The mission of God is unmanageable. This is where the conversation about missional leadership begins. When it comes to the kingdom of God, we cannot control outcomes with even the most ingenious models, techniques, and strategies. God is going to do what God is going to do with the church, and God can never be controlled or manipulated. The mission of God is unmanageable.
If it’s true that we cannot control the outcomes of ministry, and I think it is, then all we can really do is tend to the rhythms, habits, and practices that make for faithful discipleship, and leave the ultimate outcomes in the hands of God.
Most leadership frameworks are built on a completely different set of assumptions. They functionally co-opt the mission of God the moment they assume it’s possible to control ministry outcomes via best practices. Even the majority of leadership advice I encounter within the missional leadership conversation falls prey to this pitfall.
It might seem like an odd coupling—a leadership course and a discipleship course all rolled into one—but everything I’ve been writing over the past six years is built on the assumption that church leadership is not the kind of venture in which one has much say over the ultimate outcomes. All church leaders have are the rhythms, habits, and practices of the faith, and those things have everything to do with discipleship. It turns out that leadership and discipleship are intimately related, or at least they should be.
I’m co-teaching a course called Missional Leadership & Discipleship at Nazarene Theological Seminary next semester along with Mike King. This course explores contextual & organic ecclesial practices, dispositions, leadership & communal structures that are needed in order to hold leadership and discipleship together within the context of mission and the life of the local church. When Mike and I set up the course last time, we knew that we wanted to keep missional leadership rooted in discipleship, and in a robust ecclesiology. We also wanted to make sure there was sufficient narrative to draw upon in order to fire the imagination. When we chose textbooks Mike and I framed the question this way: what should every Seminary student be required to read before they graduate? That list turned out to be impossibly long for any one course. However, the list of books for this class were all on that list… plus two more (Mike & I write books, too).
Here’s a look at the books we will be reading.
- Resident Aliens – Stanley Hauerwas and Will Willimon
- The Prophetic Imagination – Walter Brueggemann
- Working the Angles: The Shape of Pastoral Integrity – Eugene Peterson
- Shrink: Faithful Ministry in a Church Growth Culture – Tim Suttle
- Pastor: A Memoir – Eugene Peterson
- An Altar in the World – Barbara Brown Taylor
- Presence Centered Youth Ministry – Mike King
- In the Name of Jesus – Henri Nouwen
- Jayber Crow: A Novel – Wendell Berry