Leaders must cultivate awareness of 1) what God is doing among the people of the congregation, 2) how a congregation can imagine itself as being the center of God's activities, and 3) what God is already up to in the congregation's context (community). (31-2) 


Leaders must give people space to experiment and test out actions with one another, learning together and from one another new ways of engaging their community and neighborhood. (32)


Leaders must also cultivate fresh ways of engaging Scripture and establishing new practices, habits, and norms, including spiritual disciplines such as fasting, silent retreats, and hospitality to strangers. (33-34)


3. Change and Transition: Navigating the Challenges

This chapter presents a model for understanding the dynamics that brought declining churches to their present crisis.  Churches tend to move from 1) a pioneering spirit to 2) the habits of doing well what works in a stable environment, to 3) control and decline.  A point of crisis may be followed by 4) confusion and transition that could lead again to 5) experimenting and building. (41)


In the confusion and transition people may learn to "indwell, engage, and listen to the people of the local community."  From that process mission and ministry may emerge. (44)


4. The Big Picture: Understanding the Context of the Missional Congregation

The authors outline five reasons for their recommended model of change.  "…unless the culture of a congregation is changed…[it] reverts back to previous habits." (63)  Change occurs when people shift their attention to focus on Scripture, dialogue, listening, and understanding their neighborhoods.  (63-4) This happens in small steps, not from the top down, but from the bottom up as people discern God's desires.  (64) 


When there is uncertainty in the midst of big changes, people turn inward.  "The biblical narrative thus becomes a how-to tool to help people in their private, personal lives, a kind of chicken soup for the Christian life."  Therapy.  Or an analgesic.  (67)


To counter this, missional leaders engage people in dialogue about their experiences in relation to God. (69) The point is to "rediscover the lived memory of their larger narrative in Scripture." (70) "This begins by engaging the lived stories of people and bringing those stories into dialogue with the biblical narratives." (71)  [I think this means interpreting their lives in the light of Scripture. dlm]


Most of our people have lost direction and purpose.  Their lives are not guided by Scripture.  The need is "reentering and rehearing the biblical narrative and its implications for being God's missionary people in their own situation." (74)  Help them "listen to the deeper, underlying fears and anxieties" and invite them "into fresh ways of indwelling the Scriptures" and "new ways of initiating experiments of change…" (75)


Develop the capacity to listen and ask questions.  "Missional transformation develops around people participating and engaging with God rather than trying to convince people to get involved in someone else's solutions." (77)


5. The Missional Change Model  [How it works}

The stages of change, per Everett Rogers' The Diffusion of Innovation, are Knowledge, Persuasion, Decision, Experimentation and implementation, and Confirmation and reinforcement. (82)


The tendency is to start with the goal.  However, our congregations need "space to process their experience and give it meaning."  "Leaders must create a listening space to allow people to become aware of what is happening within and among them." (87)  "Unspoken feelings and anxieties act like a powerful, dominating control mechanism." (88)


The second step is processing, exploring, and integrating thoughts and feelings and their meanings through dialogue. The third step is evaluating current actions, attitudes, and values in light of the new understandings. (95)  The fourth step is experimenting with new approaches to our challenges.  Change begins to emerge.  Experiments occur, not from imposed, large-scale plans, but from the bottom up in many small ways "around the edges." (99, 101) 


The fifth step is commitment when confidence grows, "when a missional culture is embedded in the congregation…because the people themselves have taken on a new way of being church together." (102)


How the missional leader prepares for this process:

1.      "Take stock of what you know. 

2.      "Know Yourself as a leader

3.      Listen.  "Leaders [need] to spend time actively listening to trusted friends, colleagues, and mentors…to identify areas for leadership development." (107)

4.      Focus on key areas and issues.

5.      Develop an action plan.  [This is not a big plan for the church, but a plan for developing the new needed skills.]

6.      Commit.


Part II.  The Missional Leader

6.  Missional Readiness Factors and the Nature of Leadership

Personal foundational attributes include personal character and maturity, conflict management, personal courage, and developing trust.  (114)


Secondary attributes include the skill of cultivating conversation.  This is more important than organizational or planning skills!  The congregation is the source for their missional imagination. (115)


"…the Incarnation not only changes everything but becomes the center from which all reality must now be understood and all of life practiced." (121)  We seem to have lost this.


"The early church believed it was being formed as God's alternative community within a regnant empire; consequently, leadership was about formation of a people."  "…it was a matter of developing practices that formed people into a social community called the church…" (122) 


"The church's future is elicited from among the people who make up the ecclesia."  "Missional leaders cultivate a way of life among a people…." (124)


7. The Character of a Missional Leader

"Character is a matter of personal habits, skills, and behaviors that engender confidence and credibility.  It also involves a leader's motivation, values, and sense of life purpose."  (127)


Personal maturity includes "being present to oneself and to others, being authentic, and being self-aware." (127)


Prior to vision and strategy, the leader invites the people "into times of dwelling first in Scripture and listening to God and one another for periods of time."  Talk with them about "experimenting with another way of discerning what God might have for them as a congregation."  The board too must be willing to listen to Scripture and one another before planning.  (130)


Authenticity "is mostly a matter of consistency and congruence." (131) 


"Missional leaders need to be skillful in engaging conflict and helping people live in ambiguity long enough to ask new questions about who they are as God's people." (135)


8.  Cultivating the People of God for a Missional Future

Vision and energy are no longer enough.  Leaders "often lack the skill and capacity to know how to cultivate and form the people themselves."  "The key to innovating new life and vision in a congregation is not so much a strategy for growth as it is cultivation of people themselves.  It is from among the people that the energy and vision for missional life emerge."  "Leaders enable formation of a missional church to the extent they are able to cultivate this process in others."  "God's future is not in a plan or strategy that you introduce; it is among the people of God."  (145)


Definition: "Imagination is first of all about the capacity to use forms of thinking other than linear, cause-and-effect, and ordered.  It is thinking that is creative outside the box, intuitive, and unexpected according to accepted knowledge or wisdom." (146)  "Imagination also deals with the capacity to entertain what is not yet present but can be encouraged to emerge from the core of one's deepest convictions." (148)  "Imagination means forming in people the capacity to reconnect with the biblical story in a way that enables them to discern what God is doing among them." (148)



9. Forming a Missional Environment and Culture

The processes of forming a missional culture come under four headings:

·        Member integration

·        Missional culture

·        Missional practices

·        Missional theology  (166)


At Southside, "the congregations are fashioned around mission groups (not the classic small groups) wherein each member relates personal engagement in the neighborhood or workplace for the sake of the kingdom." (167)


"The place to start is some quiet experiments working with certain aspects of the church, perhaps with mission groups built around practicing hospitality to a specific area or neighborhood." (168)


10. Engaging Context with a Christian Imagination

One could see the church as "the training and equipping center of a number of mission communities rooted in the neighborhoods of its members." (174)


Congregants can "connect with people on their own turf as friends and listeners, rather than a group with a plan and program to get people into their church building." (178)


"The Bible remains the center of Christian life." (181) 


11. Conclusion: Putting Together at Team for Leadership Development



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