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Mission Mover: Beyond Education for Church Leadership Paperback – August 1, 2004
"Rebound" by Kwame Alexander
Don't miss best-selling author Kwame Alexander's "Rebound," a new companion novel to his Newbery Award-winner, "The Crossover," illustrated with striking graphic novel panels. Learn more
About the Author
Thomas G. Bandy is an internationally-recognized church consultant and leadership coach. He works across the spectrum of church traditions, denominations, congregations, contexts, and cultures. Tom coaches transforming and transitioning congregations, church plants, multi-site and cross-cultural churches, and faith-based nonprofits. He is the president of Thriving Church Consulting LLC and can be found in his virtual office at ThrivingChurch.com. He is the author of several books on congregational leadership.
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Reviewed by Darren Cronshaw
Bandy is a church consultant and avid internet coach who uses an email format in this book to challenge potential ministers-in-training (and churches, colleges and denominations) to go beyond safe institutional leadership to follow Jesus into mission in contemporary culture. He challenges people to aspire to be mission movers rather than church leaders; to follow Jesus on the road past Emmaus rather than staying in the upper room to maintain the infrastructure. This fits the needs of contemporary society and the desires of many aspiring leaders. They don't want a churchy career but missional immersion. So rather than investing 3-4 years in training and then settle into ministry, hoping no bishop will move them or conflict crush them; mission movers start tomorrow, among people for whom their heart bursts, learn what they need as they need it, and let a passion for growth and adaptability get them around any conflict or obstacle.
He says ministry is leading others to share the gospel among pagan publics. His model of fulfilling leadership is of a coach and dreamer, a pilgrim among pilgrims, a motivator to missionaries and entrepreneur to partners. Preparation for this involves changing lifestyle, finding mentors, joining a team, identifying learning needs, customising a training track, developing coaching skills, pursuing internships with practitioners anywhere, networking everywhere and being prepared to fail boldly. He says students learn from movies, music and relationships as much as books and lecturers: 'We need to let people go to learning opportunities appropriate for their growth, and not bind them to an established model of training.' (p.171)
Training is less dependent on colleges and denominational approval and more about reflecting on experience and conversing with others about the adventure, like the characters in Chaucer's Tales. Colleges need to adapt to students with new learning styles and agendas, but too often stick with linear learning for an omni-literate world. This is bad for learning and bad for modeling: 'when the pastor assumes that the best way to learn is through listening to expository sermons, reading curriculums, and studying concepts in the seclusion of the church parlor, it is no surprise that what people end up learning is rational dogma, institutional obedience, and a condescending attitude towards outsiders' (p.91).
Learning methods are as important as content, and method will include action-reflection, mentoring, interaction, teamwork, lifestyle challenges, face-to-face and web-based input, and contextual, customised and indigenous theology. Postmodern content will still focus on Scripture but other than that focus on patristic rather than reformation history, holistic health rather than psychology, teamwork rather than denominational systems, mentoring rather than counseling, visioning rather than CPE, experiential rather than informational worship, motivational speaking rather than expository preaching, and learning technology more than liturgy. Missional leaders are interested in different things: 'Church leaders worry about the truth of Scripture; mission leaders worry about the truth in Scripture. Church leaders worry about continuity with the past; mission leaders worry about where Jesus will be fifteen years down the road in their zip code and how much they are willing to stake to meet up with him there' (p.100).
Practical ministry training is essential but as much to learn how to train others in ministry as learning the skills for their own sake. Practical training is much more a focus than it ever has been: 'In the old days, you spent all week on the seminary campus and spent weekend doing "fieldwork." Today you need to spend the weekend (at most) on campus, and spend all week "experiencing the mission field." In the old days, experts lectured on how to do ministry, and then you tried to do it. Today, you learn for yourself and apply it, and bring the experts up to speed when you see them on the weekend' (p113).
Bandy warns against dependence on strategic planning, buildings, and approval of anyone other than the Lord. He says watch out for the co-dependency of needy people and courageously stamp out the efforts of dysfunctional controllers. Bandy has little patience for traditional 'family churches' that keep to themselves and maintain the status quo: 'If most of the people who harp away at maintaining tradition could just experience the real power behind the tradition they are trying to maintain, they would not want the tradition. It would be too hot to handle' (p.159).
This is an indispensable though dangerous guide for vocational guidance for anyone considering a call into Christian leadership and considering their training (or apprenticeship) options.
Originally appeared in Darren Cronshaw, `The Emerging Church: Introductory Reading Guide', Zadok Papers, S143 (Summer 2005).