Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Missional Leadership 2

Here is an image I am pondering to describe the role of a missional leader. Platoon sergeant (my apologies to those who do not like martial analogies). A platoon sergeant is one of the foot soldiers. His role is to be in the midst of battle with his troops. Along with the rest of the platoon, he is under order from higher ups. He gives oversight to the platoon, but he is not ultimately in charge. His job is to give care to his troops -- not as an end in itself but to enable them to faithfully fulfill the mission before them. He leads the platoon as he walks with the platoon. He asks questions like, "Is there water in your canteen?" "How's your ammo?" "Are your socks dry?" All the while checking his own water; ammo; socks.

Here is how this is analogous to a missional leader. A missional leader is leading a community of pilgrims to follow Jesus on the lifelong path of discipleship. A missional leader is not primarily a manager of a Christian franchise that distributes spiritual goods and services (i.e., the program/attractional model of the church). A missional leader is a fellow pilgrim who sets the pace and gives guidance and oversight to a community that is moving toward the full obedience of discipleship; the unfolding embodiment of the Kingdom of God. He walks with the community and asks, "Are you worshipping God?" "Are you serving the poor?" "Are you saying the Daily Office?" "Are you growing in the fruit of the Spirit?" He works on these things in his own life. He does not have everything together in his life. He is simply on the journey with everyone else.

The picture of the church that drives this image is that of a group of pilgrims on the move rather than that of a spiritual resource center.

Maybe the Abbot of a monastery is more like this model.

I'll ponder that. Any thoughts?


Adam Gonnerman said...

Nice post. I've posted a link to it on my blog.

My trouble is in defining what is a program and what s "missional." Does a missional church run a Christian school? I've been mulling this over for a while on my blog.

How do people help the poor without a program? Does the church administer it, or the members?

James Gibson said...

I would think a Christian school, especially if it were primarily intended for economically disadvantaged children or those with other challenges, would fit right in with a "missional" church. Some of the leading religious educational institutions began as mission schools (although some of them may have long since departed from their roots).

When I think of "programs," I think of a church with more of an inward focus: family night dinners, mid-week Bible studies using pre-packaged curriculum, etc. Programs are characteristic of an attractional ministry, as opposed to an incarnational one. A missional church is incarnational in its approach to ministry, focusing on relationships instead of programs. Relationship building means community building, and as the community grows, the missional imagination of its members is cultivated and a common vision emerges not from pre-planned strategies, but from the community's shared experience of God moving in its midst and revealing his will through prayeful discernment.

+ Alan said...

I like this analogy. I think it hits a very needed idea of what a Christian pastoral leader should be. I think that's an accurate tie in too, the abbot thing. The fact that an Abbot of a monastery does jobs in the monastery along with everyone else - not just being the abbot. He may sew habits or wash clothes sometimes. This is different, significantly, than what has been modeled to many of us.