Branson, Mark Lau & Martinez, Juan F. Churches, Cultures and Leadership: A Practical Theology of Congregations and Ethnicities. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2011.
Branson and Martinez did well in their exposition to delineate on the interdisciplinary in-depth studies of Cultural Anthropology, Sociology, and Cross Cultural Communications in the multiethnic, intercultural, and multicultural settings of the church environment. They both have knowledge of these subjects, have gained experience in academia through formal education, and have had experience as they both served as professors and churchmen of seminaries and congregations from diverse backgrounds in term of multiethnic, intercultural, and multiculturalism.
In the contextualization of Cultural Anthropology, the writers used the dominant U.S culture and cultural practices of the United States to compare with other cultures and cultural practices of other nations of the world since United States is the multiethnic, intercultural, and multicultural environment of the world where people of different nations have settled. Understanding the dominant cultural practices of the United States including individual members from other nations’ cultures and cultural practices, and understanding biblical cultural practices in the Bible as the Pastor of the multiethnic, intercultural, and multicultural congregations gives the edge to the Pastoral leadership to draw the line between the dominant culture of the United States and other cultures of the world in the context of diversity with reference to multiethnic, intercultural, and multicultural environments of the church settings and enables the Pastoral leadership to observe the cultures, interpret the behavioral characteristics of the members of these cultures, and apply interventions to mitigate the existing problems in these cultural settings in leaderships and to lead the church in the multiethnic, and intercultural, and multicultural church environments. Martinez in his deliberation said that a Spanish individual from different geographical location visited his church. Customarily at his church on Sundays before announcement is carried out, visitors are welcomed and are asked to call their names before being recognized. The Spanish individual who visited the church, who after being welcomed and recognized, anticipated to be hugged by the Pastor according to the cultural norm of the church setting the individual came from. In Martinez’s church, this is uncommon. The individual felt discouraged of not being welcomed in the church. One of the members who attended his church is from the same region and was very sensitive to intervene. She told the woman that the reason the Pastor did not hug you is because he had a cold and did not want to give you the disease. Running church ministry in the multiethnic, intercultural, and multicultural church environments like the United States in term of diversity requires cultural competence with reference to social interactions with the congregants, understanding behavioral response to mitigate problems in cross cultural communications to the congregants, and understanding interpersonal and intrapersonal communications between and amongst the congregational members of the multiethnic, intercultural, and multicultural settings of the church ministry. Is this possible? In my opinion, studying these cultures can help the leadership to find the common variable that likely fits everyone in the congregations through biblical teachings and other seminars or teaching programs that relate and correlate to fix the existing problems in the church with reference to biblical doctrines, understanding social interactions among the congregants, the issues of evangelism and church plantings, and the problems of mission to reach the world for Christ.
In the contextualization of Sociology, the Pastor sent to a new culture should study the social interactions of the members of the dominant culture to enable him or her to compare and to contrast biblical practices that are not in alignment with the practices of the dominant culture. Branson and Martinez discussed in their book individualistic and collectivist cultures in the United States that determine how individual members of the multiethnic, intercultural, and multicultural congregations behave in term of responding to biblical obedience or following the practices of the dominant culture that are not in alignment with biblical practices from the theological standpoint. Branson and Martinez maintained that many people in the United States do not accept collectivism as the result of individual liberty; therefore, individual liberty tends to take precedence over how God’s people should live contrary to scriptures. People in the world or even in some congregations live according to choices not what the Bible says. The cultural practices in the United States tend to overshadow how God’s people should live to bring glory to God. This is one of the reasons some churches in the United States are accepting homosexual and lesbianism marriages in the house of God. To cement this diabolical act carried out in these dead churches, people who are leaders of these congregations get married to one another as homosexuals and lesbians. This is so disgraceful in the kingdom of God. This has brought divisions between the Presbyterian Churches of the United States and the Presbyterian Churches of Africa who refused this practice that is not in alignment with biblical practices. You see that individual’s liberty in the Declaration of Independence of the United States is influencing the behaviors of people in the church settings who claim to profess Christ. Pastors need to know these things and develop biblical teachings about these moral breakdowns in the church and teach their congregations. They are wrong and they should not be accepted in the house of God. They are abominable and God will visit the evil doers of these practices and those that accept them in their churches. These churches are no more churches, but they are grave yard. These churches are dead and are driven away from what God has intended for them. They have entered into the state of apostasy.
In the contextualization of Cross Cultural Communications, Branson and Martinez cited the United States’ dominant culture in order to compare other nations of the world cultural practices when it comes to communications. In the United States, people are called by their first name. In other cultural settings of the world, this may not look courteous to others and may be considered as disrespect to other cultures. In cross cultural communications, dictions of words used should also be considered taking into account the level of education, the language, culture, nationality, and geographical origin of the person you are communicating to. Branson and Martinez cited an incidence wherein the Head Pastor of the church in the United States told the Pastor of the Latino’s congregations to give monthly reports of his congregations to the central church; unfortunately, the Pastor did not comply with the instruction. He took this against the Pastor. The Latino’s Pastor was not intentional to the noncompliance; on the other hand, he did not understand the communications from the native speaker of the United States. Communication is vital to daily social interactions between and among congregational members of the church ministry. Branson and Martinez said that the native English speakers of the U.S English have assumed that calling people by their first name is welcomed by all from other nations of the world with different cultural backgrounds and assuming that the people from other nations of the world who have migrated to the United States understand the United States English. “This is not so,” he said. In multiethnic, intercultural, and multicultural settings, cultural competence is required when it comes to cross cultural communications between and among the members of the congregations. Branson and Martinez did well in their expositions in the interdisciplinary studies in Cultural Anthropology, Sociology, and Cross Cultural Communications in the multiethnic, intercultural, and multicultural church settings. This book is helpful for pastors who desire running congregations in the metropolitan church settings in term of urbanization. As the Pastor, I have come to the realization that the things written on the pages of this book become useful to the ministry if they are applied in the daily life with reference to evangelism, church planting, and cross cultural communications in mission endeavor.
Bolsinger, Tod. Canoeing the Mountains: Christian Leadership in Uncharted Territory. Downers Grove: IVP Books, 2015.
In the “Canoeing the Mountains,” Tod Bolsinger combines biblical theology, contemporary leadership theory, and years of experience as the Pastor and Church Consultant to provide novel version of pastoral leadership in the uncharted territory in the rapidly changing world full of uncertainties.
In the contextualization of solid biblical theology, Tod Bolsinger introduced scriptures in every chapters of the textbook as the practical scriptural analogy that relates to the topic under discussion. For example, when he speaks of organizations or the church ministries, he used the word “system” that is composed of many parts. So it is the church that is composed of individual members collectively called the congregations. In this chapter of the textbook, he introduced 1 Corinthians 12 theologically to explain and to defend his point of arguments regarding the body with many parts and that every part has its own function to play in the body. Under the biblical theology of ministry, he discussed the five-fold models of ministry which includes apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds, and teachers. These individuals form part of the system responsible for preparing God’s people for the works of the ministry for faithfulness and Christian unity (Eph 4:8–13). The leaders are placed into place to effect communal transformation for the mission that focuses on congregational leadership. As congregational leaders, they aim forming people who individually and cooperatively grow together in order to participate in Christ’s mission to establish the kingdom of God on planet earth through the proclamation of the Gospel message to the dying world.
In the context of contemporary leadership theory, Tod Bolsinger introduced three leadership theories to church leaders. In the center or the overlapping intersection of these leadership theories, lies the transformational leadership for the uncharted territory. Leadership in this rapidly changing world calls for the ongoing transformation of the leader tasked with the responsibility of leading a group of people with a shared goal geared toward accomplishing a mission. To be a transforming leader, the leader should be technically competent to lead. He or she must have received some prior training in the formal or informal educational settings to be able to adapt to the adaptive challenges that arise in this rapidly changing world (uncharted territory). The adaptive leadership calls for adaptive challenge. Adaptive leadership is the process of learning from experiences in the leadership arena. This leadership ignores a quick fix of the existing problems according to Tod Bolsinger. Leaders in the rapidly changing world must learn to adapt to the changing prevailing conditions in the world to tackle controversial problems in the church that are asymmetrical requiring capacitated approach instead of capability approach. Leadership in the uncharted territory in the rapidly changing world calls for asymmetrical methodologies. Such leadership is difficult and does not require pre-written standards or rules with reference to leadership that does not work in such situation. Tod Bolsinger used the metaphor “Canoeing the Mountains.” This phrase is ironical because canoe belongs on the water instead on the land especially when he used the word “Mountains.” Tod Bolsinger is talking about the style of leadership one puts into place when faced with controversial issues in the changing world that is difficult to navigate because such situation does not have a pre-determined standards or written rules or regulations that are geared toward solving the problems. Such problems exist and are contemporary or common in the church world that are unmapped and will need asymmetrical methodologies to approach them. Such problems pose adaptive challenge and will require adaptive leadership or adaptive approach to mitigate its effects in the church environment. It calls for the transforming leader who is technically competent and relationally congruence to deal with difficult leadership issues in the changing world. The church will not change for the better unless the leader is transformed. Adaptive leadership calls for emotional stability, character formation, and integrity actualized that are dependable in the leadership contextualization.
In the contextualization of Tod Bolsinger years of experience as the Pastor and Church Consultant in the ministry, he introduced in the book the third leadership theory called relational congruence. Relational congruence is the fundamental ability to be the same person with the same value in every relationships and circumstances. It is the internal capacity to keep promise to God and to self. Leadership in the rapidly changing world calls for the fear of God on the called person to deal with the changing dynamics in leadership in the uncharted territory. Know as the spiritual leader, you are fighting unseen forces called demons or evil spirits; therefore, you cannot win this battle if sin is in your life. The enemy will defeat the leader if the leader is not committed to God in holiness (Romans 1:4). Leaders should not fight this battle and be defeated because the battle was fought two thousand years ago when Christ matched on Calvary cross to pay the price through his death on the cross. The battle fought today through spiritual warfare is a replay. The victory was won. Why live in disobedience to God and allow Satan to rule? Satan should not be ruling now because he was defeated. When leaders give themselves to Satan and to sin, they lose their authority in God and therefore give the devil the chance to rule for a while based on the duration of their disobedience. Living in disobedience before God is a spiritual suicide. Tod Bolsinger concludes that at the core of transformational leadership, technical competence, adaptive leadership, and relational congruence lie. The transformational church calls for the transformational leadership. This book is well written and articulated; therefore, I recommend it to all leaders to read it. The information in the book regarding leadership is adaptable to the church and business worlds when it comes to human resource management.
Ford, Kevin G. Transforming Church: Bringing Out the Good to Get to Great. Colorado Springs: David C. Cook, 2008.
God’s original intention for the existence or being of the church is to effect a positive change by changing lives that will live to express Christ’s image in order to make impact with reference to the mission of the church; however, the church will not be able to effect change if the church is not changed within. There is saying that says, “You cannot give out to someone what you do not have.” The church will not effect change if the church is not changed within. Kevin G. Ford, the Chief Visionary Officer and Managing Partner of TAG Consulting, discussed the five key indicators of the transforming church and the corresponding dysfunctional indicators that stop the church to undergo transformation.
In the contemporary church environment, people rate the church of being successful by the physical appearance of the facility. Probably, the facility is layout in the 100 acres of land with gymnasium, family center, big auditorium, dining hall, radio station, children center, a chapel, a 50 symphony orchestra ministering, and 52 thousand seated congregations in a service. This is very common with mega churches of the United States and other parts of the world. Is this a transforming church? How does one qualify or quantify a church to be transforming? Does a transforming church have to do with how many members are seated in the service or the appearance of the facility that is magnificent? Kevin G. Ford answered these questions in this book.
When it comes to forming a culture with reference to church planting, the proportion of spiritual growth in the culture is directly proportional to numerical growth; however, when a church experiences spiritual growth, there is a tendency that such church culture will also experience a numerical growth. That is not always true; on the other hand, it could be true depending on the prevailing situation with relative to how people respond to change regarding spiritual things. It varies with culture based on human behavioral characteristics and responses. That’s being said, transforming churches are healthy churches that change lives into Christ’s image. That is the common denominator for the transforming church. Kevin G. Ford in his book discussed the following indicators that define a transforming church: Transforming churches are healthy churches that are community based instead of individual based, they are cognizant of their identities or the DNA code, they have shared leadership instead of being autocratic, they are missional in their imaginations in the discharge of their duties instead of being cloister or inactive, and they are willing to accept change even if the change is painful. These characteristics define what a transforming church is. While we have defined what transforming churches are by virtue of the above attributes, I will give a synopsis of each indicator, the dysfunction, and the movements that influence the indicators as explained in the textbook in order to give the overview of the entire book in this review. The indicators are the outlined thesis of the textbook that give the complete overview of the book in contextualization.
With reference to how members relate to one another, transforming churches relate to one another as a community. The church is a community based. The church caters to all members of its cultural community. The church shares its belongings with members of the group and beyond its boundaries (Acts 2:42–47). The church is opened to outsiders and wants to impact its community with the gospel using the word and materials. The church is involved in multiple ministries catering to the physical, spiritual, emotional, and psychological needs of its community and membership. This is the healthy and transforming church.
With reference to the church genetic code or the DNA, transforming churches have knowledge of their DNA or identities. They have clear and defined identities and their identities are manifested through their behaviors as the cultural groups who maintain shared values, core beliefs, and have missions to accomplish. Transforming churches know whom they represent on planet earth. They represent Jesus and they should therefore bear the image of Jesus with reference to how the churches conduct themselves. Transforming churches are placed here to care for souls. The example of the transforming church is seen in Acts 2:42–47 wherein the early church was generous; therefore, the church cared for its members of the community. How well the church members relate to one another, determines how well they care for one another; therefore, social relationship is the key in the transforming church.
With reference to church leadership, transforming churches are healthy churches that view leadership as the shared function of ministry instead of being autocratic. Healthy or transforming churches leadership prays together. The leadership with reference to functions is shared among the group members. It is not one person’s show. Everyone owns the vision and should subscribe to the vision and be active to participate in the gospel ministry. In Acts 2:42–47, the Bible says that they devoted themselves to the apostle’s teaching, to prayers, to the breaking of bread, and the church grew in numbers.
With reference to how the church relates to the local community, transforming churches are focused on their missions and have an outward orientation that starts with their local community. The churches know their values very well that are tied to their beliefs. Do the churches value evangelism, holiness, or church planting? These are all core values of the church that can influence their behaviors. Transforming churches are mission minded churches.
With reference to how members think about the future, transforming or healthy churches embrace change even when the pain seems to be painful. The church must be willing to reinvest change even when the change has been ignored previously. The thought of an individual cannot be bigger than himself; therefore, the visionary of the transforming church should have the vision at heart to move the ministry forward.
Kevin G. Ford has done well in explaining the characteristics of the transforming or health churches. The idea in this book is worth to be imagined and implemented among churches of this generation. Every ministers of the gospel who envision the change process with reference to missional imagination should adopt the idea of the transforming church. Leaving the model of the church in the book of Acts with relative to the transforming church model is leaving the master plan of God with reference to how church thrives, reproduces, and expands to represent the church of the living God.
Malphurs, Aubrey. Look Before You Lead: How to Discern and Shape Your Church Culture. Grand Rapids: BakerBooks, 2013.
Dr. Malphurs, the trusted church leadership consultant indicates to pastors how to comprehend their congregational culture in order to achieve the church mission and vision. In his book, he delineates on culture and narrows the subject to congregational culture while discussing the basics of congregational culture, reading of the congregational culture, the sharing of the congregational culture, and discusses the pastor as the culture creator, culture architect, culture sculptor, and culture blinder. The above headings highlight the major thematic headings of the book and tend to give the book overview in an attempt to give the content thesis of the book; therefore, each major thematic heading will be given a synopsis taken into consideration some of the elements discussed that the student thinks is relevant and vital to the church ministry with reference to culture.
With reference to the basics of congregational culture, Dr. Malphurs discussed and highlighted the bearing congregational culture has on ministry’s efficiency and vitality while affecting the conducts of church members. He defined culture as the collective action of congregational members that is unique to the group members with shared values and core beliefs that is belief based and value driven as condensed and paraphrased. In church planting, the understanding of congregational culture is important to the established churches with regard to coping with the changes in the church congregational culture. The knowledge of congregational culture enables the church planters to create, to adopt, to accommodate, and to assimilate into the culture the pastor or church planter envisions. The activities of the congregational members and the church planters indicate or express congregational behaviors in the shared values and beliefs. Congregational cultural values must be consistent, passionate, shared, and should be driven and guided with reference to congregational beliefs, its objectives to discover what the church truly believes, to discern the effective ministry, to accomplish change, to explain the presence and absence to the core values, to discover what people anticipate of the church, to guide problem solving in the church, to make sense of the church world, and to provide mental and emotional stability for congregational members. In the cultural group, there are two ways members or outsiders of the culture can respond to the culture. The response can be done by isolating from the culture or adapting the culture one has encountered in the cultural settings.
With relative to the reading of the congregations, it is required that one observes, interprets, and applies the congregational culture. The reading of the congregational culture is the kick off to read the pastor’s culture. This is accomplished when the source of the pastor’s culture is discovered, observed, and interpreted coupled with the discovery of the pastor’s divine design and beliefs.
Dr. Malphurs, in his book well articulated on the pastor’s design and belief system coupled with how the new church planter or pastor who is sent to the new culture needs to read the congregations. Reading the congregations requires observing cultural behaviors of people in the culture, interpreting congregational behaviors, and applying intervention therapeutically to deal with the existing problems that need attention. In biblical hermeneutics, he used the terminology, “exegesis.” The pastor should exegete the congregation, interpret their behaviors, and apply interventions.
In an attempt to share the congregational culture, the pastor as the culture architect, who creates the culture is highlighted, his weakness and strengths, spiritual and emotional maturity, character qualification, and the divine designs such as gifts, passion, and temperament are tools the pastor need to lead the new culture in order to meet the overall goal or purpose of the group the pastor has been called to lead and to shepherd. In the pastor’s endeavor to lead, it should be noted that church planting comes in phases as the pastor ventures into the vocational calling. Initially, the church planter or pastor must envision the church culture he or she wants to create. This is conception stage or phase. It is the period of contemplation. It is like the biological embryo or zygote. After this phase, comes the development phase at which the vision is mature to give birth. The birth phase is the stage or implementation of the church plant until it grows and begins to reproduce congregationally. Growth and reproduction are phases of the physical shelter where believers will meet to study God’s word and the congregations grow spiritually and numerically.
While the pastor is the culture architect or culture creator, he or she is also called as the culture sculptor. As the culture sculptor, he prays for change, he does church analysis by computation of the church annual average attendance, the church’s strengths and weaknesses. He or she also reads the church’s culture through observation, interpretation, and application. While he or she steps in this vocation as the culture sculptor, he or she must possess and meet character qualifications, spiritual qualifications, and spiritual gifts to give him or her the spiritual vigor to do the work of the spiritual ministry. The pastor as the culture sculptor is charged with the responsibilities of shaping an already established culture. He or she does so by reading the current culture, throwing out the current culture, transitioning the culture to a new level, and reforming the new culture at the new level. Dr. Malphurs, in detail, delineated the essence of the pastor being the culture sculptor. The pastor being an architect and sculptor of congregational culture, vividly points out the significance of the pastor as the tool in the hand of God for spiritual evolution. The pastor as the culture blinder, revitalizes the dying church, allows it to die (funeral) or makes a merger as the options for the declined or dying church. The thinking behind the merger is placed on hope, more cash, and fresh hands (multiple leaderships or congregations). However, church merger can work provided the thinking behind it is placed or focused on revival mentality, turnaround leadership, similar cultures, adopt, don’t merge, and look for a merger-to-multisite opportunity. Dr. Malphurs well articulated on the subject of church merger. His delineation of the factor of church merger and the risks involved is well taken. He has been to the point concerning two congregations who attempt to merge, but have different cultures. His conclusion on the subject is validated. I recommend this book to all pastors to read.
Chester, Tim and Timmis, Steve. The Total Church: A Radical Reshaping Around Gospel and Community. Wheaton: Crossway, 2008.
In their book, Pastors Chester and Timmis defined the church not as the place of assembly, but as the identity in Christ. This identity obtained by believers in Christ is purposeful in shaping life to be like Christ so that both life and mission can become the total church. This indicates that the mission of the church (believer) can be understood practically by the world when the church lives out the mission through demonstration. The demonstration defines how the church lives out with reference to how the church relates to God in obedience, the proclamation of gospel message, the adherence to mission evangelism and church planting, and the commitment to the community fellowship collectively. Pastor Chester and Timmis layout three principles regarding Christian practice. The Christian practice focuses on the word-centered, mission-centered, and community-centered. These practices outlined the content thesis of their book. In Total Church, the authors outlined biblically in order to make the gospel and community centered and then made the dual emphasis to evangelism, social involvement, church planting, world mission, discipleship, pastoral care, spirituality, theology, apologetics, youth, and children’s work.
Under gospel and community in practice, Chester and Timmis discussed the downside of evangelism with relative to how Christians respond to this mandate. Many have closed their ears and groaned to listen to such topic on evangelism. People in the church are reluctant to evangelize; however, on quote, “Christians whose love for the Jesus flows from new hearts kept soft by the Holy Spirit an instinctive desire to commend their Savior to others”, said Chester and Timmis. The reluctant attitude to go for soul winning is very common in church setting. During my growing up year in the 80’s as the young believer, some of us in the church were fired up when it came to evangelism while others sat and did nothing about it obediently and practically despite of numerous announcement that was made on Sundays and weekdays during church meetings.
Under gospel and community in practice, Chester and Timmis delineate on social involvement of congregational members who made up the body of Christ. The authors posed a question to a prominent evangelical leader why most people in Christian circles have ignored or refused to accept groups meeting in homes? The leader responded in this manner, “We want to lead growing churches with professional people, church administrators, and healthy budgets. We want church to be a well-run organization with polished presentation.” The response from the church leader contradicts the model of the church in the Bible wherein the believers met in homes to study the word of God, to pray together, and to break bread together. These activities foster Christian unity and make Christians to set common goal while the Holy Spirit help them reach their goal. The common goal of the Christian faith is to win more people to Christ as believers live out Jesus in their testimonial lifestyles while they reach the unreached people groups of the world. The church of Jesus has left postmodernism era of Christianity and has decided to modernize Christianity. It is not wrong to have a church building built and have people assembled in such shelter, but his approach to the question indicates class systems being imported into the church world. The cultural practices that are adopted from the classical and the business world can become anti-gospel and stop people to enter the kingdom of God. The Christians’ attitude determines their altitude. Behavioral change to the better is needed to reach souls for Christ. Evangelical conservatism undermines the gospel in this rapidly changing world. Under gospel and community in practice, the authors discussed church planting in detail. The authors dissect the meaning of church planting vividly and practically. The authors said, “Church planting is outworking of mission and community. It is the point where mission and community intersect. It is by definition a missionary activity, arguably the missionary activity or core missionary activity… Church planting puts mission at the heart of the church and church at the heart of mission.” Mission is broad in context as per the above definition of church planting. Ministry by definition should be a collective action of individual members with shared values and core beliefs mandated or called to accomplish a specific mission. For instance, at Praise Ministries International, the ministry focuses reaching the world with the gospel through evangelism, church planting, and education. Our mission makes up the above integrals of the organization. Church planting is one of the integrals or components of our mission. The next two components are evangelism and education. At the intersection of evangelism, church planting, and education lies mission. Pastors Chester and Timmis practically defined what church planting is in the context of mission and community.
Under gospel and community in practice, Pastors Chester and Timmis discussed world mission as the responsibility of the church. They emphasized that the church needs to leave its comfort zone in order to reach the people groups of the world (Acts 1:1–8). The gospel should be preached in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to end of the earth. World mission is the responsibility of the church; unfortunately, there are few missional imaginations in churches today. People in the church do not want to leave their comfort zone when souls are dying and going to hell.
Under gospel and community in practice, not only should the church be involved in world mission, but the church should conduct discipleship and training in the local church in order to biblically prepare church workers for Christian service (Eph 4:8–13). This is the reason God has ordained the five-fold ministry gifts of apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers. These offices and callings have special grace and anointing to minister to the body of Christ according to the proportion of their faith. Under gospel and community, not only should the church be involved in discipleship and training, but the church should be involved also in pastoral care. Pastoral care is different from teaching and preaching. It is the integral of the pastoral office job description in the counseling field. It has to do with visitation, counseling, and praying for the sick, the traumatized, and the emotionally disturbed people. In their book, the author narrated the incidence wherein Sarah met the pastor to explain to him her activity to harm herself which she did not have control over the situation. This was beyond the pastor’s expertise and he decided to refer Sarah to psychologist for professional help. In this situation, the author labeled the Western world as the therapy culture wherein everything that happens to people has been attributed to people of being abused and who have traumas and among others. The spiritual is ignored and people who go to church do not believe in their pastors; instead, they believe that everything that happens to them has emotional and psychological implication; therefore, such problem can only be solved by professional psychologists. The behaviors of church members who do not believe in prayers is the result of the behaviors of pastors who have neglected their jobs as pastoral caregivers and given the jobs to secular psychologists who do not believe in God. This is sad. Under gospel and community in practice, not only should the church be involved in pastoral care, but the church should be involved in spirituality. The author rooted out the downside of spirituality meaning to be contemplation, silence, and solitude as he came across it in the book he once read. It did not sound right to him as it has been in the context of evangelical spirituality. He said that biblical spirituality is reading and meditating on the word of God that concerns Christianity. It is not super spirituality that others have thought and taught to be. He said, “It is centered on the gospel and rooted in the context of the Christian community.” Under gospel and community in practice, not only should the church be involved spirituality, but the church should also be involved in theology. In their book, the authors gave a dichotomy between theology and philosophical course like biology wherein the biologist studies plants and therefore deduces his or her finding through biological analysis and research using the plant itself as the passive object of dispassionate scientific scrutiny; on the contrary, God is never used as a passive object, because theology about God proceeds on the basis that God has revealed himself to humanity. Our knowledge about God is dependent upon his own self-disclosure. In reality, no one studies God, but we have knowledge of God as he reveals himself to us. Theology about God is tied to his self-disclosure to humanity. This is the reason, we have so many distorted theological discourses because they did not come from God; instead, they are human ideologies about God. When God is understood in the human context to be God; then, he can never be God.
Under gospel and community in practice, not only is the church called to study theology, but the church is called to do apologetics. The authors discussed apologetics in the light of the influence of the Enlightenment tradition that spanned from the eighteenth to the twentieth centuries that shaped modernity, the worldview of the modern world. Most modern Christian apologetics proliferation is the reaction to the Enlightenment tradition and its rejection of the Christian revelation in favor of rationalism. This movement originated with Rene Descartes. “I think therefore I am” is the motto or the driven statement behind this tradition. This kind of thinking still influences Western Christianity today to the extent that the birth of relativism is actualized in our Christian society. To obey God’s word has become relative instead of absolute. There is no absolute truth according to the philosophy of relativism. Truth has become lie to the proponents of the relativism. Do as according to your will and not God’s or what the Bible says. This is one of the reasons, the church in the Western world has accepted homosexual and lesbianism practices in the house of God with sealed conscience. Dead churches they are. This is disgrace to the Christian community. Not only is the Enlightenment tradition supports relativism, but it also was the period of reasoning. Things must be proven through empirical research, tested, and passed the test before being considered to be truth; therefore, faith and miracle are placed in the box and naturalism (no spirit) is birthed. Naturalism is equivalent to atheism. The Enlightenment tradition was the period of scientific evolution.
The authors conclude in their book on children and young people. According to 1998 statistics on church attendance survey in U.K, 1000 young people walk out of the door of the church each week and never to return. Despite of numerous investments being made to children and youth ministry, nothing has worked. Church going is no longer a norm as it used to be before. How will the church continue to exist when future leaders of the church refuse to attend the church? What will happen to the church when the older people expire? God has the answers to these questions; nevertheless, the Christian community has the enormous tasks to do on planet earth.
The materials in this book are resources for Christian living, church ministries, leadership, and pastoral studies. The materials learned in the book are supplemental biblical tools to enhance the ministry God has called me to. I recommend this book to church leaders, pastors, lay leaders, and congregational members to read. It is well articulated and simple to read.
Collison, Dan and Barsuhn, Shelly. Church in Translation: Vibrant Christianity in Your Time and Place. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2010.
The church of Jesus Christ has survived in various eras of human unfavorable history in respective of various conditions; nevertheless, the church has remained strong during these periods of the Early Church formation, the Dark Ages, the Industrial Revolution, the Great Depression, and the Digital Age. As Jesus said in Matthew 18 that he will build his church and the gate s of hell will not prevail against it; so, it stands. The word of God has not changed; so it is with his church; however, individual members who made up the church change over time and tend to manipulate his living word for self aggrandizements with reference to materials gain, fame, and among others. Biblical cultural practices such as prayers, the study of the word, holy living, artistic creativity, missions, justice in human society, the desire for knowledge, social wellness, communal transformation, and collaborative living that help translate the church identity to the world have been ignored by church leaders due to ignorance and disobedience. Pastor Collison, in his book, ‘Church in Translation’ has adopted an interdisciplinary study in theology, sociology, and anthropology to deal with the above mentioned subjects.
I have trisected his book in the contextualization of Theology, Sociology, and Anthropology since the book deals with theological, sociological, and anthropological dimensions in the church world. Pastor Collison, in his book, ‘Church in Translation,’ deals with the study of God in relations to how humanity relates to Him in obedience, deals with the church’s relations to the world in term of mission, and deals with man’s activities as instrument in the hands of God in order to translate the church to self and the world in the act of preserving and utilizing the biblical cultural heritages to minister to one another in the church and to translate these cultural heritages in the mission field. The reviews of the book will follow in the order I have trisected and outlined the book and not in the order it has been outlined according to the table of contents. In his book, ‘Church in Translation,’ Pastor Collison delineates on the biblical/theological, social/sociological, and cognitive/anthropological dimensions of God, community, and man’s activities as instrument in the hand of God to serve God, his community, and the world at large.
In the contextualization of theology, the author delineates on biblical inspiration, prayer, and grace. With reference to biblical inspiration, the author writes, “The Bible is a supernatural, mysterious, simple, complex, and beautiful message to inform and transform the lives of believers, the church, and ultimately culture. Christians and the church, however, have not lately been known for thoughtful handling of God’s word. Rather than viewing it with awe and humility, some Christians have, in their defensiveness, reduced scripture to a personal tool belt of judgment instead of grace, they have shown a penchant for using the Bible for their own purposes quoting verses out of context, extracting scripture to support a position on a given topic, or hijacking biblical texts to judge others’ behavior.”
The author’s comment regarding how scripture has been handled in the church is valid. If the word God has given His church will be taught and preached genuinely from humility, it will please the Lord. Why preach portions of the Bible according to your preferences and leave other topics without preaching them? It is obvious that there are difficult passages in the Bible that are difficult to comprehend and will take sometimes to fathom them out through careful and intensive studies of scriptures to understand the interpretation. I am not referring to such passages. I am speaking in the context whereby someone habitually living in secret sin like the sins of adultery and fornication; nevertheless, the preacher hypocritically and periodically stands on the pulpit to preach on prosperity asking people to give or sow seeds to his or her project. Most of these prosperity gospel preachers never talk about sin in the church. Such sermon or message from the pulpit is for self aggrandizements and is the direct act of hijacking scriptures as the author has said in the above quotation.
With reference to prayer, the church cannot live without prayer. Believers need to pray daily for spiritual empowerment. Lack of prayers in the Christian life robs believers from spiritual power and sets the believers for potential victim of the devil schemes. In the biological cell, the powerhouse of the cell is called the mitochondria. In the mitochondria, all the biochemical activities of the cell metabolism which help the cell to maintain vital life processes such as photosynthesis, respiration, locomotion, transpiration, osmosis etc, happen. All these activities happen in the cell’s mitochondria. This analogy tells us that prayer is like the mitochondria where our power lies. Prayer less Christians lack spiritual power and are vulnerable to satanic attacks (Eph 6:10–13).
Not only did the author discuss prayers, but he also discussed grace. Grace being an unmerited favor, the author asserts that the church of Jesus Christ especially the mainstream evangelical communities have treated grace differently as if people should merit it before being accepted in the church which is contrary to what God has intended grace to be biblically and practically. The mainstream evangelical communities declared themselves as self-righteous and think they can practice asceticism and stopping people to enter the kingdom of God in the manner they are relating to those they are calling sinners. They are slamming the church’s doors before the people through their behaviors as they preach the gospel of condemnation instead of the gospel of grace, the author said. He concluded that grace is free; therefore, the church should treat grace as God sees it. The rationale behind his argument is that the church sees that she has everything into place (self-righteousness) and refuses to preach Jesus to those whom have been condemned by the church. The church is slamming the church’s door to the unbelievers.
In the contextualization of Sociology, the author discusses community, collaboration, culture, and mission. The author detailed in his book the reason Jesus formed community. The formation of communities was geared towards members of the community living differently in the dominant culture they found themselves to be interwoven or intertwine within. He chose twelve disciples and sent them out in order to preach the gospel and to have authority to drive out demons (Mark 3:13–15). He gave them principles to live by that were different from the principles of the dominant culture of their days. He told members of the community to love one another and to also love their neighbors as they love themselves. This cultural community that Jesus created was countercultural to the dominant culture and practices from the dominant culture could not be accommodated into the culture he created. The culture Jesus created was a collectivist culture in which principles that guided the culture affected individual members of the culture collectively as the group. The group was controlled, led, and guided by biblical principles; on the contrary, the dominant culture that existed in their time and in our time is market driven, segmented, and individualized and it is influenced by human ideologies. This culture is materialistic, divided, and selfish in nature and practice. In the United States, the characteristics of such culture are vividly seen; therefore, history repeats itself. The individualistic culture influences individual liberty in the United States to the extent that State government finds it difficult to pass or execute law and to create some sense of order in the environment. This is clearly seen during the caronavirus crisis where groups of individual s are demonstrating in their States to ask the government to open the economy despite of the Pandemic characterized by daily deaths in the thousands. Some have refused to wear masks thereby putting public safety in jeopardy. This individualistic culture has entered in the church. Some people who attend church refuse to live by biblical principles; instead, they have decided to exercise individual liberty and ignored the scriptures. This is the reason in the United States, Lesbianism and homosexuality practices have entered the church and sadly speaking, the church has endorsed it. Two men and two women who hold positions in the church are getting married to one another. This is dangerous and disgraceful to the kingdom of God. There is no absolute truth according to the message preached by the proponents of this market driven, segmented, and individualized culture. Everything is relative as per the cultural practice.
While the author explained the community and what principles had guided it, he defined it in practical terminologies of relationship and convenience. This community is the community to Jesus: the center of faith communities, becoming disciples: learning and applying the truth of Jesus, building relationship: getting along in the community, and succumbing to transformation: the community of change.
The changing dynamics of cultural shifts with respect to dispensational leadership in this present era cannot be reconciled to the traditional hierarchical structural leadership in the flowchart wherein one executive leads from the top-down and all successive leaderships do as commanded or ordered. This kind of leadership keeps thing in order; however, the downside of this leadership become immanent when the gifts of others have be restricted to function in the church. This kind of leadership will not work with these present generations (Generation X and Millennials). Leadership in the present dispensation should be by collaboration. The jobs in the church should be shared among members and memberships should be allowed to exercise their giftings and abilities. Everyone in the church should own the vision and ministry. Ministry’s function should be executed by the organizational memberships; however, the chain of supervision or coordination should be put into place to maintain order. That’s being said, there are leaders placed over workers to supervise them. This kind of leadership is not autocratic, but all make decision by consensus instead of unilateral. Leadership should be collaborative.
The crisis of mission surfaced when people in the church have refused to build bridges between the church and the world. The building of bridges has to do with cultural competence in the ministry. It will be impossible to reach the world with the gospel when the church thinks that culture is the separate entity from the church. This has been the thinking among some Christians in the church world. Separating culture from the church is the direct act of avoiding people who do not form part of the church as the result of their cultural practices that could be anti-gospel or not in alignment with biblical or scriptural practices. The church should creatively contextualize the gospel message by using culture as the link to reach the outside world without compromising the gospel message. Understanding the church’s culture and the culture outside of the church enables the church to creatively and methodologically create messages in order to minister to different cultural groups without compromising the message of the gospel. Apostle Paul contextualized the gospel message in Acts 17:22–31 when he ministered to his pagan audience, the Stoics and the Epicureans, of his day.
Not only has the church ignored culture, but the church has also ignored mission. Pastor Collison points out in his deliberation that mission in the church is being narrowed to a select few in the church organized as the committee. Such committee organized, occasionally organizes a short term mission trip and bigger checks are cut and contributed to the endeavor. Mission’s endeavor in the church has become one time event celebrated in the church as a program and placards from the short trip mission field are displayed on church’s bulletin board for everyone to see. This has become a tradition and norm in mainstream Christianity, but the actuality is that there is no lasting impact on the mission field despite of annual budget being directed to the committee to do the job. The author suggests that mission in the church should be inclusive and not to a selected individual group nomenclature as the mission committee in the church. This inclusiveness regarding mission can be cultivated and thrived among congregational members of the organization provided missional imaginations are encouraged and cultivated among congregational members by the leadership. Everyone in the church should do mission. This is total involvement called inclusivity of mission. This is how church in translation can be embodied to proclaim the gospel message globally.
In the contextualization of anthropological dimensions, Pastor Collison discusses intellectualism, artisticism, and the social context of the church. He points out that the church has ignored and neglected cultural anthropological dimensions of the church that are useful to fostering and furthering the gospel message among congregational members and the outside world for world mission.
With regard to intellectualism, Pastor Collison asserts that Christians and church leaders have been stereotyped and labeled as close-minded, anti-intellectual, and simplistic by critics. Some voices in Christianity have prided themselves of being anti-intellectual and even regarded the rejection of deep and scholarly thinking as a virtue. The author delineates that if the church is going to translate the gospel to the present generations, it must retreat from an easy-belief mind-set and neglect the life of the mind. This is true and it proliferates among Pentecostal/Charismatic groups who place emphasis on the move of the Spirit and ignore biblical scholarship. They criticize mainline churches and among others whom they labeled as unspiritual and lack the Spirit or the anointing. If the church will do well to translate the gospel message to the world, there should be equilibrium between intellectualism and the Spirit. Apostle Paul writes, “Who also hath made us able ministers of the New Testament; not of the letter, but of the Spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life (2 Cor. 3:6 KJV). The church needs biblical scholarship and the Spirit; nevertheless, intellectualism should be controlled by the Spirit because there is the tendency that when people get educated without the Spirit, they may be misguided and take the scriptures out of context. This is the reason, Paul said, the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.
If the claim by Pentecostals/Charismatics that mainline churches lack the Spirit is true; then, the mainline churches need to work on their deficiencies of the Spirit lacking; in like manner, the Pentecostals/Charismatics should work on their deficiencies regarding biblical scholarship. The both groups should put their house in order spiritually and scholarly to enable them effectively translate the gospel message to the world. God is honored and faith is played out and understood when miracles accompanied the word preached.
With reference to artistic arts, the author retraced its exclusiveness in the Protestant traditional churches as the result of the overzealous purging of the arts by the reformers during the birth of denominations when the Protestant Reformation took off. God is the origin of the artistic arts and scripture support the arts as seen in the following quotation: And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, See, I have called by name Bezaleel the son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah:And I have filled him with the spirit of God, in wisdom, and in understanding, and in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship, To devise cunning works, to work in gold, and in silver, and in brass, And in cutting of stones, to set them, and in carving of timber, to work in all manner of workmanship Exodus 31:1–5 KJV). The author admits that the previously held misconceptions about arts as irrelevant and unbiblical are failing away and churches are experiencing a renaissance of the arts in all parts of the church life. Theater, literature, dance, film, painting, and sculpture are artistic creativities that fill our imaginations how we relate to God in worship. They are beauties of our Christian imaginations about God. We use them to express our gratitude and admiration about God and His created arts in nature. Finally, in the contextualization of the social context, the author vividly points out that one of the responsibilities of the church is to see that justice is played out in society; unfortunately, socially aware church puts flesh on the Christian claim to love our neighbors. This is misunderstanding, misinterpretation, and misapplication of scriptures with reference to justice in society by narrow minded believers. To love your neighbors is to make sure that people are treated fairly in society. Social justice occurs when the distribution of advantages and disadvantages within a society should be accorded to all in regardless of race, creed, norms, national origin, geographical origin, ethnicity, social status, and religious affiliations. The church is placed here for advocacy to make sure that people are treated as human beings instead of animals. He concludes that when believers see injustice to an individual or group of people who are underserved, undervalued, disenfranchised, powerless, or poor, the believer should be moved by compassion to bring justice in that society. Advocacy is part of the Christian responsibility in the world. The birth of liberation theology was the result of injustice played out in the American society during the era of the Social Justice Movement. The book is diversely written on important issues that affect the church, the world, and class systems. I recommend this book to church leaders to read.
Stetzer, ED and Rainer, Thom S. Transformational Church: Creating a New Scorecard for Congregations. Nashville: B & H Publishing Group and Life Way Research, 2010
The success of churches in our dispensation has been measured by the bodies, budgets, buildings, record of attendance, the offering plate, and the square footage of the buildings; however, when emphasis on accountability, discipleship making, and spirituality are ignored, fewer lives are transformed and Christians’ influence in society loses its magnitudes and values. This is indicative and contemporary of the North American society. The authors conclude that the scorecard about the physical appearance of the church does not qualify the church to be a transformational church; therefore, the authors have decided to conduct a research study in the American cultural church society in order to deduce the genuine scorecard that qualifies the church to be a transformational church. Before going further to produce the new scorecard, the authors needed to define success to enable them define what a transformational church is. The authors write, “Ultimately, we believe that measurements matter for the church. Rather than eliminate it (as some would call for), we think a change in the scorecard is needed. We believe one of the most important measurements is ensuring that men and women are being changed by the power of the gospel.” The idea behind the transformational church is that people’s lives are changed into the image of Christ. For the authors to conduct the research project across the American churches, the authors needed to define transformational church to solve for the unknown churches that are transformational churches by using interview questions and survey tools that relate to churches that are considered transformational. The authors did not develop a strict formula to determine what the transformational churches are, but they developed characteristics of the transformational churches based on the interviews and the survey conducted on 7,000 protestant pastors on phone survey, personal interviews with 250 churches, and 15,000 church members’ survey across the American churches. After the interviews and the surveys, they categorized the characteristics of the transformational church into three imperative categories to find out the characteristics of the transformational church. Under category one, the transformational church should have the capacity to discern in order to develop a missionary mentality. Under category two, the transformational church should have the capacity to embrace vibrant leadership, relational intentionality, and prayerful dependence. Under category three, the transformational church should have the capacity to engage in worship, community spiritual development, and mission initiatives. The above characteristics define what the transformational church is. The transformational church should possess either of the above characteristics to be on its way of becoming the transformational church. These characteristics can overlap and they vary with churches; therefore, the characteristics operate under the principle of convergence of elements. That’s being said, the transformational church might have a vibrant leadership, but might be weak in the area of prayers; but on the other hand, the church might be mission-minded church. One characteristic can re-enforce the other characteristics as the church grows and matures. The principles of how the transformational churches connect to the loop have convergence of elements and experience a cathartic experience to teach the principle of growth. Before a baby walks, the baby must have crawled.
In their book, Ed Stetzer and Thom S. Rainer adopt an in-depth interdisciplinary study of Sociology, Theology, and Missiology in order to delineate on the seven characteristics of the transformational church under the categories of discerning, embracing, and engaging; meanwhile, I have grouped these seven characteristics of the transformational church under each interdisciplinary study of Sociology, Theology, and Missiology; therefore, the elements of the transformational church are going to overlap in the three categories naturally due to the interchangeability of the characteristics of the transformational church as the result their overlapping nature in the book review. In the book, I have given synopsis of each of the seven elements of the transformational church in each contextualization as each interdisciplinary study is concerned.
Under the contextualization of Sociology, the authors present vibrant leadership, relational intentionality, and community relationship to the church in order to describe the transformational church.
Primarily, the authors discuss that vibrant leadership is different from positional leadership by definition and practice; that in positional leadership, the person is expected to be listened to, based on the individual’s title. Such leadership is an authoritarian leadership; on the contrary, vibrant leadership shows passion for God, His mission, and His transforming power on people. In the nut shed, the leadership believes in the shared function of ministry and makes sure that individual member of the congregations exercises his or her gift in the church. This leadership is not autocratic. Everyone in the church owns the vision. It is not one person’s show. The transformational church should embrace vibrant leadership to be qualified as transformational.
The church was designed and placed on planet earth as the collection of people participating in one another’s lives. This critical step of development of the church to help Christians deliberately connect with one another is termed as relational intentionality. The transformational church should develop and build relationship that is intentional. Transformational church congregations build relationship with one another and with the community they live. They build cultural bridges between the church they attend and the outside world. The characteristic of being relational intentional describes and labels such congregations to be missional in the community. One characteristic can re-enforce the others in the principle of convergence of elements as discussed previously. The elements of transformational church are naturally spontaneous in this book review. Transformational church congregations should embrace relational intentionality to be transformational.
The characteristic of the transformational church to be relational intentional, allows the congregations to create systems to put people in the community with one another. They develop community through home Bible studies, small groups, Sunday school, and service groups. Transformational churches are community based church congregations. Transformational church congregations encourage missional imaginations among the congregations so that the congregations can enter the mission field. Transformational congregations should engage the community to be transformational.
Under the contextualization of Theology, the authors discuss prayerful dependence and worship in order to describe what the transformational church is.
The word transformation originates with God knowing that there will be no transformation without God; however, the church has the responsibility to be prayerful before transformation can be experienced. Transformational churches should be prayerful dependence. As the mitochondria of the biological cell serves as the powerhouse of cellular activities of the cell; therefore, prayer serves as the center of spiritual power for the transformational church. There will be fewer lives changed and miracles happening unless the church becomes prayerful. Transformational churches embrace prayers as the lifestyles. During the research, every transformational churches interviewed admitted that they have prayer meetings weekly in common.
Every church culture values something significant to self. One of the things that a transformational church values is worship. Worship is the core value and transformation is the core belief of all transformational churches. The transformational churches core belief for change drives the congregations to worship God. When believers encounter God during worship, the outcome is transformation. Transformational churches engage in worship or are worship driven. There will no transformation completed in the lives of Christians unless they encounter God in worship. Worship is the spiritual discipline that initiates fellowship between the believer and the members of the Trinity. To be anointed by God, the believer should be the worshipper of God.
Under the contextualization of missiology, the authors discuss mission and missionary mentality to describe the transformational church. Mission and missionary mentality are categories of engagement and discernment that transformational church should be, to be considered transformational.
With reference to mission, transformational churches value disciples making; therefore, the churches are constantly involved in evangelism. Evangelism is the natural way of life of the transformational churches. Evangelism in the transformational church is not a set program; it is the life or breath of the transformational church congregations. The outcome of evangelism is mission. Transformational churches are mission-minded churches; therefore, the congregations are constantly engaged in mission in order to take the gospel to the world.
Finally, not only are they involved in mission, but transformational churches are involved in missionary mentality. They seek to find out what is happening in the community they live. The churches ask questions about real people in the community and relationally intentionally decide to reach the community members through home Bible studies, Sunday school, small groups gathering, and service groups. They seek to meet the needs of the community members physically and spiritually. The transformational churches’ DNA code to have missionary mentality, re-enforces the churches to be relational intentional in their mission field endeavors. In this case, the principle of convergence of elements is at work in the transformational churches whereby one principle is used to re-enforce the others spontaneously as dictated and expressed in human’s activities and behaviors; therefore, there is no objectivity to set a strict formula for the research with reference to empirical data analysis because human behaviors cannot be measured due to unpredictability. Transformational churches discern missionary mentality in order to reach their communities for Christ.
Ed Stetzer and Thom S. Rainer did a practical work through research endeavor and practically defined the transformational church from experience and practical standpoint; therefore, I recommend this book to church leaders and congregational members to read. It might help to birth missional imaginations among the congregations and put the church at work to enter the loops (discern, embrace, and engage) of the transformational church.
Roxburgh, Alan J and Romanuk, Fred. The Missional Leader: Equipping Your Church to Reach a Changing World. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass A Wiley Imprint, 2006.
In most books on mission, the subject of the church’s neglect concerning mission has been highlighted and emphasized. Even the majority of the authors who have written books on mission have never entered the mission field. These books contain similar languages used to communicate mission to the audience; as the result, the paradigm shift has not changed. That’s being said, it is obvious that these books are written from theological standpoint rather than the practical standpoint. These books have been used in theological schools as textbooks for students who enrolled in related courses regarding leadership or mission. Sadly speaking, most of the students who have graduated from these theological schools and have studied mission never have entered the mission field. The goal of the study is lost due to the lack of practice in real life. Why study practical course and fail to implement the subject area?
Roxburgh, the missional leader and consultant and Romanuk give church and denominational leaders, pastors, and clergymen a clear model for leading the change necessary to create and to foster a missional church focused outward to spread the message of the Gospel into the surrounding communities. The authors discuss leadership in the contextualization of cultivating missional leadership and developing characters that empower missional leaders. In simplicity, what can the church do to get involved in mission and to develop leaders with biblical characters that will do the jobs of the mission field? The authors answered this question in the book.
In the contextualization of cultivating missional leadership, the authors discuss six critical issues to consider in the furtherance of missional leadership with relative to changing dynamics of missional leadership. The authors assert that to cultivate missional imaginations among the people of God, it will be necessary to talk about the biblical and theological conversation concerning missional leadership; therefore, missional leadership is the key. It is clear that most books written on missional leadership used similar languages, but they lack practical reality. People who have written these books never have entered the mission field; as the result, most models have repackaged old paradigms. The opposite of continuous change or the change that is static is obvious; therefore, discontinuous change is the norm especially when the upper performative zonal congregation in the reactive zonal congregation is unable to navigate in the new environment due to the existing problems faced by the missional leadership. Despite of discontinuous change, the congregation can become the center of missional life and execution realization; therefore, congregations still matter. The cultivation of missional imaginations among the congregational members needs capacity building in leadership. Knowledge is power; therefore, leaders need new capacities frameworks. With reference to congregational missional organization, it is not a business enterprise, but it is a unique organization with shared values, core beliefs, and has a mission to accomplish that is tailored to its being of existence; conclusively, congregation is the unique organization.
The challenges faced by missional leadership can be mitigated or alleviated provided missional minds understand these six critical areas and tailor discussions in order to create awareness and understanding among the congregations to fix them.
With reference to the cultivation of missional leadership, focused on the act of cultivating biblical imagination of scriptures that challenge our assumption about what God is up to in the world and reminds us that leaders can do great things. What leaders had done in the past and what leaders are doing now are told in the imagination story. The success of missional imaginations among the cultures to have the mission executed depends on the mind-set of the congregational members including the missional leadership. The culture created by the congregation can either hold it back for cultivating missional life or promote the missioan life. What missional leaders need to do is to form missional communities that discern the change God wants and creates culture in the congregation.
With reference to leadership, leadership as caretaking or entrepreneurship has been the old and new models of leadership. This pastoral model in its contemporary practice is not derived from the New Testament models of the pastor. Leadership as the New Testament models should be a cultivation that describes the leader as the one who works the soil of the congregation so as to invite and constitute the environment for the people of God to discern what the Spirit is doing among the people as the community. Leadership as cultivating awareness and understanding among the congregational members has to do with awareness of what God is doing among the congregational members, awareness of how the congregation can imagine itself of being the center of God’s activities, and awareness of what God is about to do in the congregational context.
With regard to co-learning, co-learning networks create an environment that releases missional imagination while engaging in scriptures. It has to do with indwelling and enlarging in scriptures in new ways. It has to do with the formation of missional mind-set of the people in the habits and practice of the Christian life.
With reference to the zonal models missional leadership, the authors discuss three models to describe the emergent congregations that potentially exist in the organizational settings. The model that is characterized by creativity, energy, and birthing of new forms of mission and ministry as it enters, listens to, and engages the community in which its people are located is called the emergent zone congregation. It is emergent in the sense that the congregation is experimenting and discovering fresh ways of being God’s missionary people. In the emergent zone, leadership cultivates the environment within which this missional imagination emerges. Emergent zone leadership describes the collective intelligence and creativity in the blunt. The zonal congregation that has the organizational structures, the skills, and the capacities to perform well in the stable environment is called the performative zonal congregation. This organizational culture focuses on performing well what has been learned and proven to work. When the social and cultural context goes through massive and the skills and habits of the leader in the upper performative zone culture are insufficient to navigate in the new environment is known as reactive zone congregation.
With relative to understanding missional congregation, the authors discussed five principles to understanding missional congregation. They conclude focusing on the attitude and not the congregation, focusing on the culture does not change the culture, change takes time and baby step is required before change happens, and starting with alignment is not the answer. The above principles are vital tools to understanding and developing a missional congregation.
In ministry as leaders lead people, it is obvious that there are good ideas that flesh in leaders’ cognitive dimension intuitively. The ideas are termed as innovations; unfortunately, most innovations fail because leaders fail to process them in the proper channel. The goal of innovation is change; however, human beings by nature are constantly resisting change in society; therefore, change does not come overnight as some have thought. It takes time especially during the cultivation of missional imaginations among the congregations; therefore, the issue of missional change model is vital in envisioning innovations and processing them. Everett Roger developed this model of missional change based on the model of diffusion of innovation. Rogers is the anthropologist who has devoted his life to researching the question of how change takes place in culture. His research shows that innovation and integration of new ideas in a system happens according to particular pattern. This pattern is the Rogers’ contribution of the model of stages of successive diffusion of innovation. Primarily, the people should be exposed to the nature and function of innovation and the change context that requires innovation. The stage is called knowledge. After the people have been exposed to the innovation, they should be given the time and context that allow them to form favorable attitude toward the innovation. This is known as persuasion. Once the people are persuaded concerning the innovation, they will decide to commit to the innovation in their own term known as decision stage. Once they have decided to commit to the innovation, they will put the innovation into use and initiate new emergent zone practices in their congregations. This phase is called experimentation or implementation phase. If the innovation has passed the test; then, the people will commit and continue to practice. This final stage to adopt the innovation is known as confirmation or reinforcement. Innovation fails because it might not have undergone these changed models. Change does not come overnight. It takes time. That’s being said, when the innovation has undergone these change models, it will create awareness and understanding among congregational members and allow them to evaluate, to experiment, and to commit to the innovation. To lead this change or the innovation, the leader should take stock of what he or she knows, knows his or her capacity as the leader, learns to listen, and focuses on key areas and issues, and plans and to commits to the action plan. It is advised that congregational members should work along with the leadership to effect the change that has been innovated.
In the contextualization of developing characters for missional leadership, the authors discussed the interplay of personal attributes for missional readiness for self, the people, the congregation, and the missional context. For self personal attributes, the missional leader should have the capacity to cultivate missional congregation, should lead the organization through adaptive discontinuous change, should be mature, trustworthy, and the person of integrity in order for the congregation to have high level of confidence in the leader. For personal attributes to the people the missional leader leads, the leader should have the capacity to set the stage for dialogue in order to cultivate missional imagination among the people and to create organizational strategy for the strategic planning process. For personal attributes to the congregation, the missional leader should have the capacity to mentor and to coach the congregations into some of the critical practices and habits that form characters and identity of the Christian community while developing regularly in the scriptures, cultivating the habits of listening with the desire to hear others, and regularly practicing daily prayer as the spiritual leader. For context, the missional leader should have the capacity for missional engagement and missional leadership with regard to developing continuing awareness of relationship and understanding with the people, neighborhood, community, social reality, and the changing issues in which they are located.
With relative to the character of the missional leader, the leader should be self-aware, authentic, and present the realities and concern to those being led, able to manage conflict, the leader is not faint-hearted, but doing the right thing, and the leader is trustworthy. While the missional leader is anticipated to have the above attributes, the leader should have skills for the formation of the missional group. The leader should foster a missional imagination among the people of God, cultivate growth through specific practices and habits of the Christian life, enables people to understand and to engage the multiple changes they face in their lives, and form a coalition of interest dialogue among the people of God. That’s being said, leadership is the moral act distinct from administration and management. Roxburgh and Romanuk have discussed and shown church leaders how they can cultivate missional imaginations among their congregations and make them to be the transformational churches in order to take the gospel to the world (Matt. 28:16–20).
Weems, Lovett H. Church Leadership: Vision Team Culture and Integrity. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1993.
Every book, written on leadership whether in the business world, on politics, science, or religions, the terminology, ‘leadership’ is associated with values-driven terminologies to describe the characteristics of the leader. That’s being said, leadership is a moral position and with a moral act. This is the reason words such as honesty, trustworthiness, faithfulness, integrity, good, committed, dedicated, role model, nurturing, inspiring, ethical standard, good example etc. are being used to describe leadership and the moral act the leader performs. Taking these characteristics into considerations, one rarely finds a true leader in the secular or the religious world. To be specific, leadership in the secular world is defined differently by what the leader does contrary to what is written on the pages of the discipline book or the constitution. The subject on accountability, transparency, responsibility, morality, integrity, or role model is ignored. Leadership in the secular world is not a moral position, but it is a position of title and authority. It is a positional leadership model as opposed to vibrant leadership or servant hood leadership. Such positional leadership in the secular world is characterized by tyrannical or totalitarian model. On the other hand, leadership in the church has taken similar pattern to copy the leadership practiced in the world in term of moral issues confronting the body of Christ. The issues of accountability, transparency, morality, and ethical issues are at stake in the body of Christ with regard to how church leaders are behaving contrary to scriptures. There is no fear of God with some church leaders who hold position of authority or title in the house of God. The practice of homosexuality and lesbianism in some churches of the United States has been endorsed by church leaders. To be specific, the Presbyterian churches of the United States have endorsed homosexuality in their congregations. This is a moral breakdown in the kingdom of God. I call it insanity or madness. Religious leaders by virtue of their positions and whom they serve are held in high esteem and anticipated to represent the living and the holy God according to scriptures. Giving and describing the characteristics of religious leadership, what is leadership? Who is the leader? What is the state of leadership today in our era? What are some characteristics and elements of an effective Christian leadership? Pastor Weems, in his book, answered these questions. To enable me give a comprehensive review of his works, I have dissected his book into two sections. In the preliminary section, I will give the review answering the above questionnaires. In the secondary section, I will define leadership, give the difference between leadership to that of management and administration, state some observations about leadership, and give synopsis of each elements of an effective Christian leadership.
With reference to leadership, leadership is the act of influencing and managing members of the organization with shared values and core beliefs purposely existing to accomplish the specific mission. That’s being said; no organization can function or exist without leadership. Leadership is the function or instrument of the organization. Many people tend to confuse the function of leadership to that of administration and management. Administration is doing things right while management is doing the right things. Administration manages time while management manages materials. The administrator of any organization should be proactive when it comes to administration with reference to time management. The administrator is anticipated to be on schedule and makes sure administrative works are done on time and daily running of the organization is one course. Reports should be given as scheduled. Any delay regarding time on document processing and giving of periodic reports will cause a problem in leadership likewise any setback in management will adversely have a negative impact on the church leadership. Leadership is a team work or team sport. Leadership is not administration neither is management leadership; however, there is no effective leadership without good administration and good management. Administration and management are integrals of leadership. Church leadership that incorporates administration and management into its works will do well in ministry with reference to manageability of resources and time. This is one of reasons the mainline churches do well in the third world countries when it comes to church leadership because the integrals (administration and management) of leadership are incorporated into their leadership as compared to the Pentecostal/Charismatic Churches. This lack of good leadership in these churches varies with cultures, congregations, countries, provinces, regions, and ethnicities. Even among the churches that spring out from the mainline churches, the problems of good leadership still exist based on various factors. If churches will do well in effective leadership discharge, the administrators and the managers of the organizations should collaboratively work on time and materials in order to make the leadership strong. Leadership is a team work or team sport. Most Pentecostals or Charismatic churches don’t do well in leadership discharge due to lack of administration and management skills. This is very common in the African context. The Pentecostal or Charismatic churches pray and fast, but some lack organization. On the other hand, there is a lack of visioning in some of these churches; as the result, there are evidences that indicate the stagnation of innovation.
Who is the leader? The leader is the individual who influences and manages people in the organization with core values and core beliefs to make congregational members accomplish a mission. For example, Praise Ministries International’s leadership influences and manages its membership to reach the world for Christ through evangelism, church planting, and education. Praise Ministries International’s core values are evangelism, church planting and education. Praise Ministries International believes that the world can be reached with the gospel message through evangelism, church planting and education.
What is the state of leadership in today’s church world? The author quotes, “One of the most universal cravings of our time is a hunger for compelling and creative leadership. The above statement resonates with the fact that good leadership is lacking in both the secular and religious worlds due to the negative paradigmatic shifts leadership has copied from other sources from time to time. The question is asked, “Who is the leader of good life model that others can emulate?” The author asserts that due to the behaviors of past leadership, young people who are potential proactive leaders are discouraged to enter into leadership. He said, “We are immunizing a high proportion of our most gifted young people against any tendencies to leadership.”
Pastor Weems, being a pastor and president of the church and the theological institution during several years sensed ten observations about leadership based on experience. He said that leadership needs to be demythologized; it should be understood by all that leadership is not simple; leadership is a spiritual position; leadership is about group purpose; leadership can be chaotic; leadership is funny; leadership has not been researched in the church setting; learning about leadership has just begun in the church’s setting; leadership is an art; and leadership is never an end in itself. While it is obvious that the above observations about leadership do exist, there are also three common confusions about leadership that leaders should know. There is confusion between leadership and authority in the sense that when leadership capitalizes on authority instead of influence through lifestyle model, leadership can go wrong. Leaders commend respect or obedience from their followers by living good example before them. Leaders should work on their ethos (ethics) to communicate convictions to the pathos (emotions) of their followers. Leadership is not title, but it is a moral act (1 Timothy 4:12). The secondary aspect of confusion about leadership is the confusion between leadership and style. This happens when leadership is defined genuinely in real practice according to style falling short with reference to the true understanding regarding leadership. Styles of leadership do not correlate to Christian leadership when substance in decision making does not bring glory to God or it is compromised. When leaders ask followers of their preferences, leaders will be on the crossroad to cross examine the decision the followers make based on their preferences and the best decision suitable to solving the unmapped problem controversial and to see if the decision made does not go against biblical standard with reference to morality or ethics. This kind of approach to leadership is a style approach to leadership that is not definitive or a strict approach to the right decision to be taken. The third confusion about leadership with enabling and empowering emerges when the leader considers his congregations to be enabling and empowering his leadership in term of decision making. When this happens, he or she loses his tasks of leadership to execute what is required of him or her. Leaders should not allow themselves to be placed in the position of empowerment or enablement by the congregations or else leaders will be led by the congregations. Leaders are called to lead and they cannot be led. This is the reason the pastor needs to study the new culture when he or she is being assigned to the new environment. I have lived in the United States for 12 years. The typical American culture does not believe in collectivism; instead, the American culture is a segmented, market driven, materialistic, and individualistic. The behaviors of people across America especially the dominant culture are influenced by the statement in the Declaration of Independence of the United States nomenclature as ‘individual liberty.’ The culture has entered the church and it is influencing the decision pastors make when it comes to biblical matters regarding Christian living. If pastors give preferences to the congregations to empower or to enable them to make decision regarding lesbianism, homosexuality, or abortion whether they should not be allowed or be allowed in the church, do you think what will be the congregational response on average? You will see few people in the congregations objecting to the practices, but majority will want to endorse them. The decision the congregations make is influenced by the sinful nature and the culture they belong which has to do with individual liberty. Culture influences the decision people take in their families, governments, religious institutions, and many more. Cultural practices that are anti-gospel should not be accepted in Christian settings. Christian should know that their liberty to go against biblical principles will become their captivity. This is the reason the Presbyterian churches in the west have allowed homosexual and lesbianism marriages to go on in their churches because leadership has allowed congregational preferences when it comes to pastoral matter in the house of God.
Having defined leadership, the difference between leadership to that of administration and management, the leader, the ten observations about leadership, and three common confusions about leadership, in the secondary section of the book reviews, I have listed and given a synopsis of each elements (vision, team, culture, and integrity) of an effective leadership.
What is a vision? It is a dream. It is a picture of what is possible. The vision is the picture of the preferred future. While the author defined vision, he has also given the characteristics of the vision. Vision is related to mission, but different, vision is unique; vision is focused on one purpose; vision is for others; vision is realistic; vision is lofty; vision is inviting; vision is for group; vision is good and bad news and vision is a sign of hope. Vision is not only characterized, but vision also emerges from sources. Vision is birthed as the result of identity and vocation, history, data gathering, and ministry by wandering around (M.B.W.A). While vision does not exist in a vacuum, but it comes from sources; however, it also has functions. Vision unites; vision energizes; vision focuses on priorities; vision serves as the ultimate standard; vision raises sight, and vision invites and draws others.
The second element of effective leadership is team building known as community. Members of the community who form the team work collaboratively to accomplish the organizational mission. The community should be built with the following features: wholeness incorporating diversity, a shared culture, good internal communication, caring, trust and teamwork, group maintenance and government, participation and sharing of leadership tasks, development of young people, and the links with the outside world. The significant categories of people that should be on the team are key leaders and stakeholders. Building a strong team as a leader requires treating everyone with respect, involving people, fostering collaboration, sharing power, communicating with team members on the regular basis, being with the people in difficult times and good times, recognizing people, developing others, and loving the people at all cost.
Culture defines the distinctive behaviors of people with the shared values and core beliefs aimed at common goal in order to accomplish a mission. Understanding congregational culture as the pastor is vital to shepherding the new congregation the pastor has been sent to. Pastors sent to new cultures, should study the language, space of the culture, symbols, rituals, heroes and recognition of the culture, and daily routines and cultural networks. The role of the cultural leader is the role model to the people he or she leads, the storyteller, grand gestures exhibitor, moments of truth, day-by-day routines and actions of the culture, and responsible of working the networks and learning how to dance. He or she should be to front of every project and encourage congregational members to subscribe to the vision.
Conclusively, the last element of an effective leadership is integrity. Integrity is value-driven leader. The pastor as the moral leader of the culture should be the person of integrity. He or she should be blameless. Personal integrity and trustworthiness of the pastor refer to pastor’s professional ethics. Pastoral office being a vocational calling that comes from God; however, it is referred to in the business world as the profession; in this context, every profession has an ethics. For the pastor to be ethical in his or her profession, the pastor should keep eye on his or her personal and trustworthiness coupled with social integrity in the ministry. Pastor Weems’ contribution to church leadership by writing this book has been a worthy contribution to Christian leadership. Pastors and church leaders should read this book.
 Lovett H Weems, Church Leadership: Vision Team Culture and Integrity. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 34.
 ED Stetzer and Thom S. Rainer, Transformational Church: Creating a New Scorecard for Congregations. Nashville: B & H Publishing Group and Life Way Research, 2010, 25.
Dan Collison and Shelly Barsuhn, Church in Translation: Vibrant Christianity in Your Time and Place. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2010.
Tim Chester and Steve Timmis, The Total Church: A Radical Reshaping Around Gospel and Community. Wheaton: Crossway, 2008, 53–54.