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The Missional Leader: Equipping Your Church…
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The Missional Leader: Equipping Your Church to Reach a Changing World (J-B…

by Alan Roxburgh

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Alan Roxburgh: The Missional Leader
Thesis:
“A missional church is a community of God's people who live into the imagination that they are, by their very nature, God's missionary people living as a demonstration of what God plans to do in and for all of creation in Jesus Christ. ” While the previous statement remains true, our culture is experiencing a time of “discontinuous change” which will “transform a culture forever, tipping it over into something new. ” If this is true, then a leader must emerge that does not seek to preserve the structures of the old paradigm of faithfulness which is passing away, but who instead “creates an environment within which the people of God in a particular location can thrive”. Thus, the missional leader is one who recognizes that the “game has changed and the rules are different” and in turn sets about to cultivate “the missional imagination of the people of God in the midst of massive change”.
Evaluation of Sources:
Many are aware of the seminal work Missional Church, which was written under the leadership of Darrel Guder and others. Alan Roxburgh is one of those ‘others’ which gives him a sort of instant credibility based on his participation in that phenomenal work. In fact, what Roxburgh is doing in this book is nothing other than attempting to flesh out what changes in leadership would necessarily look like if we re-interpreted our congregations as missional and began to live into that calling. Of course, we must admit that Roxburgh has certain limitations when attempting to deconstruct the current paradigm of leadership, since he is an ‘insider’—a resident of North America—which necessarily limits his prospective lenses. It would have been preferable for Roxburgh to team together with others outside of this context in order to further exegete and then deconstruct the “discontinuous change” that we find ourselves in . However, given those limitations, I think Roxburgh has done an excellent job of laying some groundwork for future exploration of the theme of ‘missional leadership’.
Since this work is roughly a continuation and extension of the Missional Church project, I do not expect that Roxburgh would again need to be tasked with the responsibility to lay the theological framework that Missional Church already has. Thus, as expected given the foregoing, Roxburgh’s citation of critical sources is light. I do think, however, that the source material for the social science perspectives should have more widely integrated. As someone who is not knowledgeable about the social sciences, it would have been helpful to find my bearings by understanding Roxburgh’s starting point a bit better here. Overall, I find this study to be a strong one and a necessary extension of the theology that Missional Church introduces. It is nice to see some orthopraxy being fleshed out, especially in the way of helping those tasked with the leadership of communities understand the roles they can play in order to cultivate a culture of mission.
Tracing the Main Idea:
The major development of the theological framework for Roxburgh’s suggested practicum is derived from Missional Church as has been said before. Within the boundaries of this book, most of the revisitation of those fundamental concepts are seen in Part One: The Context and Challenge of Missional Leadership. It is in these initial pages that we are reminded that missional leadership must be organic and new, and never merely a repackaging of the old paradigm. This is true since we are currently experiencing a time of “discontinuous change” that will not be effected by our old methods derived from an old paradigm.
Fundamental to the belief that we must develop genuinely new ways of talking about missional leadership is the conviction that missional faithfulness is highly contextual and is therefore determined to a large degree by its setting. This in turn derives from an understanding of the necessity of the word becoming flesh in each new context in which it finds itself. There is here a recognition of distantiation—a recognition that Jesus in his particular context does not directly translate into our context–and therefore an affirmation that the process of contextualization must be undertaken if the message has any hope of being genuinely understood and embraced . Another key affirmation is that God has historically turned up in seemingly the most Godforsaken of places. Thus, Missional leaders must not look for immediate signs of effective integration but instead be about the business of cultivating an environment that “releases the missional imagination of the people of God ”. This ability to look at the missional task without packaging it in terms of immediate effectiveness takes a new set of glasses, indeed a wholly new paradigm. Roxburgh suggests that leadership under the modern paradigm was one of “caretaking or entrepreneurship” . This frame of reference necessitates a certain understanding of faithfulness, mainly growth (though not preferred, even at the expense of health). Leadership in the post-modern context must instead be about the “cultivation of an environment that releases the missional imagination of God’s ordinary people” . This sort of leadership “opens a space to discover ways of forming the missional community” . In sum, “missional leadership is to be incarnate and contextual ” in turn unleashing the collective imagination of God’s people. “Missional transformation develops around people participating and engaging with God rather than trying to convince people to get involved in someone else’s solutions. ” The task of the leader, therefore must be cultivation of an environment where persons are given permission and encouraged to ask how the community may better live into the kingdom of God.
Part 2 of this book attempts to flesh out how the principles of missional leadership discussed in Part 1 might look in terms of cultivating change. I will not review the specifics of this portion, as they are very nuanced and detailed and cannot easily be recounted here. Suffice it to say however, that this was extremely helpful in terms of better understanding how cultivating missional imagination might look. I am quite sure though that Roxburgh would not intend that these examples and practices be directly applied to a leader of any one church in particular or in general. Instead, this section was designed to give participants a view into what Part 1 applied could generate.

Personal Reflections:
Foundationally, this text provides both framework for, and example of, the leader as cultivator for the missional faithfulness of God’s ordinary people. While it is clear that the primary audience Roxburgh has in mind in writing this book are leaders of existing congregations who need to cultivate change from the center, it is still helpful for those of us who are at the margins, attempting to start something new. Reflecting on Roxburgh’s main ideas affirms in me hope, that while what is before me now looks very difficult and possibly hopeless from an entrepreneurial vantage point, it is full of hope and possibility from a missional one. One of the most difficult things an emerging, missional leader has to do is to remain hopeful in the face of staggering odds. Yet, without this hope, there is no future! Indeed, it is this sort of “leadership that cultivates the practice of indwelling Scripture and discovering places for experiment and risk as people discover that the Spirit of God’s life-giving future in Jesus is among them ”. It is that hope that opens up the present to the kingdom of God, which is our future. ( )
  jesposito | Aug 7, 2007 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 078798325X, Hardcover)

In The Missional Leader, consultants Alan Roxburgh and Fred Romanuk give church and denominational leaders, pastors, and clergy a clear model for leading the change necessary to create and foster a missional church focused outward to spread the message of the Gospel into the surrounding community. The Missional Leader emphasizes principles rather than institutional forms, shows readers how to move away from “church as usual,” and demonstrates what capacities, environments, and mindsets are required to lead a missional church.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:05:00 -0400)

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