A visit with Alan Roxburgh
A few months ago the NLT [National Leadership Team] had an opportunity to spend four hours with Alan Roxburgh, author of The Missional Leader. I remember one key comment from him that was stunning in its simplicity: “If the church is going to become what God wants it to be in the world, that change will not come through the pastor.” That is my paraphrase, but the important thought was, “change will not come through the pastor.”
When I began ministry in the FMCiC it was all about the pastor having a vision from God that he presented to the board and congregation to follow. It was like Moses bringing down the tablets from on high, carved in stone that everyone will buy into and give praise to the pastor for his God-given insight. We still need vision, but it’s not written in stone on two tablets, nor is it announced and unquestioned by the congregation. There is no ownership in pastoral announcements imposed on the congregation. Vision and mission will be owned by the congregation only if the congregation has a voice in what that vision is going to be, in the context of the community where they live.
What I took from Dr. Roxburgh is that the entire process needs to start with the congregation. And sometimes it’s better if the pastor isn’t there so that the congregation won’t behave the way they’ve become accustomed: asking the pastor what he thinks, first.
The pastor is important; she must be a leader and a communicator of vision and mission. He needs to be a builder of leaders to accomplish any God-given vision. She needs to build teams involved in the mission, and have a clear idea of where the congregation is headed. He needs to assure the vision and mission are biblical and attainable with the team God has provided, in the context of their own community.
I am not minimizing the role of the pastor as much as I want us to not minimize the role of congregational “buy in” to the vision that leads to Godly mission in the local church.
Any congregation while in transition can assess for itself how well it is fulfilling God’s call to living together and their witness in the world.
The Ministry Map is a tool that Jared Siebert has developed in his area of responsibility. Jared and I have done the Ministry Map in a half dozen churches throughout the fall of 2007. We partnered our two areas, personnel and church development, to take this assessment tool to churches in transition. The response was positive but there were local official boards that felt it didn’t represent them quite accurately. Regardless of the full accuracy, it did give the board, and on some occasions the congregation, a chance to evaluate their ministry according to Ephesians 2:1-10. You can find the Ministry Map at www.lifecycleproject.org/?q=node/135
It’s not a miracle cure, it’s not a program, nor is it something you try once. It’s just an assessment that can be used in the way the local church sees fit. It can be repeated annually, like a check-up with your doctor.
A test is just a test until you do something with it
I have known for a year now that I am a Type II diabetic. I took a blood test and the results revealed that my glucose reading was too high, in the diabetic range. I could get mad at the doctor for telling me the results. That’s not going to help me. I could argue that the test was wrong and I want another test to verify the findings. However, if the findings are correct I have to make some decisions. Those decisions may require that I make some changes. The glucose blood test is not a program of change. It simply tells me where I’m at and if I want to lower my glucose I need to decide what I want to do about it: What should I start doing? What should I stop doing? What should I keep on doing?
The answer to those questions is the program. Start by eating better “on the road” and exercising in a disciplined way. Stop eating bad carbohydrates and sweets. (At least make smarter choices.) Keep eating a balanced diet and exercise the way you do at home.
In the same way, the Ministry Map is an assessment tool and not a program. The local congregation gets to decide what to do with the results…maybe something…maybe nothing. The program will be the changes the local church makes after answering these questions: What should we start doing? What should we stop doing? What should we keep on doing?
These questions applied to a local church are more difficult. It’s not a single patient in this instance. The congregation is the patient and it needs to have some say in what should or should not change.
If used during a transitional time the Ministry Map allows a congregation to evaluate their mission and vision without the influence of a pastor. It is an opportunity in the life of your local church to get a picture that reflects the biblical passions of your congregation. If the congregation takes this assessment tool seriously it could create a deeper ownership of the mission God is giving to your local church. This is very different from the tablets of stone coming down from on high with the pastor.
Congratulations to Rev. Kim Henderson on her appointment as Director of Personnel. As part of the interview team, as the incumbent director, I sensed that God had put his hand on Kim for this position. I look forward to the time we will work together during this transition to assure that the baton is passed well.
Rev. Alan Retzman
Editor’s note: This is Alan Retzman’s last article as acting Director of Personnel. Alan joined the National Leadership Team in August of 1999. We pray for God’s blessing and thank him for faithfully serving the FMCIC.