Leadership- on mission together

For my seminary class on “Leading Congregational Change,” I’m reading Roxburgh and Romanuk’s book The Missional Leader: Equipping your church to reach a changing world. I actually started by just skimming this book, but it thoroughly caught my attention, so now I’m reading it more carefully.

One of the first things they do is compare the old model of “pastoral leadership” with “missional leadership.” Pastoring, for them, means the following: significant meetings always include the pastor, ordained staff take care of the people and their needs, pastor’s schedule is shaped by people’s needs, preaching and teaching is didactic and offers the answers for life, pastor is the “professional” Christian and a celebrity, pastor plays the role of conflict suppressor and peacemaker and recovery expert, he/she is a maintainer of the church.

Missional leadership, on the other hand looks like this: Pastors are cultivators of an environment, they are coaches and mentors, pastors release people for ministry and mission, they ask questions and invite people to engage scripture as a living Word, they teach using stories and metaphors, they recognize their role as significant but not the sum total of the Body, they facilitate conflict and recognize that tension is okay, they encourage imagination and creativity, and they look for local opportunities and models of ministry.

I resonate with missional leadership, but, wow is it hard to get people on board with this new model when the old one is so ingrained in their hearts and minds!!! I can hear the question, “Well, what will she DO all day if she’s not visiting the hospitals and the elderly, and attending meetings??” So why are we changing the model of church leadership?

It would be nearly impossible to deny that change is needed. Another section of this book that has caught my attention deals with the change in our culture. In this age of the information explosion and what many call ‘discontinuous change,’ the authors say: “one result of uncertainty and massive change is that people turn inward to their private selves, and at the same time turn the public world into a means of achieving their own private security or identity… The bridge between private and public has been dismantled to the point that ‘the sole grievances aired in public are sackfuls of private agonies and anxieties.’ Communication has become largely narcissistic- private therapy through public discourse with gurus such as Dr. Phil and Oprah” (p. 67). That paragraph stopped me cold. From what I’ve seen… so true. We’re so afraid– afraid of losing our rights, losing our identity, losing our way of life and whatever we have to hold onto– that we’ve crawled into our shells. We don’t really engage each other anymore or the world, for that matter.

Want to know what the authors believe the answer to be? Narrative. A story. “For people to become something more than a collection of individuals crowding together for warmth, they must recover A COMMON NARRATIVE that gives sense to the present and shapes the future” (p. 69). How simple and how profound… actually, at first it sounds silly. But I’m beginning to believe in the power of stories. They have shaped and formed me over the years, and I see them forming and shaping my own children as they grow. Maybe it’s not such a silly idea. What is my congregation’s story within God’s Great Story?

Oh, God, make me a pastor who cultivates true community and tells the Great Story and the community stories well! Amen.

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1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Robert Martin
    Jun 10, 2008 @ 09:51:10

    Roxburgh makes some of the same commentary in “The Sky is Falling” concerning the changing landscape of church leadership and church structure.

    And you have pointed out the key challenge: people are SO used to the way things are that doing anything different is met with severe resistance. Even the narrative solution sometimes doesn’t work. What I’ve seen happen is that the church spends time defining their story about where they’ve come from and their identity of where they are now and then they get stuck. “Well, we know who we are now. Now we need to maintain that identity”.

    Something that needs to be stressed is that the story does not have an end to it, that it is still being written. Where we are now, our identity now, is not necessarily the end of the road. An image that comes to mind is my 5 year old daughter. She is a pre-schooler. That is her CURRENT identity. But, she won’t always be a pre-schooler. She will grow, change, and mature. Next year, she will be a kindergardener. Some time in the future she will be a girlfriend…a wife… a mother… a grandmother… etc. Identity shifts and changes as people grow. The church body is no different.

    Reply

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