For almost ten years now, I have been engaged in conversations around structuring and shaping the North American church for the next century. (This past week marked the 8th anniversary of this blog…my own attempt to jump into the conversation.) That phrase — structuring and shaping the church for the next century — seems the best way to label this dialogue that might otherwise be called the missional / incarnational / contextual church conversation.
What drew me to this conversation in the first place was the theoretical nature of it. It was steeped in imagining what the church could be, what the church should be, rather than just improving and fortifying what already was. The church should always be a community that is marked by imagination and innovation, not to become better, or more relevant, or more important, but to join the creative nature of God in forming our communities of faith to the unique contexts each is in.
But this theoretical dialogue can only get us so far — ideas and what-ifs and imaginings must begin to take form. They must turn into solid practices that can shape churches into communities that are forming disciples of Jesus. And while shaping a church to the local context is important, there is always value in learning from the experiences of others trying to something similar in their context.
As I’ve imagined the possibilities for my own contexts the last few years, and dreamed of what might be, one of the most helpful voices has been Mike Breen and the ministry of 3DM. The latest 3DM release — Multiplying Missional Leaders — appears to be another book that I won’t only read once, but return to time and again.
Multiplying Missional Leaders especially builds on Launching Missional Communities (reviewed here), recognizing that if a church wants to multiply missional communities, it will have to have the leaders in place to do so. Breen blends Scriptural teaching and theoretical ideas with his own experiences to offer a guidebook for how this might look in other communities.
At times, when I’ve read Breen’s books (which I could describe as field guides with little hesitation), I feel like they are too practical, prescriptive, or particular. They outline the details of how things should look too much, so that the unique context might be lost if one merely replicates what Breen describes. But as I continue reading, I see how the practices and models he describes have been effective in a broad range of contexts. He seems to find the right balance between demonstrating effective practices with universal value while leaving space for a given community to mold the ideas to how they will work best for them.
I’ve added Multiplying Missional Leaders to my cleverly named list of “Books that would be good to work through with my leadership team at some point.” If you don’t have a list like that, you should start one. And this is a book that is worth including.
Here are a few of my highlights that might be useful for you too:
Three crucial aspects of Missional Leadership:
- Leaders are allowed to hear from the Lord themselves about a vision and are given the authority and the power to do something with that vision.
- They have the grace to lead at least 20-50 people into mission together.
- They are radically committed disciples, with both the character and the competency of Jesus, so they are actively discipling others.
So grade a potential missional leader in each of these four categories: character, capacity, chemistry, and calling. I’ve found that to pass this first filter, a person needs to score a B or higher in every category.
In a more Jewish tradition, the premise of having disciples makes sense. But in a more Greek culture, the way a parent relates to a child connects more with the audience while still carrying the context of how discipleship happens.