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William Carey’s influence on “Haystack” Students
Setting the stage for the historic prayer meeting with the five students who gathered under that haystack to find refuge from a storm in August 1806 was a little booklet written only a decade or so earlier by William Carey. The booklet was entitled: “An Enquiry Into the Obligations of Christians to use Means for [...]
A “New” Kind of Church Minister: George Isley
My pastor, George Isley, who went to be with the Lord five years ago, modeled a kind of leadership in the Church that is, from my perspective as a missionary of 25+ years, too rarely seen. One of George’s classmates, Dr. Don Lundgren, Missions Minister at College Church in Northampton, MA, said George had been [...]
Introduction to Missional Collaboration
As I develop a new training course on Missional Collaboration for the University of the Nations, I will be unveiling several aspects of the course through this blog. Today’s post originates from one of my papers and in response to an article on the Trinity by Mark Avery, professor of a course on Collaboration at [...]
New, Old Meaning for Hospitality
Hospitality has taken on fresh meaning to me lately. I’ll explain. I understood hospitality to be mainly “friendship with the stranger,” and NOT primarily how to set your table to impress your dinner guests. Welcoming strangers, radical as that view seemed, isn’t broad enough. Recently, while doing some research on church eldership, the word hospitality [...]
Our table is the center of our home. It’s the place our family comes together, the place we welcome friends, neighbors, and strangers. We invite others into the kitchen where we chop and sauté vegetables, bake bread, stir sauces, pour the fruit of the vine (juice or wine, you choose), and prepare to savor the [...]
History: Adoniram Judson
In September 1809, college student Adoniram Judson began to ponder seriously the subject of foreign missions. At the age of twenty-one, he had just finished his first year of theological studies at Andover. Judson read a sermon which was preached in the parish church of Bristol, England, by Dr. Claudius Buchanan. Buchanan had been a [...]
Calling: What I’m looking for…
U2 singer songwriter Bono expresses a spiritual yearning in the 1987 album The Joshua Tree hit single: “Still haven’t found what I’m looking for…” New Musical Express (a pop music mag in the UK better known as the NME), points out that the popularity of the song may be due to the way it showed [...]
Easter Note: Holiness is Intimacy with God
“What language should I borrow, to thank Thee dearest friend, for this Thy dying sorrow, Thy pity without end? O make me Thine forever, And should I fainting be, Lord, let me never, never outlive my love to Thee.” This line comes from “O Sacred Head, Now Wounded,” a 12th century hymn by Bernard of [...]
Sitting here warming in the sun and listening to the gentle spash of the waves along the jagged lava rock of the Kona Coast of the Big Island of Hawai’i, I find it difficult to believe this is where a tsunami slammed the small shopping center along the shore on March 11, 2011. That contrast [...]
Holiness is MORE than Intimacy with God
At Easter I wrote about Holiness, that holiness is intimacy with God. (Here’s that post.) I described how Bernard of Clairvaux’s 14th century hymn, O Sacred Head Now Wounded, was a personal and public pre-Reformation plea for intimate relationship with Christ. I return to this subject because I did not adequately describe the beauty and [...]
#11 Special Tribute:
It Happened at a Haystack
I first learned of the monument on the Williams College campus in 1988 while researching student missions. In 2006, I joined several student ministries leaders from across the nation at the 200th anniversary of the event that led to the establishing of this memorial. Do you know why there is a monument on the small [...]
Thank you for a great year! – John Henry
1. To foster missional partnerships, placing interns to serve field projects worldwide.
2. To recruit and place students and staff ready to serve and learn a biblical worldview as a missional strategy worldwide.
3. To establish an international coordination office, including guest house, study center, and library.
Cultivating Communities of Practice, by Wenger, McDermott, & Snyder (Boston: Harvard Business School Press, 2002), is one of several required books I read for Fuller Theological Seminary‘s MA in Global Leadership. The following are my reflections:
I have a great interest in how organizations, particularly those with Christian leadership, work and how they respond to change. This book is rich with practical insight as to how non-profit organizations, churches, and christian ministries may develop in a globalized society.
One trend I have observed helps me see the way forward. In recent years several international conferences, training courses, and outreaches have been convening around points of passion and global human need, like water, women’s issues, slavery, and children at risk. YWAM International and other Christian missions agencies have also begun to look at a new mapping paradigm for global strategy called Project 4K wherein the map is divided into about 4000 geographic units, Omega Zones, highlighting those areas still requiring engagement.
What appears to be needed is a new cross-platform, multi-disciplinary team approach to properly engage each of those geographic regions.
Through the Student Mobilization Centre‘s School of University Ministries & Missions, we are equipping field leaders who will be able to coordinate multi-disciplinary field project teams. During the past 15 months, we have presented this 12-week training program in India, USA, Korea, and Colombia. I leave today to teach on Missional Collaboration for the final week of the school. Participants in the SMC school learn how to collaborate with leaders and communities to harmonize outreach teams to serve broad-based long-term community development project goals while mobilizing students for field based learning.
YWAM’s University of the Nations operates according to what Wenger, et al conclude in Communities of Practice; that is, “useful knowledge is not a downloadable commodity.” It requires participation.
The best learning experiences are in the context of relationships, especially those experiences with others that at the same time unfamiliar and familiar. In my experience, students learn best when taken out of their familiar culture to serve and learn in a context that challenges their expectations and status quo learning experiences. They also learn best if put in a situation where they are challenged to work together with those who share their skill set, academic training, and/or missionary goals.
By cultivating these communities of learning and serving, I believe we will ourselves learn how to do world missions and how to participate as a global church in the twenty-first century. By developing this field project model of university ministry, placing students as interns into a wide array of community development projects with national leaders who require their service, we will all learn, we will become a community of practice.
By requiring students as part of their internship to research and write about their cross-cultural serving-learning experience, we will thereby share knowledge gained both with the field project leaders and with the universities and professors that sent the students. These project teams will help us steward and share the knowledge gained. These long-term community development field projects could serve as “laboratories” for curriculum development as well as cross-disciplinary field project leadership development.
By working together across cultures toward a big vision of collaborative ministries, leaders of missional communities, churches and organizations, will increase their ability and speed generating and implementing creative ideas for community development, evangelization, and training.
To accomplish this, we will need to form missional communities in university settings, and cross-platform, multi-disciplinary, communities of practice at field sites where internships may be hosted and field project staff leadership may be trained.
The most essential element of this field-based learning community is the authentic cross-cultural ministry that must be the foundational intent and the fruit of the project.
Where missional communities of practice exist, the witness of the Kingdom of God will be evident in a much greater way, both in the university and at that field projects’ community. These communities of learning and leadership equipping may in turn affect a change in the whole of the Christian missionary enterprise through an integrated development model of field ministry and leadership equipping.
This book is ‘salty’. I am thirsty for more with each page turned. Even more so, I am hungry for the practical outworking of this vision within the context of my own life and ministry. That is why I am developing a seminar and a 12-week course on Missional Collaboration. The challenge to me is to deliberately form communities of practice in my ministry context, the universities of the world.
As I develop a new training course on Missional Collaboration for the University of the Nations, I will be unveiling several aspects of the course through this blog. Today’s post originates from one of my papers and in response to an article on the Trinity by Mark Avery, professor of a course on Collaboration at Fuller Theological Seminary. This is the first of a series I will be posting as I develop the course. — John Henry
The Heart of God’s Mission is Relationship
Working together in God’s Mission is not complicated. Accomplishing the Great Commission is an enormous task. But fulfilling this commission from Jesus is through the empowering of the Holy Spirit and the blessing of the Father. The task is not placed completely on our shoulders. We are sharing in the task through our relationship with God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. God’s Mission flows out of personal, intimate, encouraging, and cooperative relationship.
What is Missional?
The term “missional” is buzzing all over the blogosphere and publishers are happy to sell the many books on the topic. Sadly, the term “missional” has created some confusion. Under the umbrella of “missional” are various descriptions and historical formations of church, discussions of theological and political/justice issues, and questions of equipping/releasing leaders for christian ministry.
Darrell Guder, contributing editor of the book “Missional Church: A Vision for the Sending of the Church in North America” from the The Gospel and Our Culture Series (1998), explains:
“…by adding the suffix ‘al’ to the word ‘mission,’ we hoped to foster an understanding of the church as fundamentally and comprehensively defined by its calling and sending, it’s purpose to serve God’s healing purposes for all the world as God’s witnessing people to all the world.”
We are “Ambassadors of Reconciliation”
“So we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We beseech you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.” (2 Cor. 5:20 RSV)
Simply put, to be missional is to join God’s Mission (Missio Dei), which is God’s desire to “reconcile to himself all things.” (Col. 1:20 RSV) I think it is important to dismiss the sham argument, the straw man set up to defeat this desire to be missional. For example, those who want to join those who are dismissing Rob Bell’s new book “Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived” even before they read it, please take some time to consider first this theological conversation about eternal judgment, whether it is a universalist or an annihilationist position. Theology is an ongoing conversation, which implies relationship, listening/speaking and learning. Theology is humanity’s study to understand God’s desire that “all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” ( 1 Tim. 2:4 RSV)
This emergence of theologians and Christian leaders who desire to see their church communities become “missional” is concurrent with significant global shifts in Global Christianity. For fifteen centuries the “Church” has been affiliated with the political powers of the Western world, beginning with Roman Emperor Constantine. This means we have almost always understood the Christian Church to be established and settled in the West, that the “mission fields” are outside the West. Please understand, the emphasis on reaching the unreached parts of the world is good and right. However, the formation of churches have been with the presumption of power and privilege within Western society, with a tendency to posture themselves paternalistically over the “younger” churches in the less-reached world.
The emergence of theological questioning about our understanding of God’s Mission and the Church’s role came to a point of crisis within the past three decades, when the geographic center of Christianity moved south. Todd Johnson, co-author of the Atlas of Global Christianity (2009) writes,
“Shortly after 1980, Christians in the South outnumbered those in the North for the first time in 1000 years.” (2004) Today over seventy-five per cent of protestant Christians are in the non-Western world.
The shift in the center of gravity of World Christianity came as a surprise to Western Christian leaders. Much of the Western Christian world predicted a decline in Christian numbers in Africa and Asia in the twentieth century. What surprised Western missionaries is how so many Africans and Chinese embraced Christianity, mostly without Western orchestration. To understand this extraordinary growth in World Christianity, Lamin Sanneh calls for a “fresh understanding of the gospel in world history.” (2003)
How does this Global Shift impact our understanding of Mission and Church?
We need to first understand the importance of relationship in a theology of mission. The doctrine of the Trinity informs our understanding of the dynamic relationship between the persons of the Godhead, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. God’s relationship with all of creation, especially the dynamic relationship between those created in God’s image, flows from the dynamic relationships within the Trinity.
Before we can work with others effectively, we must know our own identity, our strengths and our weaknesses. There is little point in embracing the missional renaissance if we do not first take an honest assessment of ourselves, our communities and our culture. We must refuse to be conformed to this world, attempting to repackage our churches with a marketing ploy and call it “missional.” We must recognize how the Western Church has failed to be missional, opting for a settled institutional power-based attractional organization. People relate out of identity and their relationships form their identity. Like a child growing within a family, our identities are formed through our interaction and relationship with others. Our identities are shaped through our interaction with our environment, and the groups to which we relate. As individuals we relate to one another, however churches and groups do not effectively relate. Organizations are not typically designed to work together; they measure their success by their growth. Organizations, including churches, attract individuals to participate as members. Organizations need people simply to add to their size, their capacity, their reputation, their influence, and ultimately their power. To be missional we must first repent of thinking too highly of ourselves, our organizations and churches, and our culture. We must change our thinking, admitting how we have been conformed to the powers of this world, and choose to be transformed by the renewing of our minds to the word of God, submitting ourselves to king Jesus and aligning ourselves to God’s mighty word of power. The simple act of repentance, acknowledging that the Church is not the Kingdom of God, will help us to transform into missional communities.
We are all created in God’s image, and therefore our identity and our capacity to relate comes from God. The amazing dynamic of identity and relationships within the Godhead, within the Trinity, is the basis for a theology of relationship and collaboration. As we come to know God better, we will be enabled to work with others better.
The Missional Renaissance is an emerging ambition among thoughtful Christian theologians and leaders to make disciples of all nations (simultaneously engaging our own Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the ends of the earth). To be missional is to form mission shaped leaders and mission shaped churches.
What does revival look like? I was in a pastor’s meeting recently where the topic was discussed. I think they were correct when they said it’s like a wave that you cannot control. All you can do is begin paddling like a surfer to prepare to catch the wave.
What I have noticed, paradoxically, is that revivals down through history have rarely been met with a great welcome by the religious leaders of the community. When revival comes, it raises the hope of the community for a future with Jesus at the center of every home and every conversation. Revival brings a transformation of culture, a culture of hope.
I believe the way to create hope in a community or even a wider culture is to proclaim the good news by word and deed. The message of hope gets drummed up like a political slogan, but hope is much more than that. What is taking place in the Middle East today is the activation of a fervent hope for a future that honors individuals, families, communities, and whole nations.
We cannot control the destiny of nations, but we can participate. As a missionary, I believe hope can be realized in a community by consistently reporting the good news. The good news is the gospel story, but it is much more. Christians need to engage their world with active involvement, even in small ways. We can visit prisons, hospitals, shut ins, and neighbors. We can invite strangers, the lonely, and the lost into our homes. We can enjoy a simple meal with the hungry and share our time and belongings with the poor and needy.
Proclaiming the good news is done, not only through word, but also through deed. And hope is fostered in a community when those words of Scripture are matched with actions of love. Hope grows as we report on the many small actions that are making a difference in our community. You might call them “achievable wins”, simple acts of love in community.
Hope is not found merely in acts of charity, however. Hope must be firmly rooted in the Person of Jesus Christ. That hope should not be rooted in this world. Neither should the hope be rooted in heaven, which has caused too many lovely Christians to ignore the needs of this world. So proclaiming the good news, reporting on our “achievable wins”, must include a clear presentation of the overarching vision of relationship with Jesus in our daily lives and in our neighborhoods.
A culture of hope will grow under that vision and mission of Jesus. What grows in that culture are is a spirit of missional unity, which produce many missions partnerships. The hopes of pilgrims in the no-man’s-land of collaborative culture, those who recognize each individual, family, church, and organization’s identity as a contributor to the whole task of Jesus’ mission, is what makes up the culture of hope.
Some people will be early participants in this “culture.” They are the boundary spanners who are willing to examine and work to span the chasm between different groups, churches, and organizations. Though each expects something different from their emerging partnerships, they will work to enhance their part so that their group may in turn develop a culture of collaboration, a willingness to enhance the vision of Jesus in their community.
The early participants will often begin the task before everyone else is on board. They continue to remain open and hospitable, content to not be leading a large public movement. They choose rather to open their homes and share meals and prayer times with those who would catch the vision later. These courageous ones are willing to address difficult questions. They do not study theology; they DO theology. Their every conversation is dripping with theological hope. They are students. These disciples of Jesus are learning together in community. They are learning to manage tensions and complexities of the new places God is leading them and the new culture that God is promising. They are working like gardeners, creating a collaborative environment in order to produce a culture of hope.
These people embrace a high cultural value of personal responsibility, the language of stewardship and shared responsibility, recognizing the task of collaboration is not everyone else’s responsibility. These people are accountable to each other and to the overarching vision. They may work toward achievable wins, however they are not seeking immediate rewards; they are looking toward the long-term.
This culture shuns the zero-sum game with competitive winners and losers so often found in the religious movements of yesterday. This new culture resists isolation and looks for synergy. It is not stuck in past structures; it is open to a variety of possibilities and structures to serve the purpose of accomplishing Jesus’ vision. This culture is like a bridge, easy to get on and easy to get off, as necessary to the current task.
The question is when and how do we collaborate. Ultimately, these people embrace and create a culture that recognizes Kingdom values, that we are all already working together. Our calling is not to create unity, but to preserve it.
The effective Kingdom partnership culture is breathing out Spirit-filled prayers and exhortations, speaking truth with mutual humility. It is a “place” where Jesus is Lord, and the voices of all constituencies are heard, especially the voice of God. It is a partnership “by people in Christ from within organizations for the Kingdom.”
Do you need to find a “happy optimum” between push and pull of being a part of your home church and being your own distinctive person with a calling and experience in your wider community? Does your work or school life look like a mission field to you? Perhaps you have a desire to start a bible study, prayer group, or plant a simple church in your community? Pursuing that desire will likely require that you will have to say “no” to appeals to volunteer in your local church.
Does your hope for your own community, your work, school, and neighborhood, make you feel like that your concern is in opposition to the needs of your local church?
This is the tension many of us are experiencing today. Why? While some mega-churches are still serving the needs of our culture attracting large numbers of evangelicals to a market-based church program, the attractional model of church is no longer effective in our growing post-christian culture. To put it simply: It’s a great time to be THE church, but it is not a good time to be A church.
This presents a tremendous personal challenge to us, and especially to pastors. Many will simply not understand your desire to engage your world and network beyond the local church. Some may find self-esteem and safety within the local church. Some will already find acceptance and significance within the church and therefore not have a strong sense of need to extend their relational group. The more successful and “tight” the church group, the less likely it is that some would sense any need to extend their relationships.
Those of us who reach beyond our church communities are in a dynamic tension called Optimal Distinctiveness. Optimal Distinctiveness is the desire to be identified within a group and distinguish oneself from the group. This is the dynamic tension, this shifting identity, distinguishing oneself from the local church group, is part of the process of a new missional spirit in a post-Christian world. This is a spirit of collaboration.
If you are experiencing this dynamic tension, you need to learn the spirit of collaboration. You must be able to balance your identity within the context of collaboration, working with other groups and ministries outside the local church. To explain, let me share a bit of my own journey.
For 24 years, I have been serving with Youth With A Mission. I have worked with and among many church groups, mission agencies, and student organizations in over 30 nations. All the while I have extended the “fame” of my own spiritual father, my pastor, George Isley. He died a few years ago, but he continues to be my model of pastoral ministries. Over the years, I have come to realize a significant part of my identity was shaped in that local church and with that pastor. Meanwhile I have also found a significant part of my identity in the extended inter-group ministries I founded with Youth With A Mission, the Student Mobilization Centre of the University of the Nations. Though it was often a challenge for me to find the right approach to ministries outside the local church, the spiritual identity of a humble servant-leader modeled by George Isley continues to be my standard. To sum up, I have not followed the model of the popular itinerant preacher with products to sell and a slick appeal for an offering. The spirit of collaboration is not self-serving; it develops trusting personal relationships, freely giving, serving, and loving in the Spirit of Jesus.
As faithful believer in Jesus Christ, our ultimate responsibility and loyalty is to the Great Commission and our Servant King Jesus. We must continue to respect the amazing work that God has done and is doing through our local churches and pastoral leaders. However, our commitment and loyalty to Jesus and his mission must be greater than our commitment and loyalty to our own denomination, local church, and even our pastors. Reaching out in the spirit of collaboration is not a disloyalty to the local church; it is a greater commitment to THE global church.
You could appeal to your pastor for “permission.” Though it is difficult, you could also appeal to your pastor’s own human need to extend relationship beyond the boundaries of the local church. Your appeal to your pastor will reveal something to you; it will reveal your own search for personal balance.
The challenge will come when you are expected to continue to work in your local church and perhaps meet your pastor’s expectations. I want to leave you with a few recommendations:
1. I recommend that you clarify your identity, the identity God has shaped in your life as a committed member of your local church.
2. I also recommend that you take it slow. If you change too fast and too much, you may find yourself ostracized or excommunicated from your home church.
This is the topic of the next several posts. Let me know you are reading and post your questions, suggestions, and testimonies.
How can a small community of Christ followers serve as a catalyst of a new, broad-structured, international missions movement for the 21st century?
Answer: By creating collaborative partnerships among ministries and leaders in university communities building “bridges” of community transformation.
The following action steps are what our ministries are attempting in this new season of development. Our plan is to serve as a catalyst with YWAM Campus Ministries creating “bridges” of community transformation by:
1. Committing to a coherent set of learning outcomes, a core curriculum, for all School of University Ministries & Missions (SUMM) participants, and in seminars. All SUMM participants will develop an understanding of the 21st century mission field.
a. The school will emphasize YWAM’s commitment to the Christian Magna Carta. Participants will learn how to facilitate a spirit of collaboration in response to dramatic shifts in the Church globally and extraordinary economic and societal crises.
b. Mobilizing students on cross-cultural, serving-learning experiences is an integral part of YWAM’s discipleship of students in every campus ministry location. (See: Field Ministry Internships)
c. Designing Seminars & Conferences, which target and rally university communities for mobilization toward effective ministry addressing Global Human Need. (See: Human Development Index.) These desperate needs, including poverty, corruption, children at risk, HIV/AIDS, malaria, human trafficking, and impure water, are targeted as “giants” which we are confronting with “smooth stones” in our Slingshot Camps. Slingshot is a discipleship camp with an intention of training young people in how to live and share the gospel. This Slingshot is built on the concept of David’s five smooth stones defined as:
(1) Identity in Christ
(2) Intimacy with God
(3) Integrity in Life
(4) Influence in the world, and
(5) Involvement in Missions.
2. Recruiting and Dispatching Volunteers: Field Project Interface and University Community Interface. These staff assignments will be limited to those who have completed the School of University Ministries & Missions (IDM/HIS 313 & 314) -or- a YWAM staff with a Four-Year College Degree and Student Ministries Leadership Seminar (IDM 501).
If either Field Project Interface or University Community Interface serve in locations where there is no YWAM team or ministry, they must have a minimum of two team members working together. All SMC staff require a two year commitment.
A. Field Project Interface: A minimum of two Field Project Interface, serving as SMC staff, will live and work in a YWAM Campus Ministry community in the developing world with the task of coordinating field projects for student teams, particularly Field Ministry Internships. Field Project Interface will assess community needs (health, education, economic, family, environment, etc.), create partnerships with churches and ministries, and interface with the YWAM host when student project teams travel and serve in their location. Field Project Interface will have a particular liaison role with the SMC preparing for summer teams, drawing up project plans for students to gain academic credit, and assisting the SMC to apply for project grants.
B. University Community Interface will partner with existing YWAM ministries and campus ministries, facilitating collaboration and adoption of a whole community in the developing world. University Community Interface will recruit outreach teams for field projects in a single developing world community, drawing from the resources and personnel of a single university community, including churches, student organizations, and Christian faculty and staff.
3. Emphasizing “Community Bridges” – a collaborative and transformational approach to ministries. As a catalyst of transformation, we are building “bridges” of engagement between university communities and developing world communities. The SMC will work with Campus Ministries and associate ministries and churches to remove barriers of collaboration that get in the way of transforming students’ lives and transforming whole communities.
The Community Bridge approach will broaden the radar of any single student organization or church ministry in the university community to focus resources to accomplish far more than any single organization could.
This community transformation approach will require a model, an example, to stimulate a long-term commitment of two Christian communities in two university settings. Emphasizing collaborative field projects to proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God and fulfill the Christian Magna Carta.
4. Creating a robust “Community Bridge” Model between one YWAM campus ministry/university community and one developing world community, preferably where we have another YWAM campus ministry. For example, YWAM Kingsway Maryland, with campus ministries at the U. of MD and Johns Hopkins, is developing a “community bridge” with a series of integrated projects to serve Delhi, India.
5. Making Grant Funding requests for Integrated Community Field Projects. Today’s foundations and major donors are more apt to assist collaborative efforts. Our Community Bridge approach to YWAM Campus Ministries will help us raise funds for projects, especially projects such as pure water, education, micro-business development, HIV/AIDS awareness, Malaria prevention, and Children at Risk in the developing world. Funds raised through SMC grants will be designated to the respective field projects, possibly allocating a portion for Field Project stipend for housing and travel, YWAM Campus Ministry expenses, and student team expenses.
6. Increasing the size of the SMC International Team of facilitators through rapid regional development. As the School of University Ministries & Missions trains workers on every continent, SMC Regional Teams are being formed to foster Community Bridges and Collaborative Networks.
7. Establishing New Call2All Students Networking Forums to bring together a wider collaborative movement of university ministries and missions mobilization Working collaboratively through international and inter-agency partnerships, cross-disciplinary teams, and campus-wide partnerships including faculty, staff, and students, the SMC will focus our catalytic training and resources on building bridges to serve whole communities.
A YWAM Campus Ministries International Celebration is already scheduled for 2010. Currently collaborative activities are underway through the new Campus America Wilder Project.
A new Call2AllStudents web site is being developed to serve the broader network of ministries. These efforts will culminate in periodic Regional Call2All Forums beginning in 2012 that present testimonials, instruction, and models with the best practices offering Christian communities tools to serve some of the world’s most vexing social, environmental, and economic challenges.
I have been asked for a definition of shared leadership. I’ve tested this response on several leaders, each of whom have given me a strong positive feedback. Therefore, I am posting this for your response.
In my reply to the question, I suggest first looking at the purpose for shared leadership. That purpose is found when we understand the current context in which the Church, the Body of Christ, exists. The world at the time of the early Church was a diverse pluralistic society. Today, we find ourselves in a similarly diverse and pluralistic world, an “unchurched” world.
Kennon Callahan, in his book, Effective Church Leadership (1990), gives a compelling argument that the day of the professional pastor in a traditional church is over. Society is changing from a “churched” society to an “unchurched” society and this requires that a pastor become a “missionary”. Callahan writes, “In many ways, the church in America is in the same situation that American business is in: the world is changing and passing it by! This calls for a radical change in the way the church “does business.”
Businesses have been changing and many books are available on the topic of shared leadership, partnership, collaboration, and alliances. I have read several and can loan them to you if you are interested. This shift from the professional pastor began quietly on the mission field many years ago. As the world became increasingly more diverse and increasingly “unchurched,” the need for change in the approach to church leadership became more apparent and more urgent. The missionary strategy is not the same as the pastoral strategy. The focus must be outside the church walls, equipping workers to lead missional communities as the church in their cultural setting. In today’s context, we must set as a high priority the building of new leaders who will function as facilitators on teams.
I have been with Youth With A Mission for 23 years. One of YWAM’s Foundational Values is that we are called to function in teams in all aspects of ministry and leadership. This YWAM Foundational Value states that: “We believe that a combination of complementary gifts, callings, perspectives, ministries and generations working together in unity at all levels of our mission provides wisdom and safety. Seeking God’s will and making decisions in a team context allows accountability and contributes to greater relationship, motivation, responsibility and ownership of the vision.” Team leadership is shared leadership. This value is just that, a value, and the actual practice is different in every setting. It does not stand alone: Team Leadership is complemented by all of YWAM’s Foundational Values, including Relationship-Oriented, Broad Structured and Decentralized, and Exhibit Servant Leadership.
Team leadership is shared and not invested in one person. Leaders of local churches need not direct or set the agenda, but rather facilitate a process by which the community sets the agenda. A shared leadership posture will support and foster the emergence of what I call ‘Commission Groups’. These Commission Groups are not merely small groups; they are small churches, missional communities bearing witness to their community with no control exerted over them.
The leadership challenge, then, is in finding the answers to some key questions: How do you decide who leads? and How do you lead without control?
J. Oswald Sanders (from his book Spiritual Leadership) writes: “Jesus knew that the idea of leader as ‘loving servant of all’ would not appeal to most people. Securing our own creature comforts is a much more common mission. But ‘servant’ is His requirement for those who want to lead in His kingdom.”
Scott Rodin, in his article “Leader of No Reputation” writes: “In the end, our work as leaders is all about lordship. Before it is about vision-casting or risk-taking or motivating others or building teams or communicating or strategic planning or public speaking, it is about lordship. Where Jesus is singularly and absolutely lord of our life, we will seek to be like him and him only. That will be our sole calling. We will be called to our work and that work will carry God’s anointing. We will be called to decrease, that Christ may increase. We will be called to be people of God before and as we do the work of God.”
Becoming leaders can’t be left to the persons who want to be a leader. They must be called (and affirmed by the community for their individual anointing within the community and a recognized track record of character, capacity, and commitment), trained (not solely through formal training, but also the non-formal sponsorship of a Barnabas-type leader), and under authority (not seeking positional authority, but humbly serving under the anointing of the Holy Spirit).
The process of equipping and releasing servant leaders in the Body of Christ is the single greatest task of the Church, I believe. Leaders given positional authority tend to rely on that position for security, and worse they can tend to lead through control. By virtue of the positional leadership accorded to pastors of churches, these leaders can be isolated from true fellowship and accountability in the community. History, including recent history, is littered with the damage done by pastors who, in their isolation, became proud, abused their authority, or committed adultery. To maintain positional authority, pastors may hesitate to release others into ministry, unless there is a strong accountability and unless they can also exert control over those under their authority. While this is not true of all pastors, it can be argued that the structure of churches, including the role of the modern pastor, is the primary contributor to the problem.
Shared leadership works through a shared vision, but the primary vision behind shared leadership is not structural. The primary vision will be the cross, and the centrality of Christ. Working toward a shared vision requires that the leadership team manifests the quality of servant leaders, surrendered to the lordship of Christ. Their leadership gifts will be manifest with an understanding and appreciation of the common good, which extends beyond the boundaries of their own group, or their positional authority. Paul writes, “The manifestations of the Spirit are given to each one for the common good.” (I Cor. 12:7)
To define shared leadership, first it is necessary to define two kinds of “shared vision”, which result in the sharing of leadership, networks and partnerships. These definitions come from Phill Butler in his book “Well Connected”:
“Network: Any group of individuals or organizations, sharing a common interest, who regularly communicate with each other to enhance their individual purposes.”
“Partnership: Any group of individuals or organizations, sharing a common interest, who regularly communicate, plan, and work together to achieve a common vision beyond the capacity of any one of the individual partners.”
Butler writes, “frequently networks are incubators for partnerships.” Therefore, the development of a network is best as first priority, with a particular focus on common concerns and resources. By focusing first on individuals in a network, the empowering of participants or ministries is enhanced to a greater effectiveness in their own sphere of influence. The leadership team needs to come together with the same spirit of a network, empowering each others’ ministry gifts within their spheres. That team needs to be the catalyst for the broadening of the network and the creation of partnerships, both short term and long term.
The Lausanne Movement has identified a powerful trend in the Body of Christ: “the shift of power from the center to the edges.” Partnerships, Butler clarifies, have been “based on an ‘open architecture’ model.” He identified this trend first among mission agencies. He writes, “Any individual or agency clearly committed to taking Christ to a specific people group was welcome. While the partnerships developed their own criteria for involvement, leadership roles, etc., they clearly have been inclusive rather than exclusive.” Today, many local churches are partnering with other churches and agencies in their desire to be more missional locally and globally. (See Darrell Guder’s book, Missional Churches and the book Treasures in Jars of Clay.)
What I am recognizing in my studies is that those churches are not the only trend. There is also a trend among people to migrate away from traditional and evangelical churches to what are identified as “emerging churches.” I propose a way to integrate both trends, the trend to be more missional through partnerships and the trend to have smaller, more authentic communities.
Shared leadership needs a shared vision. The vision is of ‘Christ in You’ (individually and corporately), ‘the Hope of Glory.’ The leadership team must “model the way” (See Kouzes and Posner’s book, Leadership Challenge), for families, communities, and yes, nations. The local church community can model how to disciple nations? Yes! Think of the fruit of Calvin’s doctrine of depravity, which stimulated the Presbyterian model of leadership with mutual accountability within the leadership structure. No one individual or group has authority to make all the decisions for the church. Leadership was distributed in ways found in Scripture, which taught the nations the branches of government. This model of leadership literally taught the nations of Great Britain, The Netherlands, and The United States of America, how to have checks and balances of accountability in their governments. The world is watching what the church does and the world can learn through leadership of the church.
Collaboration is a popular word among businesses working together today, however the use of the term and extensive literature does not mean the individuals within those organizations know how to do it. This kind of leadership requires the character of a servant (See Robert Greenleaf’s seminal book, Servant Leadership.) The church needs to equip the next generation of leaders by modeling the way in our structures and our lifestyles. Today’s spiritual leaders need to create collaborative spirit and capacity within a local church, through heart change and structure change, to stimulate missional engagement of the community, and therefore teach the communities and leaders in those communities to lead as servants. True collaboration and true shared leadership, requires a commitment to shared goals, a jointly developed structure and shared responsibility, mutual authority and accountability for success, and sharing of resources, risks, and rewards.
So, here’s my simple definition of Shared Leadership:
Shared leadership for the Church is a Christ-centered relationship entered into by two or more individuals, groups, or organizations to achieve common goals in obedience to Christ’s commission. It is the Body of Christ functioning according to Eph. 4:11-13, Rom. 12:1-11, and I Cor 12:11-28.
This question, “Can we transform the world through students?” calls for serious reflection regarding this generation, historical examples, biblical precedent, and issues of leadership credibility.The following reflection is an exercise I have undergone to refocus my own efforts and the ministries of Youth With A Mission’s Student Mobilization Centre.
First, we must ask, “What problem? What needs transformation?”
I believe the Glory of God is revealed as Jesus’ followers portray the truth of the gospel both by proclamation and by loving our global neighbor. The good news: There is a growing number of young people who are activated to help solve the world’s problems, poverty, HIV/AIDS, Malaria, etc. They want to serve among the poor and needy and make a difference. The problem: Those who desire to do something about global human need have little grounding in biblical truth; they either see little need or have insufficient understanding to proclaim the gospel.
Next, we must ask “What harm would be done if the problem isn’t solved?”
If this problem is not solved, a hopeful generation of emerging leaders may lose heart after facing the enormous global challenges without sufficient biblical christian worldview training. I see the urgent need to mobilize a new generation of student missions volunteers from every academic discipline who will learn to think biblically and who will preach and practice the gospel of the kingdom with relevance to the issues and needs of today.
Next, we need to consider the solution or solutions and why the solution(s) are desirable.
Why is it a good idea?
Jesus method of training was simply, “Come, follow me.” While classroom instruction has value, Jesus simply modeled his lifestyle and his followers experienced that life and learning while serving alongside him. Our solution for mobilization of today’s university students into short term mission projects complements the specialized training students are getting in universities. Our solution specifically engages the student’s worldview and motivation for service, providing a biblical framework, personal discipleship, and community involvement to help them relate personally with Jesus while they serve. The distinctive of our summer projects for students is the integration of the theoretical with the practical, the sacred with the secular, studies with service, the local with the global, and the personal with the corporate calling to make disciples of all nations.Students come to grasp the height, width, depth and breadth of God’s love for a needy world as they portray his kingdom through loving relationships in community.
We must also ask “Why is solving this problem relevant?”
More specifically, “Is this problem and solution relevant to you and to your community? Your church? Your ministry? Your profession? Your family?”
Our student ministries are designed with partnership in mind. Our Centre partners with student groups, church groups, professionals, and field projects. I believe today’s Church must be both a sending and a receiving church, which means we must make our commitment to the developing world a more complete partnership between the sending and receiving communities. The Student Mobilization Centre invites new partners to participate in these community bridges of 21st century missions.
Finally, “Is our solution credible? Do we have some kind of track record of results?”
The Student Mobilization Centre facilitates practical opportunities for university students to integrate into working cross-cultural ministry situations related to their fields of study. Our Field Ministry Internships teams are short term learning-serving summer experiences for students and christian leaders. Students gain academic credit serving collaboratively with one of our many integrated development and church planting projects in the developing world. FMI students from over 100 colleges/universities in nine nations have participated on 75 teams in 34 countries since 1989.