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Sunday, June 11, 2006

The Rules Have Changed, Pastor... (Be sure you know the rules!)

MissionalleaderThere is a lot of talk about the 'missional church' these days and the change needed in pastoral leadership to have effective churches in today's culture.  In their new book "The Missional Leader:  Equipping Your Church to Reach a Changing World,"  Alan Roxburgh and Fred Romanuk say that pastoral leadership must constantly change in order to be effective leadership for the missional church.  As a matter of fact, they go as far as to say that because of all the change in our culture, many of the classical pastoral skills taught in today's seminaries are 'insufficient' and 'unhelpful'.  Here's an excerpt...

A denominational executive sits listening to a group of pastors share their convictions about the shaping of a missional church for their denomination. His arms are folded across his chest, his legs crossed, as he listens in silence. His body language suggests nervousness and resistance; yet, like a good leader, he has chosen to come to this meeting and listen to these men and women share their hearts with him. A veteran of many years, he has given his heart to his denomination and gotten many a bruise from his efforts. He knows the statistics, just like everyone else. This once-proud mainline denomination is bleeding members every year, budgets are plummeting, reserves are running low, and the remaining staff are being obliged to carry more and more work. Something needs to be done.

After the pastors finish speaking, his initial comments reveal the needling questions he brought with him. He is concerned that he seems to hear a lot of negative things from the missional church movement. From his perspective, missional church seems to be telling him that what he did in the past was wrong, that he and others just don’t know how to lead in this new world. He is concerned about the criticism of his and his peers’ leadership.

This executive is both right and wrong. He and his peers are exemplary; they lead with excellence and great skill. The skills and capacities that shaped church leadership for much of the twentieth century were the right ones for that context. We are not critiquing these skills and capacities. Our point is that the world has changed. Discontinuous change means that many rules and assumptions about leadership now need to be reexamined and rewritten. This does not make those who have led us in the past wrong; it means we are functioning in a different context. Just as a missionary who moves from North America to another culture must unlearn a lot of habits and skills to learn how to be present and effective in a way that achieves results in the new context, so we pastors and denominational leaders in North America are now in a place where we must all learn new capacities if we are to achieve effective missional results.

The important point to remember is that we are all in this situation together. We are all learners on this journey. This is not a matter of judging or accusing or dismissing the past efforts of leaders of great skill, passion, and integrity. All of us in leadership, young and old, experienced veterans and raw recruits, must discover together the new shape of leadership.

The classic skills of pastoral leadership in which most pastors were trained were not wrong, but the level of discontinuous change renders many of them insufficient and often unhelpful at this point. It is as if we are prepared to play baseball and suddenly discover that everyone else is playing basketball. The game has changed and the rules are different.

The situation requires cultivation of new leadership capacities. Alongside the standard skills of pastoral ministry, leaders need resources and tools to help them cultivate an environment for missional transformation. In one congregation, a staff of five pastors struggled to deal with complex, multiple expectations they had of themselves and the congregation had for them. They could articulate what was meant by a missional ecclesiology, and they had read several books on missional church, but they struggled with conflicting images of what it means to lead and what the congregation expected. They articulated what was for them a helpful way of describing their situation using a summary chart analyzing what they believed were two different paradigms operating both in them as leaders and in the congregation. We’re not suggesting this is the correct description of the divergent expectations and roles, only that it’s illustrative of what we believe is actually happening among leaders in the church today.

The Pastoral Model in the table below represents, for them, the role expectations placed on or held by congregational leaders. Here the assumption is that people come to the church to receive religious goods and services, and the pastor is, like a priest, present to engage and meet their spiritual or religious needs in every way. This team believed that the image described under this column continues to be the more dominant and powerful model, both for pastors and those who attend church. When they looked at the Pastoral Model, they readily admitted that most of the skills in which they were trained were developed for functioning in this framework. They clearly understood that for a large percentage of the congregation pastoral care is still a central competency for any leader of a congregation. But this team also recognized that it is no longer a sufficient skill set for leaders. Simply being skilled at caring for people once they come to the church is not sufficient for engaging the changing context in which a congregation finds itself.

Operating Models of Leadership



Expectation that an ordained pastor must be present at every meeting or event or else it is not validated or important.

Ministry staff operate as coaches and mentors within a system that is not dependent on them to validate the importance and function of every group by being present.

Ordained ministry staff functions to give attention to and take care of people in the church by being present for people as they are needed (if care and attention are given by people other than ordained clergy, it may be more appropriate and effective but is deemed “second-class”).

Ordained clergy equip and release the multiple ministries of the people of God throughout the church.

Time, energy, and focus shaped by people’s “need” and “pain” agendas.

Pastor provides solutions.

Pastor asks questions that cultivate an environment that engages the imagination, creativity, and gifts of God’s people in order to discern solutions.

Expectation that an ordained pastor must be present at every meeting and event or else it is not validated or important. Preaching and teaching offer answers and tell people what is right and wrong.

• Telling
• Didactic
• Reinforcing assumptions
• Principles for living

Preaching and teaching invite the people of God to engage Scripture as a living word that confronts them with questions and draws them into a distinctive world.

• Metaphor and stories
• Asks new questions

“Professional” Christians

“Pastoring” must be part of the mix, but not the sum total.

Celebrity (must be a “home run hitter”)


Make tension OK

Conflict suppressor or “fixer”

Conflict facilitator

Keep playing the whole game as though we are still the major league team andthe major league players. Continue the mythology that “This staff is the New York Yankees of the Church world!”

Indwell the local and contextual; cultivate the capacity for the congregation to ask imaginative questions about its present and its next stages.

"Recovery" expert ("Make it like it used to be")

Cultivator of imagination and creativity

Function as the manage, maintainer, or resource agent of a series of centralized ministries focused in and around the building that everone must support. Always bee seen as the champion and primary support agent for everyone's specific ministry

Create an environment that releases and nourishes the missional imagination of all people through diverse ministries and missional teams that affect their various communities, the city, nation, and world with the gospel of Jesus Christ.

The Missional Model they developed represented, for them, the emerging leadership paradigm they wanted to innovate in the congregation. This model recognizes a context in which people have an ever greater variety of religious options. A congregation must become a place where members learn to function like cross-cultural missionaries rather than be a gathering place where people come to receive religious goods and services. As the team articulated this list, they were aware that they needed a whole new set of leadership skills. You may choose your own description and categories, but the principle is the same: in a situation of rapid discontinuous change, leaders must understand and develop skills and competencies to lead congregations and denominational systems in a context that is missional rather than pastoral.

If this is a subject that really interests you, you might want to take a real in-depth look at how your leadership should be constantly changing by picking up a copy of The Missional Leader... it will show you what capacities, environments, and mindsets are required to lead a true missional church.

For Discussion:  How is your leadership doing in training cross-cultural missionaries comparied to merely having attenders that consume religious goods and services?  Do you buy into the notional that we need to be less 'pastoral' and more 'missional'?  What is your game plan for keeping up on the latest leadership and missional church strategies and training?  And finally... how has your leadership changed since you left seminary (or got your training?)

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June 11, 2006 in Leadership Issues | Permalink

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Help me out here, what in the world is wrong with mission, ministry and message that is organzied around the creativity and imagination of the people, but is still centralized? Are we suggesting that staff, building and budgets are no longer necessary?

I think this is a continuation of a reactionary movement to unhealthy "celebrity", megachurches. While, I do agree that Christian celebrity can get out of hand, I still believe God's Word when it says that he gave "some" to be pastors, teachers, etc...

I believe that a lot of what is going on is jealousy. 10 years ago, the jealous tried to be something they weren't...now the jealous are just critical and trying to do something different.

The truth is, God grows some works very large, and others He doesn't. One thing I do know, a large, powerful, centralized church, has to be missional or it will not last. I believe Rick Warren, Bill Hybels, Andy Stanley and others like them, are all very missional, and yet, their churches are centralized at the same time.

The key word to me is BALANCE.

Let's keep some perspective, and not run away from a of organized, centralized missional ministry that is effective and Biblical.

Posted by: Brian | Jun 12, 2006 9:49:15 AM

Dear Todd,

Thanks for the challenge to reflect on what it might mean to be a missional leader. However, it may not be all God calls pastors to do and be. Let me explain.

I have been temporarily attending a predominantly caucasian mega-church in the SF Bay Area that has grown into several thousands over the past 6 years or so. They probably grew a thousand alone since just this last Christmas. They have a new building and are filling one new Sat. night service and two Sunday morning services. The pastor is a really great guy. His preaching is typically filled with very effective humor and focuses exegetically on an almost verse by verse approach. He does a great job teaching and hits all the traditional topics. The church is very hightech and running with a large and seemingly happy cadre of voulnteers. However, very little pastoral care takes place through worship or prayer focus. Rare altar calls and no prayer teams standing at the front at the end of the service. In fact, you never see people praying together. The joy of this church seems to be that people can come and be anonymous. Additionally, I would rate the quality of worship as spiritually and technically average at best. They try with top equipment, and the people know how to play their instruments well, but there is absolutely no special music talent at all. The worship team only sings one morning song and then has announcements for a long while, after which they may sing one more during the offering, and one more before the message. At the end of the service they play another song while half the people immediately get up and leave - its very distracting to anyone trying to sustain a spirit of worship or consider how to respond to God's voice through the message. In summary, this is a consumer church that is built around a Hawaiian lite style of culture where the pastor is an outstanding communicator and cultural analyst. People can hardly stop talking to each other at the end of the service to each other out in the courtyard in their blue jeans and vacation shirts.

What's my point? This church is missional and extremely effective in reaching thousands with the Gospel, but the missing ingredients of deep and sustained worship, as well as pastoral care and prayer ministry, cause me frustration. The preaching does not compromise the Gospel in the least. Its phenomenol. But the organizational approach on Sunday morning caters to an efficient and anonymous crowd mindset. If this is the future of church in America, one where pastoral care and worship are very thin or focused on the minimal common denominator so that people feel "happy," then I wonder when people will get frustrated with a faith experience that is seemingly engineered for dependence upon a star preacher/teacher, great logistics, and little spiritual ministry except for talk around the donuts. Maybe I am selling short the donut talk.

Posted by: anonymous | Jun 12, 2006 9:50:01 AM

I believe that the church as it is emerging is going to be terrifying to professional clergy - yes, I am one - who cannot adapt to the increased desire for hands-on, doing oriented, participatory ministry that new christians coming out of our culture see as their "right."

We pastors have done a decent job of making ourselves human and getting off the pedestal - but we often don't like the reality that our "status" changes as people's perceptions of us change.

Of course, mega churches are focusing on mission and they do a great job of it in some way or another or they would not continue to grow and reach people. It is still true, though, that 20% of their congregations do 80% of the work, giving, mission, etc.

Today's leadership is far more diverse than the article suggested. The article may be true for a church attempting to reach this new generation of people - but not all churches are doing that. Many pastors will get along fine with the skill set they have used and seen as efective all their lives - if they are in a church whose market continues to be aimed at older "moderns."

Some of us will adapt and work through new paradigms of leadership. They will likely be more team oriented (my experience),more empowering of others and will often make the pastor feel like he is "out of the loop."

I don't know that it makes it "bad" or against the traditionlly styled churches and I don't believe that it makes it superior either.

It simply is.

And leadership will continue to adapt and change as situations demand it.

Doesn't it always?

Posted by: Greg S | Jun 12, 2006 10:13:12 AM

When all is said and done, the power is in the Word. So whatever we need to do to get people to be comfortable enough to listen to the Word, we should do. I think that the assumption people make all too frequently is that the culture and conditions are the same all across the country. I am here to tell 'ya' that the cuture of eastern Kentucky is a far cry from that of any other place I've ever lived. I think that people are just too quick to try to get on the band wagon with a new trend or gimmick or something that will really make their church grow. I think we need to stay open to changes in our culture and trends in the local church, but the key thing we can't forget is that we are joining God in what He is doing and we are partnering with Him, in His work and that He left us a detailed training manual that we need to get all of the trainees through so that they can continue the work. Unfortunately what I am seeing happen in many places, is that people are getting involved in ministry without first being discipled and grounded in the word. Whatever model we use, we can not miss the most essential step which is discipleship. Paul did not immediately begin his ministry after conversion, nor should anyone else. This is the biggest danger I see in this missional movement.

Posted by: John.Jacobson | Jun 12, 2006 10:53:47 AM

Anonymous makes some very valid comments. I too am concerned about the depth of what takes place in this new way of doing church.

I think we have a tendency to be extremist in life. The problem with this is not in being relevant and missional, rather, it is in losing the biblical idea of church. We are called to be missional, but that is done in life outside the church experience. The gathering of the saints biblically was not intended to be relevant to the pagan community. It is for the believers to commune with God and each other, to strengthen one another, to build each other up, to worship in spirit and in truth, etc.

We will never be able to stand if we neglect true worship. Reaching people only makes sense if we are in union with Christ.


Posted by: Ed Mooneyhan | Jun 12, 2006 12:15:47 PM

I'm not sure I totally agree that the missional folks are untrained or even lack dicipleship. I see a huge void in discipleship in mainline, denominations. To continue to repeat the "mantra" just work harder at what you're doing it will all work out greatly ignores that the church in North America has lost its footing as a major contributor in our culture. Whether it's Kentucky or Tulare, CA. people are influenced by their surroundings. We are subtley changed by prevailing govenmental regulations, laws and attitudes.
We have to be about our primary purpose. And what is that? Probably most of us hestitate at that question. What was Jesus primary purpose? To seek and save those that are lost. The whole missional/Emerging church conversation scares me to my bones. Because we, as the clergy have to change! We cannot continue business as usual anymore. The whole discussion of change rattles my security and confidence I've placed in my education and skills as a leader. What was successful 10, 15 years ago isn't as effective today. As it shouldn't be in some areas. Every level of our culture is being tested, tried and re-evaluated. There is discussion of how the Supreme court's function in this land has shifted from interpretation of law to now "making" its own laws. That very shift in the highest court in our land affects you and me at the core of our DNA as a nation and a spiritual body.
The answers are no longer simple or even easy. The rise of every addiction and deviant behavior is forcing us to look at our methods and cry out to God and say "How do we "infect" this culture with the transforming power of Christ?" Preaching anit-this or that sermons isn't cutting it. Somethings we must continute to protest, but never as a substitute to the Love of God. Next time you fly in a plane, or travel, ask the guy next to you what his or her definition of a Christian is. You might surprised at what you get. It was for me, and it wasn't positive. A simple how-to sermon for some is fine, but for the addict, child-molester, alcoholic, spouse-abuser, divorcee, homosexual, single-parent, there has to be a body of people who "live" the gospel not just talk about it only on sunday morning.
I believe the Emergent/Missional church conversation is asking the right questions. They don't have all the answers obviously. But to coin a Dr. Phil phrase, "you can't change what you don't acknwoledge" seems appropriate right here.
I've been in the church my whole life. Gave my heart to Jesus when I was six years old. I've lived 57 years in the church and I've seen so much I could be critical about. But there is no where in this world where sinful, fallen, beat-up mankind can find saving-grace EXCEPT in the person and church of Jesus Christ.
When will we become that grace-giving church that Jesus gave his blood for? When will we quit denying the truth that we need to change, adapt, rework, re-do, re-learn, re-cycle, be transformed by His Spirit?
I'm challenged to the core of my being. The world is a very unkind place. But it's always been that way. There is no protective bubble around us, save the indwelling and life-giving HOly Spirit. Can we at least acknowledge that we need to be "Revived again", for the sake of Christ and the salvation of this generation? The old time revivalers knew it, preached it and tried to life it. My Grandfather was a great revivaler in the 40's. He spoke of change then for his generation. It's not easy nor comfortable. Since when has our walk with Christ ever been easy or comfortable. You are a great bunch of people, keep dialogueing, keep pressing forward. God bless you all!

Posted by: James | Jun 12, 2006 12:42:28 PM

If the pastor is delegating "all" church tasks to either other staff and to the congregation, why is he/she getting a salary? Why even bother going to the seminary if all lay people are to carry out his/her duties?

I agree that it is important to galvanize the congregation to work on goals in all areas, but without a solid and principled leader, it is like recess time in school without the hall monitor.

I am also offended by the fact that the pastors get the big salary and then he/she EXPECTS the congregation to do everything for FREE in the name of God or mission. How on earth can the congregation have the time to earn a living and support their families?

Another point: When the congregation puts a lot of time and LEADERSHIP of their own into the church, they no longer feel the need to donate $ to support the church. How can the church meet the financial obligations? Let's not forget the electricity bill! And staff' salaries and other expences.

Mission work is essential for every church. At the same time, Sound leadership is equally important. Please do not make one more important than the other because it souds like it is an excuse for incompetent pastors who can't lead to dole his/her hired duties to his/her congregation.

Every church is a mission for Christ--The Great Commission. This books sounds like it's another way to rehash and spin The Great Commission to make it easy for the pastors. I am not big on meetings either. Communications can easily be done by e-mails nowadays.

I still feel that most seminaries fail our pastoral candidates because the young pastors who have come out of seminaries in the last 5-10 years have very little leadership skills overall--traditional or missional or any other style. In addition, most of them can't even preach with correct grammar and have no musical skills--how can a pastor knows nothing about music when more than half of the service is music? Hymnoloy is not required, among other historical aspects of the Christian church.

Why are we pushing all these "leadership" books and "Christian" books when everything we believe is in the Bible? Why don't we have more Kyregma, or even Bethal classes? In the recent years the push for mega-churches is the BIGGEST IDOLATRY in the Christian Church.

Thanks be to God that the cream always rises to the top. We have always had missional pastors through the ages. Why re-invent the wheels!

Posted by: Dr. May Tucker | Jun 12, 2006 2:51:39 PM

To answer Todd's question, I do think the church needs to be less "pastoral" and more "missional", in the terms defined by the article. When the church allows/demands the pastor and staff to do all the pastoral work, the church is robbed of the opportunity to minister in its own gifts. At our own church, we have a lay team that visits the sick, with the pastors visiting only those who are seriously ill. When the church reaches 900 plus, and the members want themselves and their friends, neighbors, and cousins to be visited, the church has a choice between having a professional visitor or a visionary leader in their pastor. A missional church seems to me to be not a new concept, but merely a carrying out of a pastor's duties to "equip the saints".

Posted by: Nora | Jun 12, 2006 3:03:19 PM

It's funny. I really have no idea what to say to this article/snippet OR to the reaction and commments from the article. Honestly...there's so many random and unrelated comments (and comments that have me scratching my head), that I don't know where I would begin.

Here's my best thought. I'm constantly wondering if these authors and posters actually exist in a "next generation" church or whether it's all theory and classroom congecture. I lead a church that's average age might be 26. I'm 35 and I'm one of the old guys with a 40-something couple mixed in here and there. My expereience rarely agrees with anything said on these next-generation matters.

So...all these assumptions are either tied to context OR everyone is just blowing a bunch of smoke that we'll laugh about 20 years from now. Hmmmmmmmm.

Posted by: Rick White | Jun 13, 2006 11:12:41 AM

As far as "missional" being a new way of thinking/leading, fine. Good leadership observes, evaluates and changes but all under the pervue and authority of God's Word. But I am tired of the blame for what the church is and is not always falling on the leadership--specifically--the pastoral leadership. (And this is not a sensitivity reaction on my part.) Our little church in what I would call rural Maine (town of 16,000) has grown from 35 people to over 700 currently and still growing. Praise the Lord.

But the fact is, we keep getting inundated by the "experts" (Barna for example)telling us what is wrong with the Church and why we the Church are not attracting men, or not attracting singles, or not attracting the elderly, or not attracting--you fill in the blank...

All I see it doing is feeding right in to the wonderful All-American consumeristic mind set. Personal responsibility is never part of the equation; never! It always goes back to what the church isn't doing right. That's strange; the first "Body of Christ on Earth" said "Come and Follow Me." Then He took off without begging, without pleading, without bribing, without bowing to everyone's conception of what and who it was they were to follow. So where does the second "body of Christ on Earth--the Church" get so bogged down in making sure everything is just so-so to everyone who possibly might enter the doors?

As far as the "emerging church," there is nothing new under the sun. It's the "home church" repackaged only worse; at least the home church movement was trying to be grounded in the Word even if misunderstanding "description" vs. "prescription." If Barna et.al. are right-- and I don't believe they are--we are headed for even further dilution and confusion of the "faith once for all delieverd to the saints."

As for large church criticism, all I will say is that I would rather be a mile wide and an inch deep than a block wide and in inch deep!

Posted by: Bill Cripe | Jun 14, 2006 6:49:18 PM

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