There is something happening in our thinking about church. There is a shift occurring right now. Many leaders, young and old, big time and grass-roots, are being challenged by difficult questions that fall in the category of “Missional”. I count myself among them.
So this morning I had a conversation with one of my mentors / leadership coaches that has led me to ponder some things. We were chatting about what he learned from his observations of and his friend’s experiences in the removal of Ferdinand Marcos from power in the Philippines in the 1980’s. One of the things he said is that before the election he and his colleague, who lived in the Philippines at the time, had a conversation about the types of leaders participating in the political reform. My mentor said they fell into one of four categories. As he talked I couldn’t help but apply these categories to the current missional conversation in the American church. So let me explain the categories and then (in a post tomorrow) begin reflecting on what they means for me as a young leader who is loving the missional conversation.
First it needs to be said that every leader in the following catagories realizes that something needs to change. They are all struggling with the fog of Missional. What it means? What the conversation is about? What the future holds? What it means to be “on mission?” What it looks like to be a “missional church?”
Leaders in the conversation can first be ranked on a scale of Open to Closed. The “Open” leaders are all about experimentation, all about trying something new, all about tossing out the current practices for different ones. These are the “what ever is going to get the job done” guys; the “burn it all to the ground and start from scratch with a white board” gang. The “Closed” leaders find great value in the way things are currently being done. They defend popular methods of being the church with passion because those methods are deeply meaningful to them. Neither of these are necessarily good or bad…they just are.
Leaders in the conversation can also be ranked on a scale of Ideals to Self. The Ideal crew is focused on the thinking behind the movement. They are theorists. They want to see their thoughts on church come to reality. The Self crew is focused on the reality around them. They listen and apply ideals, but don’t build them themselves. They care about how the ideal will work in their immediate context.
We usually associate the word “self” with “selfish.” Don’t do that here. These leaders aren’t selfish. They are simply thinking first about their immediate surroundings and how their church, their people, their staff, their stuff will benefit or be harmed by adopting the ideals.
Okay, you got the scale?
So there are four different stereo types of leaders in the scale.
- Radicals – These leaders are focused on developing and bringing about the ideal. They aren’t thinking about a particular context; rather they are thinking about the definition of “church” in general and want to see that come about. These leaders are also willing to try anything. House church, mega church, organic church, etc… They don’t care. What ever will get the job done most efficiently. They aren’t tied to any model.
- Reformers – These leaders, like the Radicals are focused on seeing the ideal become a reality; but they care deeply about a certain model. At some point a House Church had a deep impact on them and they are passionate about the House Church Model. Or maybe they were deeply moved by the attractional worship of a mega church. They love it and can’t imagine their faith without a monster sized gathering. The model they are tied to is not important. What is important is that they are tied to one.
- Bureaucrats – These leaders love a specific model and are focused on their current circumstances. They assume their model is staying through the change. It is not up for question. They also are not overly concerned with building the ideal; but rather want to know how the ideal is going to effect their circumstances. A question this leader might ask is, “If we take in the ideas of ___________ how will they encourage or harm our existing model?” If the ideal will do more harm than good they will reject it. If it will encourage and enhance what they currently do they will embrace it.
- Opportunist – Like the Bureaucrats, these leaders are more concerned about their existing communities than shaping the ideal. They have specific people in mind. But like the Radicals they are not tied to a specific model. They will burn the ships and start over from scratch if they think they new stuff will be better for their people.
Again, none of these are better or worst. They are simply different.
What they have in common is they all believe something needs to change. They are all involved in this missional dialogue going on.
So where do you fall? Which one are you?