Leading a church through the changes required for missional living is seriously complex work.
Many people, understandably, are fearful of the disruption taking place in our culture. With political and racial tensions reaching new heights in our communities, neighbors now see one another as enemies. Having any sort of conversation, let alone a faith conversation, puts people on edge.
But because missional leadership essentially means embodying the work of a missionary in our context, we can’t give up on it. It is at the heart of our work in a post-Christendom culture, and we need it today more than ever. Without missional leadership, we can’t articulate the vision and shape values that call into being and form our communities in consistent missional engagement. And without it, we won’t have the inner heart transformation necessary to desire or sustain a life on mission.
Here are four essential elements of missional leadership that will help shape your imagination for what it could look like in your own community
1. Missional leadership notices and cooperates with the rule and reign of the kingdom here and now.
Attentiveness to the kingdom is important because it grounds us in the truth that missional leadership is not merely a technique or style that we can put in our professional toolbelt. Missional leadership is a posture and presence oriented toward God and others. It seeks alignment with the kingdom as a model of leadership, instead of the world’s idea of success. It is a participation in and with Christ’s ongoing kingdom-of-God leadership.
2. Missional leaders engage culture and cultural change with a gentle, peaceful confidence.
Yes, our world is filled with division and animosity. But our non-anxious missional leadership is grounded in the notion that this is our Father’s world. He is its Creator, Savior and Sustaining-Superintendent—and humanity remains God’s project. We live in this Trinitarian-bathed world which, by his loving, wise design, is perfectly suited to finding God and serving others. Even now, divine intention is not in doubt. Of his telos we can be totally assured: One day Jesus will hand over the kingdom to his Father and everything will be perfect. No more tears or pain—just the knowledge that God is God and that he has been right all along. He is working on our behalf from creation up to the new heavens and the new earth.
3. Missional leaders take seriously the words of Jesus: “It is better that I go away and that the Spirit come.”
We live, by God’s plan and purpose, in the age of the Holy Spirit. The Church cannot participate with Jesus except through the person and work of the Spirit. Missional leadership helps the Church come to a genuine, interactive confidence in the Spirit, doing ministry fueled by the person and work of the Holy Spirit. Luke 24:49 is a core instruction for missional living: “Wait until you have received power from on high.”
4. Missional leadership transforms lives and communities so that they are aligned to Christ.
Jesus’ genius is that such transformation comes from the inside, out—from one’s heart to one’s attitudes, actions and words. As Dallas Willard has put it, “Spiritual transformation into Christlikeness requires a conscious, clearheaded and public commitment to living as a disciple of Jesus Christ. That is, to a decision to give our lives to him as his constant students, learning from him how to live all aspects of our lives as he would live them.” Missional leadership involves calling the Church to receive the gift of this kind of life.
An Opportunity to Grow as a Missional Leader
My aim with this post is to shape your imagination so you can begin to live gently, peaceably, little by little live into a life of missional leadership. As we learn from the Apostle Paul, modeling is a core practice of spiritual teaching—and thus of missional leadership:
Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ. (1 Corinthians 11.1)
I love being on the journey of becoming a missional leader. I have pursued it for 44 years and I never tire of it! I value the constant learning and formation it produces in me. And I would love to engage you in conversation about it.
Upon Archbishop Foley Beach’s commissioning, I founded and now lead the Telos Collective, an initiative of the Anglican Church in North America. Our goal is forming missional leaders from every diocese for the unprecedented challenges they are facing today.
In light of pandemic realities, we have moved our annual Intersection Conference to a virtual format, September 16-17, and we have invited distinguished speakers to engage us on the topic of “For the Sake of Others: An Anglican Imagination for Missional Leadership.”
If you resonate with these thoughts on missional leadership and want to explore it further in a group of like-minded clergy and lay leaders, I warmly invite you to join me for just $39.