Friday, October 27, 2006

Missional Leadership III

So far I’ve focused on what missional leadership is not. Let’s consider what it does look like.

Missional leaders lead from earned authority. The words “because I’m a pastor” should never be used to solicit compliance from church people. True authority is always earned.

If the words that come from one’s mouth are full of God’s wisdom and insight, people notice and follow, regardless of the speaker’s position, title or diploma.
Neil Cole, Organic Church
Missional leaders lead by serving. The primary way we earn authority is by serving. Jesus called us to serve one another. He said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all (Mark 10:42–44).

Our theology says that we should lead from below, but all our models say we should look and act successful.
Alan Roxburgh & Fred Romanuk, The Missional Leader
Missional leaders are more like shepherds than CEOs. Missional leaders are true leaders, but they lead a community. And this community must be engaged in the work of the Kingdom as it senses God’s calling and identifies the ways in which God is already working.
An important role of a missional leader is cultivating an environment within which God’s people discern God’s directions and activities in them and for the communities in which they find themselves.
Alan Roxburgh & Fred Romanuk, The Missional Leader

Rather than the leader having plans and strategies
that the congregation will affirm and follow, cultivation describes the leader as the one who works the soil of the congregation so as to invite and constitute the environment for the people of God to discern what the Spirit is doing in, with, and among them as a community.
Alan Roxburgh & Fred Romanuk, The Missional Leader
Missional leaders are driven by theology rather than pragmatism. There is an idea that pastors don’t have the luxury of doing serious study. That is to be left for those living in ivory towers. In the real world we just need to get busy and find out what works. But pragmatism leads to theological error. Pragmatism leads to moral failure. Pragmatism leads to a human agenda.

More than ever, pastors need to be theologians.

Their beginning point is grounded in a theological understanding and conviction of what the church should be and do. It is not simply about building a reputation, a ministry, a following, or a great church, but it is about a deep conviction that is grounded in the Word of God.
Ed Stetzer & David Putman, Breaking the Missional Code

The work of theological reflection in a profoundly changing culture must be reintroduced into the daily practices of pastoral life.
Alan Roxburgh & Fred Romanuk, The Missional Leader

The Christian leaders of the future have to be theologians, persons who know the heart of God.
Henri J. M. Nouwen, In the Name of Jesus: Reflections on Christian Leadership

Missional leaders prepare for the future rather than plan for the future. The future is uncertain. We cannot predict it with any certainty. We need to be prepared for the future. But we cannot force the future to take the shape we think it should take.

The better (and biblical) approach to the future involves prayer and preparation, not prediction and planning.
Reggie McNeal, The Present Future

[A leader must be able to] thrive in the midst of ambiguity and discontinuity.
Alan Roxburgh & Fred Romanuk, The Missional Leader

We are in a period that makes it impossible to have much clarity about the future and how it is going to be shaped. Therefore those leaders who believe they can address the kind of change we are facing by simply defining a future that people want, and then setting plans to achieve it, are not innovating a missional congregation. They are only finding new ways of preventing a congregation from facing the discontinuous change it confronts.

Alan Roxburgh & Fred Romanuk, The Missional Leader

Missional leaders take the long view. One of the problems with American business is that its leaders often live for today. They try to make the quarterly numbers look as good as possible. In doing so, they often sellout the long-term prospects.

This is no different in the church. Pastors are encouraged to find quick answers. They feel pressure to submit good statistics. This year needs to have better numbers than last year.

But missional leaders buck the trend. They make their decisions with a view to the long-term impact on the Kingdom.

Missional change is not a short-term problem solved by pragmatic programs. Instead, it entails forming an alternative imagination over time.
Alan Roxburgh & Fred Romanuk, The Missional Leader

Missional leaders focus on people. Most leaders focus on programs. But missional leaders focus on people. They focus on the people already in the congregation. They focus on the people in the community. Jesus never let his plans prevent him from addressing the needs of people.

The key to innovating new life and mission in a congregation is not so much a strategy for growth as it is cultivation of people themselves.
Alan Roxburgh & Fred Romanuk, The Missional Leader

Again, I’ve only had time to give a brief sketch of these ideas. Let me know what you think. What would you add to the list? Do you disagree with anything that I’ve included?

Pastor Rod

“Helping you become the person God created you to be”

Part One, Part Two

Friday, October 20, 2006


This weekend I will celebrate my 50th birthday. As milestones go, this is a pretty big one. Milestones are good opportunities to reflect on the past. They provide an occasion for reminding ourselves of what’s really important.

So I thought I’d take some time to list a few of the things that I’ve learned in my first fifty years.

Relationships are more important than anything else. When I look back over the past half-century, the things that mean the most to me are the relationships that I have. Possessions, accomplishments and experiences pale in comparison with the people that have enriched my life. And the most important relationship, which provides ultimate meaning and significance to my life, is my relationship with my heavenly Father who loves me more than all the others I am connected to.

The things that you can count are not the things that count. Success is hard to quantify. If you can count it or measure it, it’s probably not that important. The number of digits in my salary or my bank account have nothing to do with my success. The number of people who show up to hear me preach on Sundays is not a measure of my success. The number of hits on this blog do not determine my success. All these things are good, but they are not directly tied to my success. I have come to believe that success is more about faithfulness than anything else.

How you finish is more important than how you start. No one really cares who led lap 43 of the Indianapolis 500. A good start is nice. But finishing well is the key. In each of the “seven letters” of Revelation, Jesus commends “the one who overcomes,” the one who is faithful to the end. Woody Allen said that 90% of success is just showing up. But I would say that 100% of success is not giving up.

Strengths are more important than weaknesses. Most people focus on weaknesses rather than strengths. When kids bring home their report cards, parents tend to focus on the bad grades instead of the good grades. Most employee evaluations imply that the greatest opportunity for improvement is by overcoming deficiencies. The church health movement teaches that congregations grow only to the level of weakest of five, six or ten functions of a healthy church.

But I think that we’ve got this all backwards. The Gallup Organization has demonstrated that we produce the greatest results when we focus on using our strengths rather than on improving our weaknesses. And this doesn’t even take into account the damage that is done by the negativity generated by the focus on weaknesses.

Few people really understand leadership. Our society idolizes “strong,” aggressive, ambitious people as great leaders. Getting things done is considered a key component of leadership. Charisma has become currency of clout in our celebrity-crazed culture.

Even pastors are encouraged to take their leadership philosophy more from Nietzsche, Machiavelli and Attila the Hun than from Jesus. Pragmatism trumps theology. If Joel Osteen has such a big church, he must be doing something right.

Empathy is the secret to . . . everything. If you want to be an excellent teacher, you need empathy. If you want to be an excellent salesperson, you need empathy. If you want to be an excellent leader, you need empathy.

It may be possible to fake empathy, for a while. But it’s so much simpler just to really care about people.

Empathy even makes you a better driver.

Truth is elusive. I am strongly opinionated. And I believe that my opinions are correct. But I know that I’m wrong about some things. As N. T. Wright says, “I just don’t know which are wrong.” I try to remember that my commitment is to the truth and not just to my idea of the truth. If my understanding of the truth changes (and it does from time to time), then I must accept this refined awareness of the truth. Christian mystic Meister Eckhart said, “Truth is something so noble that if God should turn aside from it, I could keep to the truth and let God go.”

The little decisions are the important ones. Most of the time, we make the right choices when we know that the decision is important. The problem is that many decisions appear to be insignificant at the time and only prove to be important long after we make our choice. Every choice we make also changes the options that we have available for future choices. The weight of a lot of little choices is greater than the weight of a couple of big choices.

The most important things cannot be earned. I cannot make myself valuable. I cannot make myself loveable. I cannot make myself significant. These things (self-worth, love and significance) can only be accepted as a gift. Ironically, the more I try to earn them, the less likely I am to get them.

There might be few more things that I could add to this list, but these seem to be the most important—right now. Tell me what you would put on your own list.

Pastor Rod

“Helping you become the person God created you to be”

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Missional Leadership II

I have a new candidate for what to put on my gravestone:
The church is not a business and the pastor is not a CEO.

These two ideas have done untold damage to local churches, to individual Christians and to pastors.

Congregations have been split apart as a result of attempts to emulate the strategy of a celebrity pastor. Long-time church members have been vilified because they did not fit with the pastor’s “vision.” Pastors have ruined their health and their family life trying to be charismatic leaders.

The church has borrowed business models from the world and applied them wholesale to the affairs of the kingdom. How many businesses do you know that give their product away without demanding money? (See
Luke 6:30.) How many banks make loans without expecting repayment? (See Luke 6:34.) How many CEOs get their jobs by moving down the corporate ladder? (See Mark 10:43.)

Yet we act as if
strategic planning, statistical analysis and hard work are the primary ingredients to “success” in ministry.

Modernist thinking has reduced the “I Am” of the Exodus to the “
God of the gaps.” But the church has done something much worse. We’ve relegated God to a “genie in a bottle” who we call on when we need a little extra boost to meet our goals.

Here are some prophetic quotations for today’s church:

Not only do we not need God to explain the universe, we don’t need God to operate the church. Many operate like giant machines, with church leaders serving as mechanics. God doesn’t have to show up to get done what’s being done.
Reggie McNeal, The Present Future

A congregation is not a business organization, nor is it meant to be run like a minicorporation through strategic planning and alignment of people and resources around some big plan.
Alan Roxburgh & Fred Romanuk, The Missional Leader

We need to lead in ways that are different from those of a CEO, an entrepreneur, a super leader with a wonderful plan for the congregation’s life.
Alan Roxburgh & Fred Romanuk, The Missional Leader

There is a lack of theological depth in much of the contemporary church planting and church growth movements because these are movements of techniques, paradigms, and methodologies without genuine biblical and missiological convictions.
Ed Stetzer & David Putman, Breaking the Missional Code

To accomplish spiritual results we do not create the future by visioning it or by mobilizing people to create our picture of what the future will be. I am directly criticizing a predominant teaching among Christian writing and leadership seminars that promote the importance of vision. My criticism of them is they do not use “vision” the way the Bible does, and their teaching tends to promote flesh acts, not Spirit-led leadership.
Brian J. Dodd, Empowered Church Leadership

How many of us have experienced the drivenness of a leader having been caught up in his or her vision? I speak with some remorse and regret for times that my “visionary dreaming” has left me “proud and pretentious,” judgmental and disapproving of the believers God has called me to shepherd and to care for. I have spoken with too many pastors who seem content to drive people out of their church because they do not fit with vision. This is not the heart of the Good Shepherd.
Brian J. Dodd, Empowered Church Leadership

Our theology says that we should lead from below, but
all our models say we should look and act successful.
Alan Roxburgh & Fred Romanuk, The Missional Leader
In this post I have focused on the negative, what leadership is not. I will address what I believe leadership should look like in the church, but it is necessary first to eliminate these assumptions that have polluted our thinking about leadership within the kingdom.

Tell me what you think.

Pastor Rod

“Helping you become the person God created you to be”

Part One, Part Three

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Missional Ministry Modes

I’m currently reading The Shaping of Things to Come by Michael Frost and Alan Hirsch. This appears to be an excellent blend between theory and practical ideas.

One helpful section lists four ways that missional congregations are seeking to partner with God as he works in their communities:
  • Proximity Spaces,
  • Shared Projects,
  • Commercial Enterprises &
  • Indigenous Faith Communities.
Proximity spaces are places (or events) where Christians and not-yet-Christians can have meaningful interaction. Examples include caf├ęs, coffee houses and even pubs.

Shared projects are cooperation between Christians and an existing community activity where Christians and not-yet-Christians can develop relationships. Instead of starting their own ministries, these congregations are participating with community organizations to provide services to the community.

Commercial enterprises are effective ways to do ministry. Many communities are not interested in a new church, but they might be interested in a new business that invests in their community. This business then becomes the vehicle for ministry.

Indigenous faith communities are small congregations that grow out of the other ministries. Many would call these communities house churches. They are made up of the converts and inquirers produced by these ministries.

The years ahead will be exciting for those who pay attention to what God is doing in their community and who are willing to step outside the traditional ways of “doing church.”

Pastor Rod

“Helping you become the person God created you to be”

Friday, October 06, 2006

Breaking the Missional Code

I just finished an excellent book by Ed Stetzer and David Putman, Breaking the Missional Code. In the right hands, this can be a useful resource. I do agree with Steve McCoy that some people who do not understand missional thinking will be tempted to use this as more church growth advice. In some places, I think the authors may have slipped into that mindset themselves.

Here are a few key quotations:
Breaking the code is a discipline of seeing your context through missional lenses and then exercising faith by taking the necessary risks to live the Great Commandment in such a way that you can fulfill the Great Commission.

When we talk about missional churches we are not referring to a certain form, expression, model, type, or category of church. We are talking about a church that seeks to understand its context and come to express that understanding by contextualizing the gospel in its community.
I find this a good explanation of what it means to be missional. Some people equate Emergent with Missional. While there is some overlap, they seem to be two very different things.
Overemphasis on technique can undermine solid missiological thinking. There is a lack of theological depth in much of the contemporary church planting and church growth movements because these are movements of techniques, paradigms, and methodologies without genuine biblical and missiological convictions.
This has long been one of my complaints (before I ever had a handle on what missional means). Too much in the church is driven by pragmatism. We bow at the altar of bigness and “success.” The gospel is often interpreted as a way to get ahead in business or sports.

I highly recommend this book. It has many practical suggestions for discovering how to implement a missional ministry in your unique environment. But you must remind yourself that this is not about Church Growth or Church Health. It is not even about evangelism as it is commonly understood.

Pastor Rod

“Helping you become the person God created you to be”

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Non-Missional Assumptions

Reggie McNeal in his book, The Present Future, lists some assumptions that are widely held within the church which are also antithetical to a missional mindset.
  • If we do church right (according to our current ideas of church) then people will flock to our church.
  • If we grow our churches, then we will automatically start to make a difference in our communities.
  • If we make our people better church members, then they will naturally do effective evangelism.
  • We need more people in our churches to do church work.
  • The more people are involved in the church, the better disciples they are becoming.

  • The better we get at planning, the better we will be at missional effectiveness.
Some of these assumptions are so deeply engrained in our programs and systems, that we cannot escape them unless we start over. Many long-time church members will think that some of these assumptions are straight from the Bible. Many of the denominational programs and emphases are rooted in one or more of these assumptions.

So what do you think?

Do you agree with Reggie’s list? Do you have other assumptions that you think should be added to the list?

Pastor Rod

“Helping you become the person God created you to be”