May 17, 2021

Missional. Artful. Leadership.

When I meet with those discerning whether they are called to plant a church I often invite them to imagine their work as an artist. What kind of artist are they? Are they the kind of artist that says, "Give me a canvas and I can paint something beautiful." Or are they the kind of artist that says, "Give me the raw materials and I can make something beautiful—I'll build a frame, stretch the canvas across that frame and attach it, and then I will make something beautiful." In either case, we are seeking to create something beautiful. In one case we need leaders that are capable of going into an existing environment and change culture. In another, we need leaders that are capable of creating culture.

These days, it's easy to look to tech entrepreneurs but I've often thought that artists provide church planters a better template for their work. Artists give us an imagination for something that did not yet exist before they offered us their work. Through their work the impossible becomes possible. Sci-fi novelists have offered readers an imagination that has inspired scientists to create new technologies. Artists and musicians have created art that has inspired protest and revolution.  The difference between the artist and a church planter is that the artist works alone whereas the planter convinces others to create something together.

Church planting requires imagination. It requires the capacity to see that God is up to something in your particular context and help identify this for others. This is what "missional" leadership does.

How do we know God is up to something? Scripture. Personal Experience. Community Engagement. 

Scripture is the story of God continually nudging and drawing God's people into God's dream. God is not static throughout the Bible. Rather, God is always urging those that are willing to hear it that there is another way to be human; that God has a dream for this world other than the nightmare it can be. We read Scripture with what you might call a "missional hermeneutic" in order to learn what it is like for God's good news to be announced and responded to.

But we cannot do this work of announcing the good news of what God is doing in our own context unless we first know what it is to experience this in our own lives. If you cannot articulate where you have seen God at work in your own life it will be difficult for you to discern God at work in the context you serve in. Regular spiritual practices that cultivate this awareness are critical.

And, yet, the church planter cannot merely cultivate inward looking spiritual practices. We need practices that are outward facing—practices that cultivate a holy curiosity regarding what God is doing in the world around us. Through these the planter begins to see God at work in the shadows declaring that this may be the way things are but should not. We also see God's work exposed in the gifts of neighbors and hopes of a community seeking the goodwill and thriving of a place just as God intends. When we see these things we lean in and organize our work around it.

We need missional, artful leaders.

Is that you?

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