Thursday, March 12, 2009

Reaction: The Missional Leader by Alan Roxburgh and Fred Romanuk

This is Book Review Week at the blog, which means one review a day. And since I missed posting one yesterday, I will hit you up with two today to make up for it.

The first book I have some words on is The Missional Leader: Equipping Your Church to Reach a Changing World by Alan Roxburgh and Fred Romanuk. I'm calling these words a "reaction" and not a "review," because frankly, I didn't make it past page 60. Stopped at page 59, actually.

Perhaps I am not a smart man, Jenny, but The Missional Leader is so dense with complex strategy, technical jargon, and psycho/social-rhetorical analysis, reading the book felt to me like running through neck-deep molasses. Only much less awesome.

Let me give you a sample:
In the transitional lower performative zone, the congregation is in an environment in which it begins to to learn and discover new ways of being God's people. This is the place where habits and capacities begin to be shaped, but it is also a fragile period requiring wise leadership. In the lower performative zone, emphasis is not on seeking a BHAG but on cultivating an environment of listening and dialogue among people. The leader in this part of the performative zone understands that top-down solutions down bring cultural change . . .

That may read clear as a bell to you. But I wasn't sure if I was reading a book about pastoring or a manual on how to fix a toaster.

I kid.

This book just wasn't written for someone like me, despite that its title indicates it was. There's long labels for everything, explication of systems within systems, lots of diagrams and charts (lots!) with plenty of arrows and dotted lines. It's great for people who like to read and think about missional leadership, I bet.

There's also not much Bible in it. At least, not up to page 59 there's not. Jesus gets namechecked, there's reference to "Biblical narratives," etc., but the lessons taught in the opening chapters don't seem pulled from the pastoral pages of the Scriptures but from some kind of missional Dharma Initiative that was all clicks and buzzes to me.

I don't wish to denigrate the fine writers of the book. People I know and respect know and respect them.
But for my money, I would heartily recommend to you The Contemplative Pastor by Eugene Peterson and The Art of Pastoring by David Hansen over and above The Missional Leader.

Also, coincidentally, Tim Chester (co-author of Total Church, which gets an "A" from me) posted a very related blog post this morning: Why I Don't Believe in Mission Strategy

Now, I think strategy is good. But read Chester's post to see the point beyond the provocative title.

And tomorrow I will recommend/review a book that was kind of the antidote for the buzzkill The Missional Leader was for me.

2 comments:

Bill said...

Seriously, funniest thing I've read in awhile: "but the lessons taught in the opening chapters don't seem pulled from the pastoral pages of the Scriptures but from some kind of missional Dharma Initiative that was all clicks and buzzes to me."

30 Years of Transformation said...

I agree, Jared. Not that I disagree with anything the books says, but:

a) the authors didn't begin with any attempt to capture my attention or convince me they had something good to say.

b) stylistically, it reads like a boring, technical instruction manual.

c) I feel like they were targeting a reader from my grandfather's generation. (and it's not like I'm a kid...I'm 39 years old).