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Missional Map-making: Skills for Leading in Times of Transition

Author: Alan J Roxburgh
Published By: Jossey-Bass (San Francisco)
Pages: 204
Price: £16.99
ISBN: 978 0 470 48672 6

Reviewed by Chris Skilton.

If you only have time to read or money to buy one book in this selection of reviews (with due apology to my fellow reviewers), make it this one! Alan Roxburgh has been a pastor, teacher, writer and church consultant for over thirty years and knows what he is talking about when it comes to leading churches.

His premise is that, in a fast-changing world, our traditional views of mission and of church leadership largely don’t work any more or make sense in a world that is constantly evolving. He asks, “How do we cultivate environments that call forth and release the mission-shaped imagination of the people of God in a specific time and place” (p.77). Along the way (chapter 6), he identifies eight major currents of change as the church and the world faces the end of modernity. Many of these are familiar territory - globalisation, pluralism, a loss of confidence in traditional structures for instance - but he charts and draws them together in an engaging and helpful way. It is followed by an especially engaging chapter (7) using the growth of the internet as an example of the way that profound change in our society has emerged without strategic planning or the conscious alignment of resources.

A major strength of the book is that the second part of it explores four key, practical processes for the mission of the local church - assessing how the environment has changed in your context; developing a core identity for the church in the formation of community; creating a ‘parallel culture’ with small groups committed to the transformation of lives engaging with the biblical narrative; forming partnerships with surrounding neighbourhoods and communities to model and shape kingdom values.

Having suggested that traditional strategic planning no longer works, he identifies the role of the leader as that of facilitating the core identity of the church, believing that, “God’s future lies with his people; the role of the leader is to create an environment in which it might be called forth”. He asks a lot of the church leader, suggesting that at the same time as seeking to facilitate this step change, they also need to be building trust by doing the traditional teaching and pastoring ministry well.

While the book offers some good examples of elements of this different way of working, it doesn’t give a detailed account of a church or churches that have fully embraced this understanding of mission and undergone the change that Roxburgh describes. The examples are also from Roxburgh’s ministry and networks in Canada and the States, but much of it begins to resonate with a U K understanding of some “fresh expressions” of church and most especially with those exploring the new monasticism and the formation of missional communities.

It would be fascinating to read, through the Ministry Today website, of ministers and churches that have looked at Roxburgh’s work and begun to engage with it as their model of mission.

Chris Skilton

Archdeacon of Lambeth and Board Member of Ministry Today

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You are reading Issue 50 of Ministry Today, published in November 2010.

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