Discerning Church Learning to discern the movement of God's Spirit

Walking the Tightrope

Several weeks ago, I read Alan Roxburgh’s Missional Map-Making: Skills for Leading in Times of Transition. As I continue to reflect on this work, particular aspects seem worthy of note.

In much leadership literature, the leader is encouraged to buck the system. Renegades become heros who dare to upset the system. Arrogant, haughty CEOs are celebrated for their courage to rock the boat. While old systems often need to be challenged, the heart of this attitude seems vile.

Roxburgh stresses the importance of fulfilling current expectations while leading the church into uncharted waters. Pastors must consider the initial grounds on which they are called to a church. Any changes in function should come slowly and with full agreement of the church.

In other words, the leader is functioning at multiple levels at once—encouraging, interpreting, and at the same time continuing to ensure that all the expected functions of the church are accomplished with excellence. These are the ways leadership functions at the beginning of the experimentation period. – Loc. 3462

I am troubled by the presumptuous posture of some leaders. They rip churches to pieces in the name of progress. For those of us in old churches, we have accept the territory into which we are called. We do not have the luxury of a blank slate. We must lead, yes. We must fulfill the prophetic function, yes. We must challenge the church to move forward, led by God’s Spirit. But we must–at the same time–carry out the basic functions of caring for church as it currently exists. This is a tricky balance; it is more of an art than a science. Yet, it is what discerning leaders do.