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on April 20, 2017
This book is the best resource available to grasp and comprehend the essentials of creating a missional culture with a view to the five-fold typology (APEST). JR conveys, from experience, a robust Trinitarian, kingdom-infused, missional, incarnational approach to ecclesiology that is profound and culture-shaping for any local congregation of Christ followers. Especially impactful is the way JR exegetes our culture and lays the groundwork for us to do the same by re-imagining the church through a particular lens that enables us to live deeper into the missio dei communally. I especially appreciate how he integrated Newbiggin's missiology throughout. I've recommended this book countless times and will continue to do so as we need fresh ways to re-imagine the church through the lens of scripture in our cultural context. This is a must read for anyone who desires to see the church equipped for service for the sake of the world.

Scott Olson
Author of Re-Imagining the Church
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on February 27, 2013
*** Disclaimer, JR Woodward and I are friends, and we've worked together on several projects and initiatives. He is a genuine lover of God and people, and his heart's cry is to see God's Kingdom come and will be done on earth as it is in heaven. To say JR is a unique person would be an understatement. I wish there were more like him . . . ***

Like some of you, I'm exhausted by reading authors who rail on and on about what's wrong with the world or the church or Christianity or Christ-followers or whatever other construct they're frustrated with. I think most of us can agree, the western church and the Kingdom of God are not in sync; at what point do we stop complaining about what's wrong and start visioning about what could be?

Enter JR Woodward.

JR is a long-time church planter and equipper of church planters; his entire adult life has been spent in this field. Plus, JR is a voracious reader and remember-er of books, and he has a unique capacity to pull various streams of thought together into a cohesive understanding. But beyond all that, JR has the courage to actually implement the things he's learning in the communities he leads and serves.

In part one, JR gives a brief diagnostic on contemporary culture and its affect on the church. He offers sound, Biblical perspective, and Spirit-led, field-tested advice on how the church can live into its calling to be an alternative culture offering grace and hope to a hurting world. You will be encouraged in part one.

In part two, JR offers his perspective on leadership in the church. Not surprisingly, few of his comments can be found in other leadership books, because JR's comments are rooted in a macro-understanding of the Kingdom of God and the potential for a missional culture. You will be challenged in part two.

In part three, JR shares a fresh understanding of the five giftings Paul described in Ephesians 4. This section may feel a tad idealistic -- not that that gives us an excuse not to aspire towards it -- but I know personally that JR has lived and led into these thoughts in his leadership. You will be inspired in part three.

In part four, JR casts a vision for how a missional culture could be a blessing to its members, the local community, and the world. He's not offering cliche statements or abstract possibilities; JR shares legitimate ways church leaders can lead their communities to be a place for God's kingdom to come. In part four, you will be motivated.

And if rich content isn't enough, JR gives specific tools to help identify and develop the five gifts in your local church.

I can't think of a better book for an aspiring church planter or a seasoned veteran. Every reader will learn and grow after reading this book, and you'll probably want to read it more than once.

I recognize my review is as much of an endorsement as anything, but I'm sharing honest thoughts after a second reading of Creating a Missional Culture in a small group of church leaders. You will not be disappointed.
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on July 31, 2012
Woodward brings his understanding of culture and how it is formed together with his passion for the church to see her flourish and be sent out into God's mission.

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.
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on August 14, 2012
JR Woodward has written a book that gets to the point and one that makes its point very well.

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.

You can win a signed copy of this book. Details found here: [...]
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on August 31, 2012
It is rare that a book comes along offering such timely insight into the cultural and theological climate of our (American/Western) culture...JR Woodward brings such a generous offering. With ground level experience and 50,000 foot insight Woodward is able to not only analyze the current leadership malaise that is affecting our generational fallout in the church. As the Baby boomer baton is beginning to be passed, new forms of organizing and fresh expressions of leadership are organically emerging as the church rediscovers some core principles...Creating a Missional Culture is at the front of that wave. As a leader of a non-traditional church plant at Kairos Community in the Antelope Valley we have incorporated the principles in this book as core curriculum for our team. Understanding a plurality of leadership is absolutely essential for the church of the future...Don't buy a copy of this book, buy 5 or 10!
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on November 29, 2012
I am way late with this review.

Not that I had a deadline or anything, but I purchased my Kindle copy of J.R. Woodward's *Creating a Missional Culture* sometime in the early summer, and I just finished it a week or so ago. That is, probably, a telling glimpse into my life of late - reading time is difficult to come by with two tiny kids (1 and 2.5 years old), and some recent (intense) transition that has been pretty draining. The latter point, in fact, probably has less to do with lack of time and more to do with OMG-no-energy-for-this, as much as I may try to hide that reality from folks in both the real and virtual world.

Not to make this all about me (seriously, I'm gonna review the book), but there's even more to this connection between personal transition and *Creating a Missional Culture*. See, I hit the one-click buy button on Amazon at the precise moment when the most difficult part of this transition was beginning - that is, the *beginning of the end* of our four year old church plant, Dwell. In June we entered a last-ditch phase of scaling back to one home-based gathering (ending our public Sunday gathering) in hopes of regrouping for a replanting effort this fall. In short, the regroup didn't happen; and come August, we made the excruciating decision to close the church plant for good, opening the floodgates for much spiritual, emotional, and vocational turmoil for my wife and I.

In the midst of all that, and even up to the present moment, J.R.'s book has been an amazing comfort and inspiration.

In fact, yesterday (seriously, I'm going to review the book), I met with two ministers from the local United Methodist congregation where I've been attending services lately. We began to talk about the possibility of an aging and traditional congregation like this one experiencing new missional life - which led inevitably to me talking about the present book. And the conversation itself became alive; the very real potential latent in this anchored, resourced, multi-generational congregation to build onto its ecclesial foundation a missional, equipping structure literally stirred our hearts and raised our voices in the unsuspecting local cafe.

Forgive me if this review is less than academic or thorough, as the book deserves both. But, with this very personal context set, let me undertake this in two simple sections: Comfort & Inspiration.

**Comfort**
Full disclosure: I know J.R. Woodward.

I met the author in Washington, D.C., at the national conference for the Ecclesia Network. I knew of his blog before that, and loved what I was reading there. The man proved to be better than the blog; I felt welcomed and affirmed by J.R. as we became acquainted, sharing stories and ideas about the missional movement at this moment in time.

I was also deeply impacted by J.R.'s talk on the final day of the event. It was, essentially, a talk about leadership and reconciliation. And, it was an honest look at the opposition that leaders sometimes face, no matter how sincere they are in their efforts, and the deep pain caused by this kind of conflict. J.R. was brutally honest in sharing his own experience of this, confessing that while he is certainly not perfect, the punishment does not fit the crime. This brought me to tears.

In the same way, when I read Chapter 8 of the present book, called "Embracing Emotional Health," I was warmly comforted by the truth being told, to the point of tears. I was also challenged by the vision for leadership present here - and throughout the book - that may provide a way beyond some of these experiences.

Chapter 8 had me from the opening story of a church planter J.R. had met:

"I could tell that his story was still recent and raw, for as this church planter shared with me the emotional hurts he had endured in his attempt to plant a church in a large East Coast city I could feel his heart breaking right before me. His core team decided that they no longer wanted to follow his leadership, so they proceeded to carry out a spiritual mutiny, which left my friend emotionally scarred, probably for life."

Whoa.

A few pages later, J.R. tells about his first five years church-planting in L.A. and confides, "I know what it's like to be stabbed in the back... I don't have the time or the emotional energy to share the degree and duration of the hurt and pain I experienced..."

Double whoa.

The comfort here is palpable for me because, as other leaders may understand, it is quite nearly impossible to explain or defend your perspective once a church community, especially a small and very young one, has started sliding into angst and discontent. To hear, and read, "I understand, I've been there," is like an oasis in the desert. Actually, I think it's even better than that. It is healing balm for a wounded, dying soul.

Throughout the chapter the comfort slowly and sneakily transforms into challenge: What may be the cause for these kinds of painful frontier struggles for church planters? What is at the root that may be choking out the fruit? Woodward's answer is, in part, the lack of *polycentric leadership* - a true plurality among equipping leaders at the center of a church endeavor. Only with this structure, Woodward contends, can there be an honest journey toward wholeness among leaders themselves that is then "caught" by the congregation itself, eliminating the toxicity that enters the equation when only one person is both qualified and willing to lead in a visionary capacity (again, however "good" and well-intentioned that leader may be).

This polycentric structure is one of the book's main themes, fleshed out in the five equipping gifts of Ephesians 4 - apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor, and teacher. While I grew up in a Pentecostal environment that had a very different take on what these gifts were all about, J.R. (rightly, in my view) zeroes in on these as iterations of the basic "elder" or "overseer" role in the church, and then gives them very-L.A. nicknames: Dream Awakeners, Heart Revealers, Story Tellers, Soul Healers, and Light Givers. These nicknames help to describe the unique function of each gift; but, again, the *common* function is *equipping* - bringing the church community itself into works of ministry, service, and mission through the gifts they *all* have been given by the Holy Spirit at work in the church.

Taken together, there is, again, much comfort here for weary folks like myself, alongside the ecclesial challenge. In fact, perhaps comfort and challenge are married in another of J.R.'s themes: a leadership that really, truly relinquishes *control*. It's elementary to his thesis that, if a missional culture is really going to take root in a local church community, if there really is going to be the kind of vitality that results in a community living differently than the world for the sake of the world, than there must be leaders who follow the New Testament pattern of really giving control of the outcome to the Spirit of Jesus. Channeling missiologist Roland Allen, Woodward urges us to practice the principles of "cross and wind" - sacrificial servant-leadership that releases the results to the wind of the Spirit.

"Paul was not the king of the communities of faith he started, he was their servant, for Jesus' sake (2 Cor 4:5). Paul 'believed that Christ was able and willing to keep that which he had committed to Him. He believed that He would perfect His church, and He would establish, strengthen, settle his converts. He believed, and acted as if he believed.'"

Woodward continues:

"We aren't building and expanding a business, we are partnering with God to build the church for the sake of his kingdom... The significant lesson Roland Allen repeats throughout his writings is Paul's unwavering belief in the Holy Spirit's work in other people's lives. He notes how Paul 'practiced retirement' (released control and literally moved on to another city within two years or so) to allow the Spirit to work freely among the new believers. Allen brings to our attention that Paul planted churches and taught the new believers how to rely on the Spirit apart from Paul's direct involvement."

The conclusion? "Central to developing a missional culture is for leaders to cede control to and to model and teach reliance on the Holy Spirit."

This doesn't mean that leaders don't lead. This doesn't mean that leaders don't take a stand or work hard to communicate vision to a community and ensure unity in that vision. What this means, to me, is that having done that hard work, the apparent failure of my church-planting endeavor does not have to mean that I am a failure, or that my calling as an equipping leader is somehow invalid (however discouragement may set in from time to time and tell that story). No, God's gift and his call are irrevocable. Nor am I left to conclude that the conflict aroused during this wild church planting endeavor is necessarily a sign of our disobedience or God's disapproval. If that were the case, most of the churches Paul founded would have been handed the same sentence, as intense conflict afflicted them, and Paul (like Jesus) found himself abandoned in the end. No, this is out of our control. And that's good. Because the outcome is really, truly, the Holy Spirit's job.

And after all the effort, the stress and strain and sleepless nights, the love and time and sacrifice and overflowing tears, it really is Jesus who builds his church and God who gives the increase in people's lives.

And that's comfort, indeed.

**Inspiration**
I doubt J.R. would desire comparison to an exiled prisoner prone to wild hallucinations, but his book is, in many ways, a "revelation." Now, it is not one of those end-times-y things about numbers and beasts and flying out of cars and Middle East conflict leading to the battle of Armageddon; but it is a vision of the church, and, in my estimation, a desperately needed one. This is nothing less than the Apocalypse of J.R. (revealing something hidden from many in the Western church).

And as revelations tend to be, it is quite inspired, and inspiring.

J.R. begins by breaking down the concept of culture itself. It's not enough to think of culture in the anthropological sense, as the habits or customs of a particular people group in a particular time and place. Rather, the bare-bones definition of culture is "what humans make of creation." That is, culture is that unseen, assumed thing in the background of everything we do. And culture is created by engaging with six elements in the "cultural web": language, artifacts, narratives, rituals, institutions, and ethics.

While the author breaks each of these down into even finer bits, I was especially encouraged by his definition of "institutions." He begins with this: an institution is a stable social structure "that develops when at least two people do the same thing together repeatedly." Institutions are inevitable in this sense and not bad in and of themselves. Then, Woodward channels Volf:

"According to Volf, two primary factors shape the life of an institution: the pattern of power distribution and internal cohesion and unity. Understanding how a congregation handles power distribution and how they maintain unity when it comes to their vision, strategy and marks of faithfulness helps discern the culture of the church. If the church as an institution is going to be missional, I believe the church needs a polycentric approach to leadership, where the equippers enable their fellow priests to live to their sacred potential. Thus the entire body is activated for God's mission in the world."

Let me pause here and tell you why I'm so inspired. I've been a part of the missional conversation for six or seven years, and I must say that the conversation has become discouraging of late. In short, it's become terribly superficial, emphasizing this strategy or that church form as *the* way to reach our post-Christian culture. It seems contrived and agenda-driven. But what J.R. does in this book is take that conversation back where it belongs - to the root. See, I've long listened to conference speakers opining about how the problem is the "institutional church" with its buildings and staff and budgets and programs, and what we really need is to get back to organic house churches with none of those things and watch the people flood into the kingdom. Or, there are folks who are doing nothing to change the way the church institution operates but just adding a slick, relevant delivery and calling it "missional," and waiting for the same flood of conversions.

But, in my experience, neither of those approaches get at the real goal of a powerful kingdom presence in the neighborhood that really brings God's peace and right-making into real people's lives. See, we can't escape institution, and it's not about ditching the entire external structure anyway; but we must change the culture of our churches so that the life of the Spirit can flow freely and bring real, lasting change. This is what got those ministers and I so excited in the cafe the other day.

Perhaps this is all summed up well in J.R.'s correction that the goal of all of this, for goodness sakes, is for God's people to come to spiritual maturity and actually be more like Jesus in the world! And then this: "Becoming more like Jesus is not a matter of trying but yielding, setting the sails of our lives to catch the wind of the Spirit." The culture of a congregation determines whether this atmosphere of yielding to the Spirit and being transformed will be present, or whether there will be a dragging down of the community to their "basest instincts."

I realize that this is precisely where I am shortchanging you, my blog reader, to the real beauty of this book. Because I'm essentially giving you bookends, combined with some autobiographical drama, and missing the unbelievably juicy middle of J.R.'s vision. But that's why it's a review, I guess - because now you need to go get the book to fill in that rather large blank.

But let me end on this note. J.R.'s treatment of Ephesians 4 and the fivefold gifts (APEST - apostle, prophet, evangelist, shepherd, teacher - or the L.A. nicknames, if you prefer) is applied to the six elements of the cultural web, with results that are, you guessed it, inspiring. In fact, as I sit here next to my Christmas tree, dreaming of what God may have for my wife and I in this next season of life, it is this vision that energizes my imagination. What if it were possible to see a polycentric leadership functioning in an honest pursuit of wholeness, equipping the congregation to function in their own gifts and callings by the power of the Spirit? What if it were possible to then see language, artifacts, narratives, rituals, ethics, even institutions, arise that were shaped through community environments that each equipper uniquely creates? Thriving, liberating, welcoming, healing and learning environments?

What if it were possible for this kind of church community - one in which the value of gathering and liturgy are celebrated, while discipleship groups and missional spaces are equally emphasized; in which experiments like meeting in the round with the Lord's Table at the center are welcomed; one in which issues of power really are addressed, and leadership really does act in humility - what if this kind of church community could take up residence in the neighborhood?

Well, then, the kingdom of God would be breaking in.

I'll end with a bit of the prayer Woodward ends with, a prayer that reflects the cry of my heart at this very moment in time:

"Father, We yearn to be the church you want us to become,
Shape us into something beautiful."
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on June 13, 2014
Creating a Missional Culture by JR Woodward is a terrific book to help you think through missional living, leadership, culture, equipping the saints for ministry and how all of the above interrelate to each other. If you haven't considered these topics, than you should buy this book immediately and start working on it. And if you have been thinking through these topics, you need this as a great resource. I don't think I have found a more helpful book written in such a practical way.

While I gleaned much from all the book, I particularly benefited from the way JR described the five main equippers in the church:
Apostles (dream awakeners)
Prophets (heart revealers)
Evangelists (story tellers)
Pastors (soul healers)
Teachers (light givers)

As the equippers incarnate their lives and ministries within the body, the whole body will be aroused and awakened to live in the world, for the sake of the world, in the way of Christ. I long to see more of this in my own life and in those around me. Grateful for this book to help create this!

If you are a missional practitioner, a church planter, church leader, or someone who longs to see more disciples made in your context, I encourage you to add this book to your library.
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VINE VOICEon June 5, 2013
Over the last couple of decades there have been various streams of church development, pointing at first to how older approaches were missing the mark and losing the vision and hiding behind walls. What was wrong? How did it go wrong? Sure there were some very engaging Christian communities, but the trend was troublesome. Critiques abounded, often from people who were burned, or burning, out and were desperate to find a new way. In the midst of that, there were a fair amount of proposals, and a fair amount of attempts at rediscovering a thriving Christian vision in our era. Publishers got in the mix, and there was a flood of books, many featuring the words "emerging" or "missional."

Those became buzz words. And buzz words attract all sorts of people, many of whom have very different ideas about what those words mean and many who don't care, and don't want to try anything different, just want to repackage older church growth models with new terminology, thus keeping their place on the Christian conference circuit.

Just as troublesome was the tendency to use such terminology to undermine core Christian beliefs and values altogether, making big theological or ethical moves and then co-opting the terminology to fit that theological agenda.

Lost in all of this was the reality that emerging and missional movements were, at their core, not forsaking of the Gospel or limited to trendy new youth-oriented practices involving cushy chairs, round tables, and cussing pastors. The core, the leading edge, was always about Christ. Don't be Christians just in name, but be so in fact. What does it mean to live out the Christian life in the midst of our present society? What does it mean to pattern the church around a more holistic and dynamic understanding of the work of God in this world? Merely maintaining patterns that were, for the most part, developed in the 1500s is not an adequate pattern if we are to commit the whole of our life and community to teaching, preaching, prophesying, pastoring in, with, and among the people God is seeking out.

The trends changed. Some said the missional and emerging movements were dead, mostly because publishers lost their buzz. Men and women didn't stop seeking out holistic patterns of Christian community simply because there was waning interest by the powers that be. Some kept writing, leading, developing, speaking, praying.

Now, we're in a new wave of publications, and this wave has a depth of theological insight and background in healthy and thriving practices that point to a sustained movement in the life of the church. I could list a great number of books that fit into this category. Indeed, I have, as I've recently finished a PhD in theology that focuses on Moltmann's theology in conversation with missional writings and thought. I pull these themes together and call it the transformational church movement. More than just study, I was part of some of the proto-emerging churches and very, very early expressions back in the 90s. I recognized the strengths and was all too aware of the weaknesses.

So, why am I writing all this here? Because with all this in mind, if I were to recommend one book as a starting place and overview of the missional movement, I would point to Creating a Missional Culture. Woodward here does a masterful job of combining a wide array of sources--experiences, theology, organizational theory. He pulls from his own very developed understanding as a pastor and leader of a network of missional communities, from insights of other such leaders, and provides a book that describes the goals, theories, expressions as well as any other book I've read. Lots of books have more narrow focus, emphasizing one element or another, but Woodward brings it all together. If you want to know what a missional church is like, what they are doing and why, then this is where you should begin.

Any critiques? I suppose that with such a wide net of sources and insights, a book like this could easily become overwhelming to those who may not have a background in leadership studies, organizational theory, or ecclesiological musings. This isn't a book for those who are trying to find their way, it's a book for those who understand the basic themes and could use a succinct analysis and proposal. It's a book for pastors, church leaders, and seminary students mostly. That's not to say that the ideas or goals here are limited to such people, more that the language and concepts are decidedly directed that direction.

As far as style, Woodward is a great writer, focused and with a varying rhythm throughout that keeps the reader from getting bogged down in one direction or approach. He mixes narrative with theory with theology with practices and, in doing this, very nicely illustrates how missional churches seek to keep all these in holistic dialogue, rather than combative disdain of each other. Here theology informs and practices illuminate, both in dialogue with each other, informing and strengthening. Woodward is a great communicator, a great student of theology and missiology, and an experienced leader who brings a trustworthy weight to his ideas.
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on June 14, 2014
I found revisiting JR Woodward’s Creating a Missional Culture between Pentecost and Trinity Sunday to be a worthwhile pilgrimage. It provided a rich reminder of the challenges involved in as well as inspiration for the task of kingdom architecture. Creating cultural spaces where the priesthood of all believers is more reality than rhetoric and where shared leadership is the established order emerges as the charge to be kept in this present age. This book is a letter from the heart of a seasoned scholar/practitioner that combines a masterful synthesis of the best current biblical interpretation and theological insight with relevant questions, helpful tables, and provocative figures. This book renews the call to new community and equips equippers with a toolkit that is clear, compelling, and useful across the continuum from the Anabaptist to the Womanist.
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on October 14, 2012
I pray God continues to use JR Woodward's new book "Creating a Missional Culture" as a beckoning call for the Church to return to Her 1st Century culture of congregational equippers.

JR makes clear the biblical case for polycentric leadership, and the need we who are experiencing the current church crisis in the West being post-Christendom, have in engaging our communities missionally. Polycentric leadership is not so much new as it is New Testament.

Adding to the current conversation on Ephesians, highlighting especially the 5 fold equipping roles of Ephesians 4, JR renames the gifts Paul lists: apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers with "dream awakeners", "heart revealers", "story tellers", "soul healers", "and light givers" respectively. As a millennial ministry leader, I appreciate JR updating these terms in a language easily understood by my postmodern peers. These terms also emphasis the function for the Body and downplay a single role to be held in the church. Though not explained in the book, the 5 icons expressed on the cover also do well to communicate the functions of the fivefold for an image driven generation.

Instead of taking shots at the distorted teacher-pastor, solo leader model we have common in the North America, JR is graceful yet convicting in his presentation of a polycentric leadership system that multiplies ministries through equippers. With this form of leadership, the unbiblical method of voting is dismissed and replaced with communal discernment in the Spirit.

As a sociologist by training, I thought JR's definition of culture was spot on. Things like artifacts, language, rituals, ethics, institutions, and narratives define a society and shape a community. When the fivefold equipping roles are understood, and lived out with their telos in mind, a congregation can maximize its missional effectiveness in a community by the cultivation of five different learning environments, corresponding to each of the Ephesians 4 giftings.

JR's chapter on decentralized decision making and Trinitarian submission should be must reading for every missional leader seeking to serve the Kingdom. Making clear the difference between flat leadership and polycentric leadership, JR expounds upon the recently developed "emergence system" of organic growth and shared responsibility found among ant colonies and the human brain, proposing this systemic form of structure should be possible in the Church.

Other interesting topics discussed include JR's distinction between discipleship communities and the current church buzz word, missional communities, as well as his challenging of the control ethos in many established churches.

Though the APEST term isn't directly used, the reader will quickly see the similarities between JR's work and that of some of the other apostolically inclined authors writing on the same Scripture.

As a side note, I found the description of conversion from "belong, behave, believe" to be very encouraging as it is the same language used in the ministry I work with and the church I serve with. In addition, I found the missiological references to Lesslie Newbigin and Watchman Nee in the beginning of the book and the quotes from Roland Allen towards the end to be highly beneficial.
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