Welcome back to the second & final installment of my interview with JR Woodward about his must read new book, “Creating A Missional Culture: Equipping the Church for the Sake of the World”:
JAR: What are the three most significant/common hindrances for Christians to create missional culture?
JRW: Great question. Whether these are the three most significant/common hindrances is up for debate, because I haven’t conducted adequate research to answer that question conclusively.
With that said, I would have to say the first would be an inadequate understanding of what missional culture actually is. It would be important that people understand that missional starts with our triune God being missional in his very essence, and that we are sent people with a robust gospel, guided by a missional hermeneutics, and leading in a polycentric way. It would also mean people understood the different elements of culture, which I talk about in my book, because the language we live in, the artifacts that we make use of, the rituals we engage in, our approach to ethics, the nature of the institutions we are a part of, and the narratives we inhabit have the power to shape our lives profoundly, but we must understand each of these elements.
I would sum up the other common hindrances in saying that as the church has uncritically adopted assumptions in the corporate world, it has distorted her approach to leadership, structure, discipleship and mission. In leadership, it can manifest itself in leaders who try to control instead of releasing to the Spirit; in structure, it tends to be a top-down, programmatic approach, often perpetuating adolescence and consumeristic Christians instead of mature missional disciples; in mission, it often propagates a reductionistic gospel and a church-centric (as opposed to a Theo-centric) approach to mission.
I would be interested in hearing what others think about this question.
JAR: Your website offers a lot of supplementary resources to the book. Tell us about them.
JRW: Glad that you asked.I just finished a series of blogs letting people know the various free resources that can be found on the site. When you go to the site, across the top of the page you will find words that connect you to different resources. The upper left side of the page connects you to explanation of the book, culture, the five equippers, resources and book forum.
In the book section you can find out everything you want about the book, from a synopsis, to a list of endorsements, to reviews and interviews about the book, to a frequently answered questions, to a free sample of the book.
In the culture section, you can learn about the various elements that create culture and by the end of the year there will be a free cultural assessment available. The equipper section has an overview of the equippers, a free equipper assessment, as well as a page overview of each of the five typologies in Ephesians 4, including a short video describing each one. The resource section connects you to the various resources across the entire site, including the equipper and cultural assessments, a connection to free online resources, recommended reading, the book forum as well as links to various book reviews I’ve done.
If you look to the upper right hand side of the page, you can learn more about me, check out the speaking section to see where I will be speaking in the future as well as listening to some talks I’ve done in the past and finding out the areas I love to speak on.
The writing section includes a list of published writings, unpublished papers, online articles and featured blog posts. The consulting section connects you to the various ways that consult. It shares a little bit about how I approach church assessments, church planter assessments as well as coaching and mentoring. And finally there is a place you can contact me.
Of course I blog about 5 to 6 times a week, so you can always find some fresh content. That would be a quick summary of my website.
JAR: What advice would you give young, missional Christians who embrace the life you lay out in the book, yet find themselves alone and discouraged in their passion?
JRW: Another great question Jamie. I think most of us in ministry have not only experienced the pain of loneliness, but also the pain of being alone and discouraged in our passion, as you say.
I know that in the first five years of my first church plantat Virginia Tech I felt both lonely and alone. Among the two-dozen students I inherited in the church re-plant, no one seemed to have a missional heart. Not only that, but it was during this rough season that I experienced financial hardship. I didn’t make enough money to even support a simple lifestyle. I was accumulating consumer debt, I lacked in local mentors and we didn’t’ seem to be moving forward in ministry. To top it off, people were stabbing me behind my back, which was extremely hurtful to me. But more than that, as it started to rip the guts out of the church, it started to rip the guts out of me.
I remember the night I was close to give up everything! I was wrestling with God. I was shouting and crying into the open sky. I felt lonely and alone.
I was in complete aloneness.
After my shouting and crying died down, it seems as if God guided my thoughts to the cross. I started to think about what Jesus must have felt like hanging on the cross. Those he loved perfectly deserted him. The crowds, who cheered him, now mocked him. They spit on his face. They put a crown of thorns on his head. They nailed him to the cross. And in his utter aloneness he cried out, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani? My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
It was in my moment of aloneness that I connected most with Jesus’ moment of aloneness. And it was at that moment that I came to feel his love for me, understanding what he was willing to go through for me, like I had never felt before. I started to realize what Paul meant when he talked about knowing Christ by sharing in the pain of his suffering. And that feeling of love gave me a love for those who hurt me and those who didn’t know Christ.
As we live out our calling in life, we may not always have the polycentric team that we hope around us in every season. We certainly ought to fervently pray for it, continually seek it, and not be shy about inviting others to join us. But we must also remember that God uses both the desert and mountain experiences of our life to help us know him, so that we can better make him known.
After 5 years in the desert, I experienced 7 years on the mountaintop. After 7 years on the mountaintop, I experienced another 5 years in the desert. It seems that God likes to use a mixture of the desert and mountain to grow us to be like his Son, so that we might fully live out our calling by joining God in the renewal of all things.
JAR: Thanks JR.