Missional Leadership Paper

My independent study this semester focused on Missional Leadership and here, if you are interested is my final paper.  It is very much a work in progress…I mean it is done and turned in for the sake of my grade (I passed), but there are some obvious holes at this point.  This is just one step in a long journey of discovery.  If you want to wade through 25 pages, feel free.  I welcome your feedback.

Click the following link for the paper:

Missional Leadership Paper

“Shout to the Lord” on American Idol

Now, I have to admit I am long since tired of the song "Shout to the Lord" but it was a pleasant suprise to hear it as a featured song on last night's "Idol Gives Back" show and as the lead performance of the result show tonight.  What struck me the most about the song was hearing performed in the "Idol" setting.  It was the perfect example of how the lines between the sacred and secular are blurring.  Sure, there were probably some that were offended at the blatant use of Jesus' name in a popular television show, but I think for most it probably seemed quite natural.  People are open to Jesus and open to spirituality but are becoming more and more skeptical of the church as we know it.

I try very hard to observe culture deeply and I am working hard at learning to ask better questions.  So as I was observing this collision between church and pop culture and the question that I can't help but ask is, what can we learn about being the Church from something like "Idol Gives Back?"  I'm not talking about musical styles or light shows or over the top personalities.  I'm talking about things like where the Church should be spending our time and resources beyond the worship gathering.  We don't have a platform the size of American Idol, but how might we through the efforts of our local church communities impact the world, using our blessings to be a blessing to others?

Any thoughts?

Living Out-Carnationally – Journal Reflection

By living incarnationally we not only model the pattern of humanity set up in the Incarnation but we also create space for mission to take place in organic ways.In this way mission becomes something that ‘fits’ seamlessly into the ordinary rhythms of life, friendships, and community and is thus thoroughly contextualized. Thus these ‘practices’ form a working basis for genuine incarnational mission. But they also provide us with an entry point into an authentic experience of Jesus and His mission.

This quote is from a blog entry by Alan Hirsch from earlier this month. At first glance, the title might imply that Hirsch is simply trying to create a new word (I'm tired of new words that are simply playing on other buzz words), but the article is really about living out incarnational ministry. Incarnational ministry, according to Hirsch, "essentially means taking the church to the people rather than bringing people to the church." Last spring while I was on internship I had a conversation with a neighbor who was not connected to any church. We were talking about the church in general and how the church I was serving was struggling to grow and he said that he doesn't understand why the church is so set on trying to get people to come to them. He said, "There are a whole lot more people not in church than in. Why doesn't the church just spend their time going where those people are instead of expecting everyone to show up on Sunday morning?" He, of course, did not recognize the importance of the gathering to equip and send God's people, but his point is well taken. We have long considered the Sunday morning worship gathering as the primary evangelistic entry point. We have made it in many settings "seeker friendly" and we have challenged our people to invite their "unchurched" friends to these gatherings. I'm not saying this bad or wrong necessarily, but I think we need to consider how we spend the rest of our time. In the post, Hirsch describes the missional efforts of a few communities. He says,

In the Seattle/Tacoma region, two churches (Soma and Zoë) have chosen to collaborate in reaching students and musicians by actively moving into the social rhythms of these groups and ‘de-churchifying’ their previous expressions of ministry. In order to do this they have rented and purchased buildings and developed them as night clubs, coffee shops, and have established recording studios with direct links to the various musicians in the area. Zoë in particular has taken drastic measures to limit the attractional appeal of the ministry in order to wean members off the consumptive attendance at a ‘service’ and to get them all involved in local expressions of mission. Whilst passive attendance at services is down, the community is now highly engaged in various expressions of local community and the missional reach has been significantly increased through incarnational practices. They all feel that they are now much closer to what it means to be disciples in community.

For so long the measuring stick has been "worship attendance", which if we are being honest can have as much to do with the offering generated as anything else. Are we willing to develop different ways of keeping score? How do we better measure ministry "success" without attaching it to the bottom line?

Old Church Model ‘Killing the West’ -Journal Article Review

Old Church Model ‘Killing the West’ | Christianpost.com

This is a pretty light article… simply reporting on what is being said a conference in Texas, but there is a challenging quote from Leonard Sweet. He says, “The “Achilles’ heel” of the church is the practice of attractional Christianity. “It’s all ‘come and see’ and not ‘go and be,’”

I agree with this quote, but it certainly challenges what has long been defined as “church”. The Augsburg Confession says, “The Church is the congregation of saints, in which the Gospel is rightly taught and the Sacraments are rightly administered.” Other translations replace, “congregation of saints” with “gathering of believers”. I would not argue that this is a faulty definition of church. In fact, I would claim quite the contrary. I do wonder, however, if we might need to reconsider what constitutes the “gathering of believers”. It is good to come together as the congregation. I love to worship with my brothers and sisters on Sunday mornings (or whenever). This Sunday morning gathering has long been a place where the Word is consistently proclaimed in my life, and where I am fed by Christ’s presence in the sacrament. But are there other ways that we can be the Church in the manner described in the AC outside of Sunday morning? The challenge comes, I think in our clerical control of the administration of the sacraments. Is there a way that we as clergy might “faithfully administer” by equipping the “laity”?

If Sweet is right… and I think he is… is this realization of Church possible under the structure and systems that exist in the larger church?

Defining Missional and Organic

This was a helpful article from Alan Hirsch

He offers some good clarification of over-used (yet often misunderstood) terms. IE:

What does the term missional mean to you?

Well, that's one of those very difficult terms because it's so widely used. But for me, it primarily refers to a church that organizes itself around the mission of God, or the misseo dei, which refers to God's involvement in the world—his redeeming it to himself. In The Forgotten Ways, I say that it's not so much that the church has a mission, but that the mission has a church. So when I think of the term "missional church," it's in that order—that a church has somehow bonded itself or identified itself as a primary agent of the mission of God in the world.

What about the term organic?

Of course that one has been made famous by Neil Cole, but organic for me is the idea that human organizations—just like living systems—are made up of very complex structures, and they have a life of their own. It's a term that's in contrast to a more mechanistic view of organization. So when I refer to organic systems, I'm thinking of a type of leadership and organization that is closer to the rhythms and structures of life itself.

An organic church goes with the natural flow of things. It doesn't try to perpetuate its life beyond what it's meant to be, which is different than most organizations. Most organizations tend to assume that once they've been started, they need to be perpetuated continually.

I found these definitions useful.  As I continue to study the "missional church" I am amazed at how many fundamentally different definitions there are floating out there.  This quote, "it's not so much that the church has a mission, but that the mission has a church" I believe identifies a very real issue for many churches.  Church leaders will spend countless hours and meetings hashing out the details of a mission statement for the church when truly the mission has already been given to us by God.  Maybe we should spend those hours trying to figure out how we can best partner with God in God's mission instead.