What might leadership look like for the church in the 21st Century? Tim Keel, pastor of Jacob’s Well in Kansas City, MO, writes about the mission of the church in his book Intuitive Leadership: Embracing a Paradigm of Narrative, Metaphor and Chaos:
To be missiological in a post-Christendom world is not to be more committed to programs of mission but hold resolutely to an ecclesiology that is incomprehensible apart from mission. … In this context, we do not seek to “reach” a “target group or demographic with a message. We live incarnationally in order to demonstrate the new reality that is being revealed in Jesus Christ and embodied by his people the church. A hunger for this kind of living is what I sense in the email from the young man I quoted above. This longing is something for which the religious structures of the world, such as they are, have no imagination or framework. This is what I experienced firsthand in college that was transformational for so many.
The gospel is not a location to be defended. It is an alternate reality based on the person of Jesus Christ, who has called around himself a new community to live his life out in the world of hope, courage, and joy. We are called to live out our faith in the margins, witnessing to the gospel as communities of disciples following in the ways of our Master, Jesus Christ. The false dichotomies between evangelism and discipleship, between justification and sanctification break down, and we are joined holistically with God as we pursue Christ and his intentions for the world. (156)
Keel makes the case that we need leadership that fosters this expression of the church but Keel makes clear that there is no simple recipe for birthing such an environment.
What Keel gives is a testimony coupled with his reflections on what is happening in culture. He describes his journey into Evangelical Christianity as a teenager and the twists and turns that led him to birthing Jacob’s Well ten years ago. There is a lot of rich material to reflect on. At the conclusion of the book he suggests that rather than looking for a ten step program for transformation that leaders might do better to develop certain postures. He suggests nine for consideration:
- A posture of learning: From answers to questions
- A posture of vulnerability: From the head to the heart
- A posture of availability: From spoken words to living words
- A posture of stillness: From preparation to meditation
- A posture of surrender: From control to chaos
- A posture of cultivation: From programmer from environmentalist
- A posture of trust: From defensiveness to creativity
- A posture of joy: From work to play
- A posture of dependence: From resolution to tension – and back again
Several of these could be read as moving from pole to another. I think it would be more helpful instead to see the direction of movement indicated with each posture in terms of the need to live more fully within a polarity (ex. embracing both head and heart versus trading one for the other.) At any rate, I found the thrust of what he had to say here very helpful and worthy of much reflection.
Keel is one of the original folks that brought together what has become Emergent or the Emergent Village. It is one semi-institutional expression of a much larger and more diverse movement called the emerging church movement. Those of you who read my blog regularly know my deeply ambivalent feelings toward Emergent. Where I resonate most with the Emergent conversation is in their exploration of missiology, ecclesiology, incarnational living, and leadership. Tim’s book gives wonderful insight into these topics. I think his book is reflective of what drives a great many in the emerging church movement.
Some of you probably know I have a strong personal connection with Jacob’s Well. Jacob’s Well meets in the old Roanoke Presbyterian Church building located in the next neighborhood south from where I live. Melissa and I joined that church in 1993 and were there until 2003. A good friend of mine who was a part of the Jacob’s Well core group in 1998 asked me if I knew of any space where a church plant could meet in the neighborhood. I suggested the third floor of our facility was unused and the rest is history. That gave me front row seats to the first five years of Jacob’s Well emergence. (The Roanoke Presbyterian congregation dissolved in 2003 and sold the building to Jacob’s Well after a major institutional train wreck in 2002. I differ with Tim’s brief characterization of the Roanoke collapse but that is an irrelevant footnote.) I still drop by Jacob’s Well every so often and I have several friends who worship there. I love Tim’s heart and watch with fascination at what God is doing among the Jacob’s Well community.
Anyway, the short story is, buy the book! It is a thought-provoking look from the very creative mind of a challenging emerging church leader.
(For those of you in the Kansas City area, Tim will be meeting with the KC Emergent cohort to talk about his book on the Thursday the 6th at Noon at the Westport First Watch. If you have the time free, come on by. I hope to be there but don't let that deter you.)