Part 2 of reflections from a class on “Missional Leadership,” taught by Dr. Reggie McNeal at Columbia International University. In part one, I shared Dr. McNeal’s description of the “missional” church, and some thoughts in relating that to our Polish context.

Thinking and behaving missionally requires a series of paradigm shifts:

1. From internal to external

The people of God need to refocus their hearts and resources on the world. We have focused mostly on ourselves, but we need to remind ourselves just how much God loves the world. It really isn’t enough to pay lip service to this, but we must also demonstrate this shift through our use of resources, and through the behaviors we reward. One very practical idea that Dr. McNeal mentioned was to get involved in a nearby public school. There we can see and begin to meet nearly all of the needs around us.

Polish evangelical churches are usually strongly evangelistic. Their methods are frequently outdated, but the desire is strong to win their country for Christ. And with 0.15% evangelicals, there’s a lot of people to win! Most evangelical leaders are much more focused on building their church than they are on building the Kingdom, but there is very little of the apathy that sometimes characterizes churches in North America. However, their small size and position as a cult makes it difficult for the churches, as organizations working independently of one another, to get involved in community services – whether schools, community centers, or compassion organizations. So, a better way may be to lessen the organizational involvement, and encourage individual believers, or small groups, to get involved as volunteers in community organizations. In the end, it isn’t about increasing the visibility of our church in the community – a common error that churches in both Poland and America make. What matters is blessing the community where we live. I’m convinced that doing that actually does increase our positive reputation, but when we make blessing the goal, rather than popularity, we contribute more to advancing God’s Kingdom, rather than our own.

2. From program driven to people development

“We have to get this shift – this is the real crux of it.” “Goal of the program model – how many people came Sunday, how long did it go, did we have enough workers, etc.  DID WE MEET BUDGET?” “You can go weeks in some program models and the topic of people never comes up. The goal is participation.” (Reggie McNeal, in class)

A short look at the life of Jesus, or even more, the life of Paul shows us the importance that both placed on developing people. It’s an incredibly sad state of affairs if the question “did we meet budget” has become more important than “are people growing in Christ.”

Unfortunately, most Polish churches have understood a successful church to be one with multiple programs. In fact, Polish evangelical leaders have usually used American megachurches as models for ministry, resulting in a large degree of frustration when the Polish spiritual reality does not bring the same results they read and hear about in America. There definitely are different areas to address in people development in Poland than there are in America, but I have to think that a focus on growing people and not programs will probably be much less frustrating and more rewarding in the Polish church. Granted, mentoring and discipling can also be frustrating at times – but the Polish church sometimes has such wildly unrealistic expectations toward programs that a people focus might actually turn out to be a huge relief!

In addition, programs are resource hogs – and the Polish evangelical church is pretty poor, both in money and number of personnel. Of course, as Dr. McNeal also mentioned, a focus on people development does not mean an elimination of all programs – rather it means a restructuring of priorities. If we can recapture the people focus, we can be more intentional about letting people try and fail – in order to learn and grow – even as they lead or participate in a “program.” The “success” of the program becomes subordinated to the “process” or growth of both the volunteers and the recipients.

As a small personal aside – I get very frustrated by teachers from the West who come and tell the Polish church how it should be done. Their ideas are sometimes so wildly inappropriate in the Polish context that it’s as if a bunch of Martians came to tell us how to plant crops. And yes – I’m an American, attempting to influence my Polish brothers and sisters. And I’ve probably made just as stupid statements over the years as some of these big church teachers make here. God forgive me and us. However, 14 years of toiling alongside my brothers and sisters here, of wrestling with similar cultural issues and slow growth has helped me understand this context better, and helped them consider me one of them. We won’t change Poland by implementing an American church growth program. We might change Poland by focusing on people instead of programs, though.

Again, much of what Dr. McNeal said in class can be found in his book Missional Renaissance.

Missional Leadership I

 

Comments
  1. […] The first two paradigm shifts, from part 2: […]

  2. […] especially in the light of some of the shifts that Dr. McNeal mentioned earlier (my posts 2 and […]

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