Leading in liminality

13 02 2009

canyouheargodnowWhat is needed from spiritual leaders during this time of uncertainty?  I keep bumping into what I think are a few keys to answering that question.  One of those keys is spiritual discernment – finding out what God is doing in our church and community.

I thought Ruth Haley Barton did an excellent job of articulating this critical leadership role in her article titled “Can You Hear God Now” that was published in the Summer 2008 issue of Leadership Journal.

Following are a few highlights from her article:

  • “At the heart of spiritual leadership is discernment-the capacity to recognize and respond to the presence and activity of God both personally and in community.
  • …discernment does not take place in a vacuum, nor by accident. Spiritual community is the context for discernment, so the first move in cultivating a culture of discernment is to establish the leadership group as a community for discernment.
  • Discernment requires us to move beyond our reliance on cognition and intellectual hard work to a place of deep listening and response to the Spirit of God within and among us.
  • Seeking discernment with others at the leadership level requires an extraordinary amount of safety in each other’s presence, along with great clarity about what values govern the process… We cannot just assume these values. We must talk about them and seek to live them with great vigor and intent.
  • The discernment process requires a commitment to listen on many levels.
  • …discernment is not the endgame. The endgame is to actually do the will of God.




Getting real about where we are at

10 02 2009

The loss so many of us have suffered (directly or indirectly) as a result of the dramatic downturn in our economy has been both very real and very painful. As a result there has been a contraction that is not only felt in the economy but in our ability to see the magnificent opportunity we have at such a time like this. We know the facts: 1) God is good – He cares about me and my family; 2) Our relationship with Christ is strengthened during times of suffering; 3) There are others with greater needs then us; 4) The gospel is for exactly such a time as this; and 5) We are the ones blessed and now called to bring Christ’s redemption to those around us.

What we don’t know so well (because so many of us have never experienced times like this before) is the opportunity. What if the vision to build bridges to our community was for such a time as this? What if that vision was manifest primarily by reaching people in real need? What if living that vision started now – completely disassociated with any relocation plans? What if we trusted God with our future and focused on the needs at hand?

Some of us have answers to these questions: 1) It’s not that bad in Tallahassee; 2) Give it a year or two and things will be getting back to normal; 3) We are already serving the community – look at what OFS does each week.

Let’s say for argument these answers prove to be true – can we say we have acted like Christ by just maintaining the status quo? What if it takes five years to “get back to normal?” What if things get worse?

Here’s a course of action that needs our serious consideration (pertaining to Wildwood Church):

1) Admit that the relocation project is stalled.
2) Admit that leadership has been detached from one another and in disunity for some time and that only recently have steps begun to correct this problem.
3) Admit that our finances are in decline – presumptively because of the economy.
4) Admit that we are not sure when we will move forward with relocation plans but to do so now would be not only imprudent but an unethical use of resources with the increasing needs in our church and community due to the state of the economy.
5) Offer to return funds to people who gave to the relocation project who are experiencing financial hardship or who are dissatisfied with the lack of progress with the relocation plans.
6) Get permission to use the funds given to the relocation project to meet extraordinary needs of individuals and families in our community who have been affected by the economy.
7) Implement a church-wide collaborative form of communication to identify those extraordinary needs and solutions for those needs.

Risky? Without a doubt. What if people take us up on the offer to get their relocation contributions back and we give the rest away to people with extraordinary needs (and we do all that with a diminishing general fund)? But then think about the risk if we don’t act. What value is a vision to reach our community that we largely ignored during a time of crisis?

Perhaps it is premature to sound the alarm – perhaps this recession will not get much worse and be over sooner than expected. I am not a pessimist by nature but these are truly uncertain times – we have never tried to come out of a recession when the rest of the world was in it with us and the financial system had experienced such widespread failure.

No one knows the rules of how this game gets played out. Hoping for a soft landing and a speedy recovery is not a bad thing but I also don’t think it is a bad thing to discern what God would have us be about. Could it be that these uncertain times are the very windows of opportunity to advance God’s kingdom in our community? I think that this may be the real – the reality of what God is up to – that we need to be about.





Missional leadership

26 01 2009

missionalleader

Alan Roxburgh is leading a series of webinars that coordinate with his book The Missional Leader.  The book is an excellent resource providing some very practical guidance for leaders in post-Christendom.  Christianity Today reviewed the book shortly after it was published in 2006.  The following comments are from that review: 

“The book first describes this new term ‘missional.’ Leaders no longer view themselves as heads of a hierarchy, and church members no longer look only to the “professional” Christians to get the job done of reaching and caring for their communities. Missional leaders are more interested in cultivating community than controlling outcomes through programs and buildings. Such congregations are beginning to breathe in the same air and dream incredible dreams because they are learning to allow God’s Word and his Spirit to lead them rather than agendas, budgets, and traditions. People who would never have dreamed of taking leadership roles are discovering purpose in the community of believers.

“Essentially, in this model, the leader is a facilitator skilled at bringing out the deeper issues among the community. Rather than providing solutions, he asks good questions and embraces, rather than resolves, tension. The missional leader seeks to cultivate the congregation’s imaginative power rather than attempting to shape it into a pre-determined form.

“…For all its idealism, The Missional Leader paints a realistic picture at least of what life could look like among churches willing to enter the chaos and make lasting change little by little.”

Early last year Chad Hall illustrated how The Missional Leader was “playing out” in several churches in a Leadership Journal article (pdf available here).  

webinars_350x225The webinars Alan Roxburgh is hosting are available here.  The next one is scheduled for February 16.  The first webinar was recorded and recently made available to the participants – I’ve posted it below (the Powerpoint can be accessed and printed from here):





Leadership is spatial

18 12 2008

“The primary work of leadership is to continually stand in the place (space) where it is compelled to ask the question of what God is about among this group of people who comprise this local church in this specific context at this particular time.”

-Alan Roxburgh





The Fine Line

18 12 2008

thefineline2Reaching people is less about knowing the answers and more about relating to the questions. But living out how to relate well to people in the world – how to be in the world but not of the world – is tricky.

We have a sense there are lines that should not be crossed but I find those lines much more clear in theory than reality- at least in the reality of loving people in need.

Kary Oberbrunner’s new book The Fine Line went on sale this week and based upon the reviews I’ve seen is quite helpful at shining some light on this oft murky matter. Below is a short intro video for the book:





We need to be sanguine

15 11 2008

roxburghAlan Roxburgh’s comment to a recent article titled New Economic Paradigms & Church Leadership, by Sara Jane Walker, deserves serious attention.  His comment reveals the starke reality of the challenge facing church leaders in North America.  Following is the fourth paragraph from his comment: 

“We need to be quite sanguine about the current state of churches in terms of [the] issues of economic and social change. As the ambiguity and anxiety deepens they tend to become places people seek for security and re-assurance rather than transformation and the spiritual disciplines to live hopefully through transitions that many of [them] may never see end. At the same time I am aware that something else is happening ‘off stage’ just now. More and more Christians in North America (some suggest the number is moving up into the high 40% range) are dropping out of church as they’ve known it. They have not ceased to be Christians they just can’t function inside the church-denomination systems that shaped the 20th century. This is not, I believe, about taste (music, preaching, programs etc) or religious goods and services. I don’t think that read will hold water much longer (certainly not in Canada). Something much deeper is happening. Across all age ranges, this drop out has to do with a deepening sense that the churches are irrelevant in terms of issues people are facing in their lives in cultural transition. We could say much more about that but the point is that very, very soon a huge number of existing churches will find themselves in the position where the economic model out of which the church has functioned is no longer viable. This means high anxiety for a growing number of clergy who have grown dependent upon the salary systems of their church bodies.”





Five things

13 10 2008

Andy Stanley closed the last session of the Catalyst Conference last week talking about stuff that he has on his mind. Tim Stevens summarized those five things on his blog Friday:

1) To reach people no one else is reaching, we have to do things no one else is doing (Craig Groeschel) – we have 175,000 people within 10 miles of Northpoint, and we aren’t reaching them. We aren’t going to reach them by building another church building. We have to do something no one else is doing.

  • Become preoccupied with those you want to reach rather than those you are trying to keep.

2) The best idea for reaching the next generation isn’t going to come from the existing generation, it’s going to come from the next generation.

  • If you are over 45 years old, you aren’t going to have any good ideas. It’s your job to recognize the good ideas.
  • Don’t do to the next generation what the previous generation did to you.
  • Be a student, not a critic.

3) I’m looking for what can’t be done in church, but if it could be done would fundamentally change the church.

  • It always used to drive me nuts that the communicator and the leader had to be the same thing.
  • Multi-site solved this. Now the great leader doesn’t have to be the teacher.
  • Like that, you may be the one to crack the code on something no one else has figured out that will fundamentally change our “business.”
  • Pay attention to people who are breaking the rules. It’s the rule-breakers who are oftentimes the problem solvers.

4) If we got kicked out by our board, and they hired a new guy, what would the new guy change or do different? Let’s walk out the door and walk back in, and make those changes.

  • The problem with ministry is that we’ve fallen in love with the way we’ve done ministry.
  • It’s not “no pain, no gain” — it’s “no pain, no change.” Without pain, there typically isn’t any change.
  • Ask: “Where are we manufacturing energy?” The things we aren’t very excited about, it takes energy to get it done, but the results aren’t stellar.
  • Acknowledge what’s not working. Own up to it. And own up to why you aren’t willing to do anything about it. What is it you fear? You need to deal with that. It is a leadership lid for you.

5) When your memories exceed your dreams, the end is near. You look back with smiles and lots to celebrate, but you don’t have a lot to work forward to.

  • Are you willing to be involved in the future more than the present?
  • Don’t let success overshadow your vision.
  • Success breeds complacency and complacency breeds failure.

Need ideas about what to do next?  …these sure are some great starting points.