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Creating a Missional Culture: Equipping the Church for the Sake of the World Paperback – August 5, 2012
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"Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress"
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"Creating a Missional Culture is a worthwhile read that provides a gracious, yet prophetic corrective to individualistic, pastor-centric churches, moving the missional church forward." (Jonathan K. Dodson, Evangelical Missions Quarterly, April 2013)
"Creating a Missional Culture is about cultural analysis, leadership formation, congregational empowerment and missional engagement. JR Woodward blends head, heart and hands to reinvigorate the church. I highly recommend this book for those studying missiology, ministry and ecclesiology." (Amos Yong, J. Rodman Williams Professor of Theology, Regent University School of Divinity)
"Many have written critiques about our consumerism, lack of discipleship, narcissism and theology, but few have given us a clear way forward. In this book, JR Woodward uses compelling theology, cultural insight, biblical wisdom and practical examples on how to shift from consumerism to mission and equip the people of God to reach their full redemptive potential. This is a real gift to the body of Christ." (Jon Tyson, pastor, Trinity Grace Church New York, author of Rumors of God)
"There is no mistaking that the missional thrust that JR Woodward unravels in his book has at its core a profound understanding of spirituality as the propellant for cultivating such culture in our ministry. While some erroneously insist on dichotomizing between missional and spiritual formation, JR makes a solid case for the necessary integration of the two. Indeed, authentic spirituality is missional through and through. JR's work accentuates this holistic approach to our distinct yet integrated calling as equippers: as an apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor or teacher." (Wil Hernandez , Ph.D., director of the Master of Arts in Spiritual Formation and Leadership at Spring Arbor University (msfl.arbor.edu), author of Henri Nouwen and Spiritual Polarities: A Life in Tension)
"JR Woodward's fresh views about leadership and church culture and his practical guides and suggestions make this a relevant and important book for every congregation. The chapters on polycentric leadership alone are worth the price of the book. Creating a Missional Culture delivers exactly that―a provocative guide for the intentional, Spirit-led creation of a church culture where Christ is incarnated in the lives of individuals and communities." (Dr. MaryKate Morse, author of Making Room for Leadership)
"The church has encountered a serious gap in fulfilling its apostolic imagination. JR steps in as a visionary and provides a major breakthrough, showing us that the release of the missional church is dependent upon creating a missional culture. This book offers next steps for those of us who long to equip ordinary Christians for profoundly missional expressions of church. I wish I had written it!" (Linda Bergquist, church strategist, coauthor of Church Turned Inside Out: A Guide for Designers, Refiners, and Re-Aligners)
"I have been craving a book that would facilitate the reimagination of church culture, and it is finally here. This is a book I hope many will devour." (Dwight J. Friesen, associate professor of practical theology, The Seattle School of Theology & Psychology, author of Thy Kingdom Connected)
"A decade ago, Alan Hirsch and I explored the idea that the fivefold leadership matrix was essential to unleashing the missional church. Now JR Woodward goes further by detailing how this matrix of leadership fosters a learning, healing, welcoming, liberating and thriving missional culture. This book is beautifully written and well researched, and it gets at complex issues in a readable and accessible way. This book is a gift to the missional conversation." (Michael Frost, coauthor, The Shaping of Things to Come, and author, The Road to Missional)
"JR Woodward's remarkable book defies categorization. To 'create a missional culture' requires disciplined biblical and theological formation, discerning engagement with contemporary cultures, appreciative interaction with diverse resources, and the courage to experiment and to innovate. Woodward does all that and more in this book. The growing exploration of the theology and practice of the missional church is enriched by this volume. Its authority rests in the author's tested and validated experience as an equipper 'of the missional church for the sake of the world.'" (Darrell Guder, Winters Luce Professor of Missional and Ecumenical Theology, Princeton Theological Seminary, editor and coauthor of The Missional Church: A Vision for the Sending of the Church in North America)
"JR Woodward reads widely, writes deftly and lives deeply. His book Creating a Missional Culture reflects all of that. Read it and explore what leading can be in the strange new worlds of mission in North America." (David Fitch, B.R. Lindner Chair of Evangelical Theology, Northern Seminary, author of The End of Evangelicalism?)
About the Author
JR Woodward (MA, Fuller Theological Seminary) is a church planter, activist, missiologist and the national director for church planting with V3, a missional church planting movement. He is the author of Creating a Missional Culture and he desires to awaken people to join God in the renewal of all things. JR is founder of New Life Christian Fellowship (NLCF) and cofounder of Kairos LA, the Solis Foundation, Ecclesia Network and Missio Alliance. He serves locally with the District Church in Washington D.C. and is pursuing a PhD at the University of Manchester (UK). He loves to surf, travel, read, skateboard and meet new people. He enjoys photography and film and tries to attend the Sundance Film Festival whenever he can.
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Author of Re-Imagining the Church
He begins the book by laying a groundwork for how culture is formed. He says that every culture has six elements: language, artifacts, rituals, narratives, ethics, and institutions. Together, these elements form a "culture web" that shapes and forms those who belong to that culture. Then looking at Ephesians 4, Woodward sees the "equippers" - apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers - as God-given leaders who help cultivate a missional culture. They are cultural environmentalists that take give shape and space where the fruits of Christ can grow wild.
In the middle section Woodward spends a chapter on each of the five equippers with descriptive analysis of each equipper's concerns, passions, weaknesses, and effects. This section can be helpful for groups to hear and self-identify or for people in a small group to name what they see in others.
Woodward ties the culture-building piece with the equipper piece together with some concrete suggestions and models for churches. He uses the analogy of a player-coach to distinguish people who have a gift or orientation toward one of the five gifts and people who are called and affirmed by a faith community to equip others to live into their passion and gift. He names the latter as player-coaches - people who still are "in the game" and living out their gifting in the world and the church but who have moved into a season of life where they are spending more time "coaching" others. He then incorporates the models of apprenticeship and guilds as ways that people are equipped and flourish in their gifting for the church and for God's mission in the world.
The most important concept that I took away from this book was the importance of polycentric leadership that isn't heirarchical or autocratic but it isn't flat leadership either. He notes that our models are not neutral. They have a theology and communicate our values and ethics. A polycentric model of leadership is best suited for the priesthood of all believers while maintaing openness to the Spirit's wind-blowing leadership.
I trust JR Woodward's work here because I know that he is a practitioner, a widely-read and careful thinker, who is passionate about God's mission and the church. I highly commend this book to anyone who is wondering how to cultivate "thriving, liberating, welcoming, healing, and learning environments" in their church.
The point of this book is to move the church from merely an institution (although indeed it will stay an institution and that's a good thing), to a vibrant community of disciples making disciples.
The book is setup in three parts.
1. The Power of Culture
Here JR pushes the envelope to show the reader where our culture is going and how we, as the church, should not only engage in it, but create within it. JR navigates to show some of the major ways we are seeing our culture change through the "megashifts" that we are part of. As an example, how do we navigate as the church in the media shift from print and broadcast to the digital age? And so on. JR presents some compelling thoughts on how leadership must be structured, and how the church should be the foretaste of Jesus to our culture within these new megashifts, by going back to the Scriptures, not leaving them. This part 1 really gets your mind going and desiring to hear JR's conclusion. Exactly what Part 1 of a book should do.
2. A Leadership Imagination That Shapes Missional Culture
While JR gives you some overall examples of leadership that he believes will not only engage our culture, but also be Scripturally based, he now moves on to the specifics of the megashifts and how we must now look to engage this as the church. He shows how our leadership Structure is actually making a theological statement to the world (and each other) and how much we truly desire to engage the world. Not only that, but makes the case that we must change (or really go back to our roots found in Paul and Jesus) or we won't actually engage the world in the most compelling God glorifying ways. He really starts down this road to nail down what he is meaning as he starts in with his ideas of polycentric leadership. Meaning, leadership that is decentralized, yet still leading, not merely having a bunch of people running rampant with no leaders in place. I believe this is one of the major things the church needs to take note of. We need to hear what JR is saying here if we desire to multiply disciples, instead of merely multiplying church buildings and services. He shows how polycentric leadership works in a myriad of places, such as politics and business. The understanding of this is that the people feel empowered to be led by the Spirit and part of the whole without having to continually "check in" to make sure the powers that be are in agreement with the Spirit.
He states it in this way:
The apostle Paul was ahead of his time, for he does not propose a centralized leadership structure or a flat leadership structure. Rather he reveals to us a polycentric structure, where leaders interrelate and incarnate the various purposes of Christ in such a way that the entire body is activated to service and matures in love.
This chapter of JR's book needs to be read over and over again as the church moves forward as a multiplying movement of disciple makers.
3. The Five Culture Creators
For the final part, JR now gives you full handles on what he is speaking on, with Ephesians 4 being his anchor for discussion. He lays out what it looks like to have each of the culture creators working together and what each of them embodies. They are laid out as the Scriptures lay them out for us in Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Shepherds and Teachers. While JR further contextualizes each one of these with his own descriptor, the task of giving his insight to what each one does is very helpful. Not only does he give descriptors and stories, but he also adds at the end, questions, to reveal which culture creator you most likely represent.
This third part, is very helpful and one that will aid anyone that is looking to transition their leadership structure in the way that is described in Ephesians 4.
Overall, this book is very well done. After speaking further to JR, I learned that this is something that isn't merely theory for him, but one that he has been studying for over 12 years and actually practicing for the past 10 years.
The book leans heavily on the power of the Spirit and the insight given to us by the Scriptures and also those outside the Scriptures. Many helpful quotes come alongside JR's extensive research and helpful articulations of his end goal.
What JR does not do, and I am totally fine with it, is try and persuade you to believe in the Ephesians 4 5 fold ministry from a theological, exegetical framework. It seems as though he is leaving that argumentation to Alan Hirsch and Tim Catchim with The Permanent Revolution.
Again, because he does this, he is able to get to the point for the audience he is aiming for. He is aiming for those of us who are on the missional edge knowing that we have been missing something. Knowing something within our leadership structures and methods of engagement is off.
In the end, the reader comes away with a book that pushes them in these ways:
- Be led by the Spirit
- Leaders are true equippers, not saviors for their church
- Leaders become servants, not lords
- Our methods should be derived from the Scriptures, yet not ignoring the cultures we are sent to
- We will be evaluated by one thing: our disciples...are we making them?
By returning us to a polycentric, 5 fold ministry of equippers for the church for the sake of God, JR allows Jesus' words in Matthew 16:18 to be believable for us today:
And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.
I recommend this to anyone looking to be the church to the culture they are sent to. But don't just read the book and do nothing about it. Read the book with the expectation of making changes, by the power and wisdom of the Spirit, so that disciples are made to the ends of the earth.
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