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                     ISSUE  8  

             

AN  ISSUE  OF  CHARACTER    Cam  Roxburgh   ENTERING  OUR  NEIGHBOURHOODS    Len  Hjalmarson   INTERVIEW    Sabbath  as  a  Missional  Discipline   REVIEW  Kingdom  Culture     RESOURCES    The  Leader  as  Artist    

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CAM  ROXBURGH    

  It has been said, “All that is needed for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.”

Over the past years there has been a push towards increasing competence in church leadership. Seminars, books and conferences have all pointed toward helping ‘prevailing churches’ to have the best leadership possible. We have adopted many business principles and have at times settled for a CEO model of church leadership. Over the past months, I have bumped into a troubling belief of another kind. We are tired of “conversation” and have emphasized a more pragmatic approach. In many ways this is important, but where we have settled troubles me. Too often I hear a major emphasis on discovering what works and putting our energies towards that end. Recently I heard an even more troubling comment. A well-known Canadian leader stated, “We need to give the people what they are looking for.” Was he serious? Absolutely. The comment came in the context of the role of preaching and how we “deliver” our sermons and the impact of “who” delivers the sermons. His comment was geared around a “superstar pulpit” mentality. What is at the root of all of these issues? Does it not have to do with our metrics or how we measure what we are doing? There may be some great intentions behind any number of these ideas or comments, but they all smell of a secular model of success rather than a biblical understanding of faithfulness. We have learned to water down not just our ecclesiology, but our theology. It is time for something to change. We need to see our idea of leadership move from the leader as CEO to spiritual leader as priest and even prophet. We need to stop focusing on what works and do what is right. We need to not give people what they want, but what they need. We need to focus more on character than we do on competency.

Character, character, character. It is not that competency is not important, it is that as followers of Jesus and participants in His mission, we are called to have the character of Christ. We are not building the church; He is. We are called to reflect the image of our God who is holy, and when we see leadership lacking character, we need to say and do something (not avoid conflict because we risk that a person will leave relationship or our church). Just this past week, I have had two examples of this. A close friend spoke in a derogatory manner about someone we had just met with. If Jesus is Lord, and He is building His church (Matthew 16:18), then we must be ruthless about maintaining a holy manner in the way we speak to and of one another. I could not let it go and so I spoke to him about it. It was difficult, not just because I risked how he would respond, but even more the fact that I had to evaluate how I speak of others. Shortly before this I had a similar conversation with a friend who is not a follower of Jesus. In many ways the stakes seemed even higher in this exchange. I have spent years developing a

Too often I hear a major emphasis on discovering what works and putting our energies towards that end.

friendship and when he spoke negatively of another person, I was tempted to just leave it alone. I became quiet, until he asked me to agree with him. Then I knew I needed to risk and respond with the truth. This was not received as well at first, but by the next day he was thanking me for my response. Not only had I done what was right, but I had encouraged him to think at a deeper level about a God who is truth. In a culture that often demonstrates a vacuum in the area of leadership, we have a great opportunity to be a missional people. We must become better leaders. But what will demonstrate faithfulness and have the greatest impact will not be a demonstration of competency but of character. What the world is looking for is an example of a people who have learned not to bow to the pressure of what people want or what works, but who have the character to do what is right.   ©  COPYRIGHT  FORGE  CANADA  


LEN  HJALMARSON  

ENTERING  OUR   NEIGHBOURHOODS   “Everything that the Creator God does in forming us humans is done in place. It follows from this that since we are his creatures and can hardly escape the conditions of our making, for us everything that has to do with God is also in place. All living is local: this land, this neighborhood, these trees and streets and houses, this work, these people.” Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places, Peterson What Peterson describes was not an operating assumption in modernity. Increasingly we lived in an abstract world. We traveled across towns to gather in a building that often had few connections to its neighborhood location. In our own neighbourhoods, particularly in suburbia, we have little contact with our neighbors. Too often we live with an abstracted piety in a world where sacred and secular are separate domains. In an article in 1991, and echoing the work of Michel de Certeau, Delbert Wiens writes of the pietism of abstracted moderns. "One of the original meanings of Liberalism was precisely the “freeing” of the individual from the “bondage” of concrete societies. In principle, all of us-whether Liberal or Evangelical or Fundamentalistare liberal. But then a new economy (the Industrial Revolution) and new ways of thinking … produced a new kind of “liberation.” Individuals were abstracted from their concrete communities to concentrate on abstracted tasks in new kinds of functionalized settings. And so modern society is no longer a layering of concrete communities on the way to peoplehood. The nuclear family is now the last vestige of the older way of organizing peoples, with the result that no concreteness stands between it and that replacement for peoplehood which is the modern state. But the state is also no longer concrete; it is based on a contract (a

constitution) tacitly adopted by individuals. "Evangelicalism seldom questioned whether the abstractive, functionalizing spirit of modernity should have been countered. Nor did it understand that it was transforming churches into mere congregations. One result is that Protestants, and especially Evangelicals, have little understanding of the real character of the biblical peoples of God or of the biblical understanding of the corporate nature of the Body of Christ. As a movement it has been suspicious of religious “tribes” and “peoples”-and even of denominations, that halfway house between the corpus Christianum and autonomous congregationalism. "… an incredible number of parachurch organizations have specialized in the abstracted aspects of nurture and mission which were once the “all-grown-together” aspects of concrete Christianity. A result, not surprisingly, is that the exploited, already weakened congregation, becomes ever more fragile {47} and irrelevant.” "Mennonite Brethren: Neither Liberal Nor Evangelical," in Direction, Spring, 1991 A couple of years ago Robert Lupton was asked to speak at a large evangelical seminary. Half way through the seminar he asked them this question: “What are you learning in your class on loving God?” A brave soul answered, “Actually, we don’t have a class on loving God.” “Ok, so what are you learning in your class on loving your neighbor?” Same answer.. “Actually we don’t have a class like that.” So Lupton said, “So if I remember it right the greatest commandment is this: to love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind and strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself. You have classes on everything, but not this: are you sure this is an evangelical seminary?” And you have to wonder.. how did we get to the place where we stuff our heads full of in-formation about God.. Information about society.. Information above love.. ©  COPYRIGHT  FORGE  CANADA  


Information about ministry and about culture.. But we no longer SEE people, and we don’t know our neighbors. Do we really know what it means to follow Jesus? Or have we been so formed in the rhythms and doctrines of our culture that we live in an abstract world of ideas – a Gnostic world – and at a pace that keeps us fragmented and harried. Simon Carey Holt writes, “the Incarnation is about much more than God revealed in human experience, but God revealed and encountered in place— and in the most domestic of places one can imagine. “The truth is that neighborhoods don’t get much of a billing in theology. For the most part, the concern with particular places has been judged irrelevant to the higher concern for truth and meaning: in essence, the pursuit of God transcends geography! This is a shame for several reasons. “First, to pursue a placeless faith is to render theology impotent to address the real struggles of ordinary people in the here and now. For every struggle we face is one experienced in the daily places of life. In fact, those places themselves are often a part of the struggle. That’s certainly true of neighborhood. “Secondly, as most indigenous theologies remind us, rendering theology indifferent to the physical locations of life is what has long enabled theology to ignore the sacredness of the earth and to remain silent as local environments and societies were systematically devastated. “Thirdly, .. the Christian faith is one of God’s interaction with the physical world. From the stories of Creation and Incarnation to the transforming presence of the Spirit in all the earth, it’s hard to fathom a Christian theology that does not treat the neighborhood as significant. God is revealed and encountered in place… Our call to mission is a call to discern, embody and proclaim the presence of God where we are. It’s a call to neighborhood. ” (God Next Door: Acorn Pres, 2006. 63) In the Message John 1:14 and 15 reads like this:

And the Word became flesh and blood And entered the neighborhood. We saw the glory with our own eyes, the one-of-a-kind glory. Like Father, like Son. Jesus “entered the neighborhood.” He entered OUR world. He became one of us: vulnerable, flesh and blood, and among us. One of the things churches haven’t done well is appreciate just how critical it is to actually invest in the neighborhoods where they live. So often we are service-providers, but NOT stakeholders. Every Sunday we drive across town to meet in buildings that are not connected to our neighborhoods. Isn’t it ironic that “love your neighbor as yourself” has become generalized until it has no meaning? When we stop caring where we live both place and people become an abstraction. And we wonder why our neighbours think the church is irrelevant. Three of the great theological themes in the Old Testament are covenant, people, and land. And they are nearly always found together, connected. When we disconnected place from the knowledge of God in the modern world we ended up with abstractions.. abstract theology, abstract communities.

When we disconnected place from the knowledge of God in the modern world we ended up with abstractions.. abstract theology, abstract communities.

Eventually God himself became something objectified and abstract and distant. And spirituality became separate from daily life. With a transcendent and uninvolved deity, how could it be anything else? We call this DUALISM or GNOSTICISM, and it has nearly destroyed our faith. And it has left a lot of us ©  COPYRIGHT  FORGE  CANADA  


bored and wondering why we feel no passion – no connection to anything real. There are some great stories out there about people living for Jesus on mission: they always involve place and proximity. Michael Frost tells the story of Sister Margaret. The priest asked her to go into the huge tower blocks.. the public housing in Sheffield. The complex consists of nine tower blocks, with verandas the around outside. Frost describes it as a bleak and desperate place. There was chronic unemployment and violence, sexual abuse and you name it. The priest sent Sister Margaret and two others to survey the needs. So they went in.. with clipboard and pens.. they knocked on hundreds of doors.. floor after floor.. filling in boxes. checking the needs. They got half way through the first tower block, and they were so overwhelmed they felt they could no longer collect the stories then drive back to the suburbs. So she went to the priest and asked.. Could our church rent one of the flats so we can live among them? They moved in and continued surveying the needs.. Their strategy did NOT change.. same survey.. same hands knocking on doors… But the difference now-- they LIVED AMONG the people. And that one step of physical proximity transformed what was happening. Rather than just collecting tales of woe and then returning to the suburbs they would say, “after we are done today we are in apt 325B .. come visit us.. or, we’re just around the corner .. we’ll come spend some time with you on this issue..” This single step of moving into the neighborhood changed the community Of course they did some other things: they noticed there was nowhere for children to play, so they lobbied the local council to build some playgrounds nearby and now there are many in this urban zone.

cared. And by moving into the neighbourhood they now hold on a Sunday-- eight worship services.. with people crammed on the veranda outside. Mission has to be up close and personal.. it is about incarnation.. being present and among..

Why don’t we build relationship

with our neighbours? A survey by one group of churches found that the problem was 1) not seeing value in it, 2) lack of time, and 3) lack of trust.

Why don’t we build relationship with our neighbours? A survey by one group of churches found that the problem was 1) not seeing value in it, 2) lack of time, and 3) lack of trust. They developed a teaching series on the art of neighbouring. Week 1 – Taking Jesus seriously – loving our neighbours Week 2 – Creating space in your life for significant relationships Week 3 – Trust – Embracing the Messiness of relationships A specific action plan followed, with suggestions for neighbouring teams and projects, including block parties and prayer. It’s not easy to escape the assumptions of modernity and allow ourselves to be read by the Word, but following Jesus means risk - following him into the mess, chaos, and raw needs of real lives in our neighbourhoods.

And the Word became flesh and blood And entered the neighborhood. We saw the glory with our own eyes, the one-of-a-kind glory. Like Father, like Son.

They started literacy classes and job interview classes. Remember these are not high powered evangelists, just three middle aged women who ©  COPYRIGHT  FORGE  CANADA  


Borderland Churches Gary Nelson In seven chapters and seven appendices Gary Nelson offers a Canadian take on what it means to live in the borderlands. Or, more precisely, he challenges us to embrace the borderlands where we live. These really are two different things, because like our American brothers to the south, we have largely failed to live in the communities where we dwell. The borderlands are a place where faith and unfaith intersect, and a place decidedly outside the comfort zone of Christendom structures.

When did you come to Zurich Mennonite Church? What was the culture and texture of the community when you arrived? My family moved to Zurich in the summer of 2003. The church had a long history of strong community presence and a desire to be an effective witness for Christ. At the same time, however, there was a sense of “stuckness” with where they found themselves and the experience of a church life that was very busy, but not necessarily in mission effectiveness.

The introduction itself is compelling, setting the stage by noting the paradox(?) that in Canada spiritual interest is growing at the same time as churches are dwindling. The tension this induces for religious leaders causes many to look for the “magic key,” which we know does not exist. Instead, we must respond to the call of the Spirit to inhabit the “borderlands.” Interesting — as I finished the introduction I thought of Joshua crossing into the promised land — with all the uncertainty and conflict that entailed. I was pleased to see that this is the one of the stories that Gary develops in the first chapter. The book looks good, and since it was written in and for the Canadian context should be more helpful for us than many of the books we get here.

INTERVIEW     Sabbath as a Corporate and Missional Discipline

There had also been a about a fifteen year history of relatively rapid pastoral turnover which created a lack of direction. This served to create an atmosphere where a few competing visions of what the church should do were in conflict (music and how to “attract” people being part of that equation). So, overall there was health, but beneath the surface there were signs of having put the emphasis in the wrong place and not really understanding the nature of the church very well. 1.

What was the context/neighbourhood like? And was it a stable or changing context?

Zurich is a village of about 900 people surrounded by other small hamlets, villages, and side roads that dot south-western Huron County in Ontario. Our municipality has a population of about 7000. Overall, population is in decline, small towns are struggling and the rural landscape is changing with small farms closing and jobs not scarce, but neither bountiful (especially good-paying jobs). Ironically, amidst all this change there is a strong sense of community and it is not a depressing place to live by any stretch. The number of churches is in decline as well and, while a general acceptance of the importance of church is present, the number of people actively engaged in the life of local churches is dwindling. 2.

What is your view of leadership, and how has your understanding changed “as the rubber hits the road?”

An Interview with Phil Wagler

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I view leadership as Christ-centered servant-hood that shapes the culture and equips the saints for ministry to one another and their world. This actually became a greater conviction as our process of growth and transformation continued as a people. I understood more clearly that I had to both model and teach a new culture and find other leaders who could do the same. The one personal correction I needed, however, was the need for patience and process. I had to learn more fully what it meant to allow transformation to cook, to create space for God’s time to fully come. 3.

How does your understanding of church and mission relate to the kingdom/reign of God? I believe the Church is to join in and embody God’s mission in the world. In a startling and almost inconceivable way the Church is God’s way of revealing his manifold wisdom in the world (Eph.3:10) and the ongoing presence of what Jesus revealed in history. Hence, the life of the Church is the presence and practice of God’s reign in the world – which the local church lives out in the unique time, space and culture it inhabits. This is not to say that the church is the kingdom of God, but that the church (those called out to be a peculiar people) has been caught up by the call and vision of that kingdom as revealed in Jesus Christ. The Church and her inherent mission is the window into that other kingdom that has been initiated in Christ, become manifest in a redeemed and re-sent people, and will come to fulfillment on That Day. The Church’s great privilege and challenge is to be faithful citizens and witnesses/ ambassadors of this kingdom they are already a part of, but is yet to be fully realized.

4.

The APEST frame of Ephesians 4 has been important to you. How has this understanding of leadership plurality impacted your practice of church and mission? How has it met resistance?

The APEST frame has been extremely important to us. To begin, it’s actually not something foreign to the church culture and expectations of our Mennonite/Anabaptist tradition, though the language we are using around it is new and unfamiliar. This, of course, can produce resistance since it sounds strange to speak of plurality in this way when, in recent years at least, we have been used to speaking of the “pastor” as either the poor soul burdened with all (or most) of the gifts or purely a shepherd-gifted person whose focus is the inner nurture of the life of the body. Further, our embrace of the APEST frame has meant releasing these gifts for the purpose of equipping the saints for ministry, rather than the executing of a number of tasks to keep the church running smoothly. This too can create resistance, for it challenges the assumptions and expectations connected to what we pay “pastors” to do. Practically, we use the APEST frame in our consideration of calling paid staff, building elder teams and even committees since we desire that a mix of these gifts be present at all levels of church life. Primarily, however, the equippers of this are the supported pastoral staff, who give time to teaching and equipping. 5.

How does your understanding of spiritual formation relate to mission?

We believe spiritual formation IS the mission. If the mission is to make disciples than helping believers grow in their understanding of their identity in Christ will determine the health of our corporate mission as a people in our community and world. In addition, we resist the temptation to compartmentalize our spiritual and secular lives. As a result, to grow disciples means they be formed by the life of Christ both in terms of their spiritual lives and their lives in home, neighbour-hood, school, workplace, and community context. So, a disciple’s life is the mission. 6.

To what extent has the transition been fueled by theological reflection? Has this been a communal process?

I would say that the transition was the fruit of theological reflection. We began first as a team of elders and then as a whole body to give theological and biblical thought to who we were and what we were doing. A healthy communal struggle in Christology and Ecclesiology helped reframe the discussion as a people. We also entered into a ©  COPYRIGHT  FORGE  CANADA  


corporate Sabbath year focused around the Scriptures that deepened our theological reflection, forced us into deeper relationships, and aided us in biblical re-imagination. 7.

As you began to think about making a shift, what were you weighing in your mind? What were the conversations like with stakeholders?

I came to the point personally where I could no longer continue to prop up and serve a church system I didn’t believe in. It’s not that I ceased loving the church. On the contrary, I think I was growing in love for the Bride even more. Still, I found that my convictions and the potential or perceived conflict they could produce were a great barrier to courage. At the same time, I realized that there were many stakeholders who shared my convictions but were looking for someone to articulate them and lead through the confusion they were feeling as well. So, on the one hand those stakeholder conversations were very rich, while on the other hand some were tense and uneasy. These conversations were in a multiple forums as well, from one-on-one to public meetings. In the end, a shared commitment and love for one another, Christ and the church bound us through the process of corporate discernment and leadership risk that was necessary. 8.

How did the existing legacy of ZMC support and detract from the change process?

This was one of the biggest hurdles, for a warped understanding of the nature and identity of the church meant that change and transition could easily be interpreted as an attack on our history or a blaming of it. We had to do hard work to help people see that far from casting aside our history and the legacy of those who have gone before, this process was a recovering of what we look back on with admiration. There was a pride in what we did as a church and for what we were known for in the community that had to be honestly addressed, while paving the way for new dreams and visions that had historical, and more importantly biblical, precedent. 9.

What specific spiritual practices did ZMC embrace in the transition, and how did they impact the shift?

There was of course our corporate Sabbath year, which was a huge and extensive exercise in spiritual practice as a people. Along with that intentional changing of the pace for a season we practiced being together corporately and in small, inter-generational groups, intensive Scripture reading, gathered worship, the sharing of personal story, mission and service, eating together, and prayer. These practices deepened the transition

and made it more than just another fix-it program and united both personal and corporate health. 10. Where are you in the process? What new questions have formed as you engage in the rhythm of inward and outward life? What other practices have proven key to the transition?

I would say that the transition was the fruit of theological reflection. A healthy communal struggle in Christology and Ecclesiology helped reframe the discussion as a people. We are most definitely still in process. Our 101 year old congregation has now planted our first church with, Lord willing, others on the way. I would say at this moment the primary process points (how’s that for a homiletic moment!) are how to structure to maintain a balance between accountability and freedom and how supported staff fit into what God is doing among us. So, new questions emerge about how you identify leaders and how you partner with like-minded people who the movement is now bumping up alongside in our area and how you staff appropriately and with missional focus when money is a stretch. A key practice in aiding this transition is the forming of intentional partnership with people not like us (and cross-culturally) that help us see ourselves more clearly and force us into learning/re-learning situations. 11. Who are your mentors or models (dead or alive)? What resources has the Anabaptist heritage contributed? I have been influenced by the way my Hispanic brothers and sisters approach mission and church planting. They have set a model for me of risktaking and seeing the necessity for many churches, even in close proximity. Mentors have come in many forms. I have a handful of close mentors who have guided my personal life as a man, husband, father, and pastor, and others who have guided my thinking and practice of ministry. Some of these have been within my own denomination and others from other parts of the body of Christ. A few of these have come my way as “God moments,” while others I have sought out myself. Historically I am definitely influenced by the practice and theological heart of my Anabaptist heritage – specifically as it relates to an understanding of the nature of the Church, her relationship in and to the world, and the priesthood of all believers. Further to that, the life of the Moravian community, the Wesleyan movement, and my reading of the life of the Church ©  COPYRIGHT  FORGE  CANADA  


outside my western assumptions has been incredibly important.

. I have had to unlearn my consumerist way of thinking about our life together and the nature of ministry. This has been painful at times..

12. What are you really excited about now? I am excited about the emergence of more and more equipped leaders (and specifically elder-types) among us. This bodes well for our future and our ability to see good theology and missiology both understood and put into practice. 13. Which sacred cows have you tossed aside in becoming more missionally engaged? What have you had to “unlearn?” Personally I have tossed aside much of the emphasis and importance I once placed on the quality and attractional importance of our weekly worship gathering (i.e. the “show” value). It’s not that excellence is unimportant or a non-value for me, but my focus has changed. I am now most concerned that the release of gifts that leads the body into praise, fellowship, prayer, and life beneath the Word on a Sunday morning be seen as only a small part of a greater whole of our loving of God, our neighbour, and ourselves in a biblical, mission-shaped, and God honouring way. I no longer care very much at all if people “like” what we do corporately, and even hope sometimes they won’t in order that they might learn the hard work of being a body and of having space to hear the transforming message of the Gospel. I have had to unlearn my consumerist way of thinking about our life together and the nature of ministry. This has been painful at times, and caused some conflict, but the fruit has been worth it. 14. What advice would you offer to other congregations in Canada that are in transition? Be willing to think more honestly about your assumptions about the nature of the church biblically. Give courage to your leaders and ask them to actually lead and not manage you. Then, be committed to

prayer together and get “on the bus” when you see the Holy Spirit is on the move. Further, accept the differences God has graced you with as a people and ask how you will give glory to God and be the body of Christ in your context and cease asking solely, “how can we do church better?”

                           

       

REVIEW     Kingdom Culture: Growing the Missional Church Author: Phil Wagler Word Alive Press, 2009

155 pages ANOTHER book on Missional Church? What for? And that would be the right question. There are a number of things that make this entry into the conversation unique. First, it is written by a ©  COPYRIGHT  FORGE  CANADA  


practitioner with theological sensitivity. Second, while Phil is a good storyteller, the narrative is structured through a theological grid. And finally, Phil is an Anabaptist: that gives him a particular lens for culture and transformation, one that is increasingly prominent in the orthopraxis of missional churches.

the brush of “inclusion” broadly, both to identified or ordained leaders as well as non-ordained. Part of his concern in this section is to question our need to label and separate and thus stop “seeing” real individuals and their gifts. At the same time he attempts to move us beyond the “us-them” stance that is often fear based and unhelpful.

Phil is one of the founders of “Kingsfield,” a movement of missional churches that sprang from the life of Zurich Mennonite Church in southwestern Ontario. Kingdom Culture seeks to bring "missional" to practitioners in Canada.

Chapter Two is “Our Leaders Lead.” It opens with a story based o New College, Oxford and the ability of one visionary who understood the times and saw the need for something new. The two divisions in this chapter are “a kingdom culture that values vision,” and “a kingdom culture that equips saints.”

The book is organized into four chapters around four declarations, "No one gets left behind," "Our leaders lead," "I am a disciple of Jesus and I contribute to his kingdom," and "We exist for the world our Lord came to save." Each of these declarations has two sections attached. Under “No one gets left behind” are, “a kingdom culture sees people,” and “a kingdom culture embraces and engages mess.” Each section closes with a short “toolbox,” offering suggestions for further exploration or practice. Before diving in, it’s probably sensible to make the obvious assumption explicit. The church is an alternative society. Whether viewed through the work of Hauerwas or John Howard Yoder, Phil’s writing – as the faith community of Zurich itself – is built on this Anabaptist vision. Where once we would have read “alternative” or “contrast” society in the title of the book, Phil has used a more recent framework and metaphor: that of culture, and specifically a culture pointing to and nurtured by the reign of God. In using this lens, Phil builds on groundwork that is being simultaneously used by thinkers like James Smith (Desiring the Kingdom) or Charles Taylor. “Culture” is a more nuanced word than “society,” and it enables a conversation around practices as well as values, moving beyond the intellectual debate around “worldview.” Thus it is at once more concrete as well as more complex, and becomes a platform for a critique around the forming practices of modernity. Positively, it enables a dialogue around spiritual formation as consisting of “disciplines of resistance” or “alternative” disciplines, disciplines that form both body and spirit. I approve both Wagler’s framework as well as his strong foundation of kingdom theology. The book opens with Wagler sharing some of this own story, placing his work in context. It then moves directly to the first two propositions, that kingdom culture sees people, and it embraces messiness. “No one gets left behind.” The concreteness of these ideas helps us move beyond our tendency to abstraction directly into the heart of a missional-incarnational ethos. Wagler applies

It is probably to Phil’s credit that he has bypassed all the debate around the word “leader” or “leadership” and simply storied the approach of Kingsfield. Phil is aware that we have some unlearning to do before we can move forward, and the first myth to fall is that vision is about strategic plans or the province of high “D” types. Vision has nothing to do with dominance, but connotes the movement of the Spirit toward God’s future. At the same time, vision is often birthed in particular men and women who are attentive to the Spirit. Often these people are marginalized because they have a habit of questioning the status quo, and are fiercely loyal to a city not seen. A settled Christendom church did not know what to do with apostles and prophets. Wagler opines that “we live with a corporate restlessness,” and “we hope together for the realization of that which is dreamed, but not yet seen.” (37) The next section focuses more specifically on the nature of gifted leadership. Wagler is concerned that we embrace greater diversity in leadership types while at the same time becoming more sensitive to the nature of the systems we lead. Wagler argues that we need stable and shared leadership to build healthy and missional communities (an argument, like Gibbes and others, against sola pastora). Wagler then offers some thoughts on our training institutions. Our removal of leaders from their local communities has only helped perpetuate the professional ministry model. Moreover, theology should serve the church on mission rather than continue as an abstract discussion. But Wagler is not saying, “no theological grounding.” On the contrary, he is concerned that we are quick to embrace those with needed adaptive skills, but often these men and women lack theological training. We need to be grounding our leaders in Scripture. This section continues with what feels like a summary of Fitch “The Great Giveaway.” Wagler ©  COPYRIGHT  FORGE  CANADA  


questions our measures of success as well as our individualistic practices. He advocates the necessity of becoming learners together, and then ends with an argument for a new preaching role: preacher as equipper of the proclaiming community. It’s obvious that here too Wagler is unhappy with the solo voce, the solo voice who declares the truth as if ex cathedra. The “hermeneutical community” would be a fitting phrase here.

Phil is aware that we have some unlearning to do before we can move forward, and the first myth to fall is that vision is about strategic plans or the province of high “D” types..

The toolbox that closes this section offers a “mentoring compass” developed by Robert Clinton and Paul Stanley. Wagler rightly argues the need for mutual mentoring at all levels of discipleship. Chapter 3 hits at identity issues in discipleship. This is the closest Wagler comes to a chapter on spiritual formation and the complexities of the faith journey. The first section is “a kingdom culture that affirms our new identity.” This is a critical section, and while it falls as section 7 in the flow of the book, who can doubt that this “who are you?” discussion will make or break our missional journey? At the heart of the Gospel is personal transformation – conversion – new creation, and unless we love God with all our heart, mind and strength all our missionality will only result in laying impossible burdens on others. As Jean Vanier put it in Community and Commitment, The more we become people of action and responsibility in our community, the more we must become people of contemplation. If we do not nurture our deep emotional life in prayer hidden in God, if we do not spend time in silence and if we do not know how to take time from the presence of our brothers and sisters, we risk becoming embittered. It is only to the extent that we nurture our own hearts that we can keep interior freedom. People who are hyperactive, fleeing from their deep selves and their wound, become tyrannical and their exercise of responsibility only creates conflict.

Phil notes again that we invest far too much energy in Sunday gatherings, and this has also reinforced the need for “professional” leadership..

Phil anchors this section appropriately in Mark 1: “You are my beloved son.” To know ourselves as beloved – this is the heart of transformation and the deep gift of God to the soul. Unless we ourselves as beloved, we will fail to be a true blessing to the needy world around us. Intimacy and mission are deeply connected. Mission is the spontaneous overflow of love at the heart of Godself. Phil rightly points out that the Church is much more than a social agency and that transformation is not mere morality. “Planted in the believing disciple is the Spirit of God, .. the Holy Spirit is given as the power to bring our identity into full and mature bloom” (83). On the following page Phil offers a spiral diagram that moves inward to show our progress in grace. The second section is “A kingdom culture that identifies contribution.” While Phil doesn’t quote Robert Bellah, he could have: We find ourselves not independently of other people and institutions, but through them. We never get to the bottom of ourselves on our own. We discover who we are face to face and side by side with others in work, love, and learning. All of our activity goes on in relationships, groups, associations, and communities ordered by institutional structures and interpreted by cultural patterns of meaning. Habits of the Heart, 30-31 Phil opens by describing how it was the Christian community that first received his gift of leadership, thus opening the door for his own contribution. Phil quotes Donald Durnbaugh who notes that the Radical Reformers did not abolish the ministry, they recovered it! For these men and women, baptism was ordination to ministry. Phil notes that our emphasis on worship as a service of the few to the many has only reinforced the passivity and non-priesthood of believers. The cultural context of a market culture and consumerism only complicates these issues. Phil argues for the recovery of worship as a Christian discipline, though he does not identify make the connection some others are making to the recovery of liturgy (James Smith, David Fitch and others). He then asks how we actually make the recovery? I appreciate all five points (96-99), but especially his emphasis on the “least of these.” Paul is careful in his discussion of gifted ministry in Corinthians to note that sometimes the weakest member is the ©  COPYRIGHT  FORGE  CANADA  


most needful. The flip side of this coin is the question, “What is a ‘contribution’ to body life anyway?” Phil notes again here that we invest far too much energy in Sunday gatherings, and this has also reinforced the need for “professional” leadership, thus working against the organic and priestly nature of every-member ministry. The toolbox that closes this chapter includes a pointer to the LIFEKEYS tools as well as to Appreciative Inquiry. While Phil doesn’t note it here, Mark Lau Branson’s book is a particularly good resource for AI. Chapter 4 takes on context, but also the need for the church to be an alternative society. The first section is “A kingdom culture that understands the times.” Phil begins with the familiar quote from The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe: Aslan is good, but not safe. We have grown lazy, and like the deity we created in our image, all too tame. Perhaps the strange place we find ourselves in, feeling so lost, is the sovereign work of God shaking us out of our comfort. Will we learn to depend on Him again? Phil shares two biblical stories in this section: that of David the king, and Israel in the time of exile, and in particular the story of Esther. But rather than the typical application, Phil’s point is to note that there is no mention of God in this book. The application: God is at work even when he seems absent. We need eyes to see and ears to hear, and a confidence that looks beyond the surface of things. We need to understand the times. The predictable and safe world of Christendom is gone. Yet this new world is a place where God is intensively at work. The fragmentation, materialism and pace of our time has created an intense spiritual hunger. In order to use this opportunity we must become listeners and learners: new questions are being asked, and we cannot answer them in old language or old frames. In times of Reformation there is a great deal of theological work to do. As Eric Hoffer quipped, "In times of profound change, the learners inherit the earth, while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists."

him he then walked with them on a three year program of deconstruction. We enter the kingdom with baggage and it takes discipline to learn to live in a new way. Most of us want to baptize our default modes of operation rather than take them with us to the cross. Phil notes that we have not done well in discipleship. We have largely taken consumers and made them into religious consumers. AW Tozer once remarked, "A church that can’t worship must be entertained and men who can’t lead a church to worship must provide entertainment." Partly in fear of the world around us, and partly because our buildings create us (Churchill), we centered our life on the gathering and wondered why we became so unappealing to the world outside our doors. We wondered why others chose to stay home and find the church they wanted by shopping on cable channels. We trained our people for passivity and consumption.

Aslan is good, but not safe. We have grown lazy, and like the deity we created in our image, all too tame .. Meanwhile, “relevance” as a goal has largely meant compromise. Phil argues that we must recover the spiritual nature of the body of Christ, recover our prophetic voice in culture, and make obedience to Christ a priority. The section closes with some additional toolbox suggestions and a prayer. The beauty of this book is that it straddles a line between theological reflection and practical application. Moreover, it is fairly short at 150 pages and is constructed on a solid “kingdom” foundation. Recommended for all who find themselves longing to see a missional renaissance. Len Hjalmarson Director of Spiritual Formation FORGE Canada

The second section is, “A kingdom culture that is wildly different,” and the quote on the first page is from Jesus: “It shall not be so among you.” It took faith for Abraham to go out to a land he had not seen. It takes similar faith to look around the room at a group of very ordinary pilgrims: truck drivers, housemaids, plumbers, Wal-Mart clerks and IT workers and see the Kingdom of God. But God dwells among these ordinary people just as he dwelt among fishermen and tax collectors. When Jesus called ordinary men and women to follow ©  COPYRIGHT  FORGE  CANADA  


RESOURCES   “The Leader as Artist” “The shift from the leader as hero to the leader as artist involves a transformation in awareness from performance to presence, from the visible to the invisible, from answers to questions, from lines to circles, from uniformity to uniqueness, from abstraction to beauty, from efficiency to improvisation and from a focus on language that is instrumental for achieving certain goals and outcomes to the expressive power of stories and the authenticity of one’s own personal voice. “These are disciplines that awaken the power of the imagination. They help transform our mechanistic or industrial view of our world to one that is more subtle and sustainable—a transcendent vision that is more creative, organic and whole. This is how an artistic viewpoint can be helpful to business leaders. It enables them to accept their own vulnerability and not knowing—of living into the deeper questions and embracing a world of uncertainty with a much greater unknown.”

The missional church vision is not a programmatic response to the crisis of relevance, purpose and identity that the church in the Western World is facing, but a recapturing of biblical views of the Church all too frequently abandoned, ignored, or obscured through long periods of church history. It is a renewed theological vision of the church in mission, which redefines the nature, the mission and the organization of the local church around Jesus' proclamation of the good news of the Kingdom. Missional Churches seek to respond to God's invitation to join Him in His mission in and for the world, as a sign, a servant and a foretaste of His Kingdom.

Michael Jones, “Transforming Leadership Through the Power of Imagination”

Charles Ringma  

         

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MVM Issue 8 - Nov 2009