Review of Part 2: Creating a Missional Culture

“Creating a Missional Culture: Equipping the Church for the Sake of the World”JR Woodward

An engagement of 4 parts:

Part 1 – The Power of Culture

Missional Culture

The running assumption in part 2 is that leadership is formative in the creation of a culture. This is significant because church across North America needs to understand these implications.  Our structures communicate.  A reality that made this section a compelling engagement.

JR navigates the complexity of culture, missional theology, and dynamics of polycentric leadership in an articulate manner which lends itself toward practicality. He engages important topics like cultural exegesis, being grounded and aware of the Biblical narrative of leadership, the importance of emotional health in leaders while offering examples of polycentric leadership at work in places and spaces beyond church communities.

In this part, JR continues to pay attention to context and its significance for missional theology.

One of the major critiques of contextual theology, or process theology is that it could be the equivalent of putting God in a box. God therein becomes a divine being that, whatever the particular circumstance be, we ‘create’ or take a customized God out of a box primed to fix the problem or represent that which we are wanting for that particular event. Even while reading the first part of the book, I saw this as an important topic to address. Particularly in chapter 5 where he works through the various cultural shifts that our world has seen (media, philosophical, scientific, spatial, and religious). It almost seemed all to convenient then to say that polycentric leadership is missional (seemingly a theological buzz word these days) and effective for our world amidst these shifts. Important for the overall argument on this is his work to say that hierarchical leadership structure should ‘never’ have characterized the church in the first place (76) which was found in chapter 6.

Chapter 6, called “Hearing the Story” provides us with some very good examples and exegesis of texts that point us toward the significant value of polycentric leadership that empowers the community rather than ‘lord’ over it (86). This is a significant and refreshing comment on leadership in the Bible and its meaning for our time.

Yet I found in Chapter 7 wherein JR examines some of the theological foundations on which much of his content is held to be short. The content is quite good but gives off an over-saturated feeling as I read through some very important theological concepts and praxis. For example, he engages Volf and Boff, two of my favourite and influential theologians, while briefly unpacking the “Social Trinity and Leadership.” Very good content, but this and other content headings found in this chapter could have very well been its own separate part for the book. I almost found myself begging for him to unpack it a bit more.

However, within this same chapter I found a significant comment pointed directly to the manner in which our communities operate. On page 96 he says “Our approach to leadership makes a theological statement to the church and to the world. If we desire to be a church that is a sign and foretaste of God’s coming kingdom, we will seek to reflect our triune God and our communal nature in all we do.”It is a prophetic, bold and humbling reminder. How we act in our organizational structures is in and of itself a theological statement. How we treat our women, youth, seniors, and others within our locus of leadership speaks significantly to our theology. For my reading, this could very well be the most engaging comment in this section of the book. This is something all our faith communities need to take seriously. A case-in-point is the discussion on women in leadership many Christian circles are still having.

The section is well written, just as the first. It does well to explain and outline what kind of ‘leadership imagination’ is needed for our current place in history. This is important because as JR contends, our leaders shape our culture. Only wishing that the author would write more is not necessarily a bad thing. But I fear that making the chapter on theological foundations quite saturated carries with it the potential to weaken some of the more practical elements I am to engage in part 3.

Check out friend Len Hjalmarson’s work and engagement of part 2 HERE.


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  2. JR Woodward · October 6, 2012


    Thanks again for the thorough review of this section. I did have one question for you, did you read chapter 8 and 9 in section 2? Just curious if you read it as a part of this section. While chapter 8 isn’t under the chapter title of theological roots, some things in that chapter as well as other chapters continue to talk about the theological basis for polycentric leadership.

    Looking forward to your thoughts on the rest of the book. I appreciate your thorough engagement.


    • Chris Lenshyn · October 9, 2012

      JR! Thanks for stopping by, very cool to engage with you in this way! And I should apologize for the lateness, it was thanksgiving weekend up here in Canada.

      Yes! They were good chapters. After your comment I took another look and saw a continuation of the theological ‘foundations’ on which polycentric stands. Particularly chapter 8. But because polycentric leadership is communal rather than hierarchical I was hoping for more engagement on some of the communal foundations which were specifically addressed in chapter 7 (Social Trinity etc…). Doing this however, could have added significant length to the book which could also be a detriment. I have never written a book but would expect this dynamic to be a challenge. I must too acknowledge that it is connected upon implicitly in the preceding chapters.

      This is not at all diminishing the themes in chapter 8. That chapter in particular reminded me of my engagement with some of Eugene Peterson’s material. Very helpful.

      This is good stuff JR!

  3. Pingback: Review of Part 3: Creating a Missional Culture « anabaptistly
  4. Pingback: Review of Part 4 and Conclusions: Creating a Missional Culture « anabaptistly

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