We often bring unconscious expectations to life. We feel disappointed when things don't turn out as we had hoped, even when we aren't aware we had a desire for a particular outcome. Often we are poor judges of what should happen in our lives. We bring a whole set of ego-centered habits and patterns, and we dream from the person we have been , rather than the person we are being transformed into. Our transformed self is always far beyond our own striving. When we realize we have limited vision and that our planning minds will only take us so far, then we can begin to gently release the pressure we put on ourselves to have things turn out in a certain way. We may begin to approach life in a more open-hearted way, receiving its gifts rather than grumbling about what we would rather have had happen. (60).When we seek to bring about change that is not a tweaking of what has existed in the past but rather something entirely new, our own planning and limited vision often does get in the way. Letting go does not begin in the planning room, it begins in the place where we seek to listen to God. I am more convinced than ever that unless we can unleash our creativity and imaginations in the realm of prayer and worship, we will never see real change that leads us into the new reality of God's kingdom, occur. God's new reality does not emerge fully grown, but as a baby that needs to be nurtured and fed.
- From Biblical hope to new design: the core of MSA is its desire to articulate and bring into being something of God's kingdom dream of a world made new where justice does come for the poor, healing for the sick and wholeness for all creation.
- A spiritually discerning community that seeks together to discern the will of God for us as an organization and the implement it. Ministry flows out of spiritual discernment in community not out of "what we do well".
- A questioning organization (or should I use the word prophetic) that calls others to question the status quo of the secular culture and inspires them to create new models of life and faith that flesh out something of what they hope God's kingdom will look like. It is only when we question that our imaginations can be stirred and newness can come.
- We are an organic organization and see planning as a fluid process that flows out of our spiritual discernment and constantly allows us to be reshaped by the ways God speaks to us as a community.
- Praxis and academia are both important to us. We don't just want to talk about change, we want to be a part of it, allowing it to shape who we are so that we can move along the journey towards becoming the people God wants us to be.
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.
This morning's post is the first of two that come from an interview Jamie Arpin Ricci did on JR Woodward's new book Creating A Missional Culture. I had planned to review the book but felt that this interview articulated what the book is about far better than I ever could. It was first published on Jamie's blog as Creating A Missional Culture.InterVarsity Press author, JR Woodward, about his new book "Creating A Missional Culture: Equipping the Church for the Sake of the World". His answers are so great, I thought I would split them into two posts. Without further ado, here it goes: Jamie Arpin-Ricci: When the Christian book market seems to be flooded with books on what it means to be "missional", why did you think your book needed to be written? How does it stand apart? JR Woodward: One of the reasons why I felt the need to write this book is that we too often fail to understand the power of the culture of the congregation in forming us. So I take some time helping people understanding what missional culture is, and why it is important. If we want to develop missional disciples, we need to move beyond an individualistic approach, understanding that we create culture and culture in turn recreates us. I address the five kinds of environments needed to create a missional culture – a learning, healing, welcoming, liberating and thriving environment. In addition I make that case that not only do leaders create culture, but also our very approach to leadership creates culture. A hierarchical leadership paradigm lends itself to an individualized approach to spiritual formation and often perpetuates adolescence in the congregation. While a polycentric leadership paradigm lends itself to a communal approach to spiritual formation mature disciples. Here are some of the unique contributions that this book seeks to make, and questions that it seeks to address:
- Understand what missional culture is and why it is important
- Discover the five environments that unleash the missional imagination of God’s people
- Learn how to assess the culture of the congregation you serve through the cultural web
- Understand how the culture of the congregation will help or hinder the maturity of the church
- Learn how to identify, cultivate and multiply the five equippers (apostles, prophets, evangelist, pastors and teachers) in the congregation you serve
- Learn why polycentric leadership makes more sense than hierarchical leadership or flat leadership
- Discover the power of stories, liturgies, rituals and rhythms in developing a discipleship culture that reshapes peoples desire for God and his kingdom
- Get practical tools that will enhance your ability to lead as a team of cultural architects, cultivating environments where good things run wild
Stay tuned for Part 2...Be sure to visit JR's site for some great resources & material.
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