Book Review — Creating a Missional Culture

“Missional” has been a buzz word for so many years it’s become a bit of a buzz kill. In some respects, the use of the word seems to me to be another way to create a conference and a nice roster of speakers.

But there are leaders doing “missional” work and seeing what the Spirit is doing is vital. Over the years, as I have learned more about church history, liturgy, and spiritual formation, I have been drawn to forms that call disciples to walk more closely with the Lord.

Creating a Missional Culture by J R Woodward is a book written by a practitioner. He’s beyond the theory.

Woodward does an excellent job of building the case for missional congregations, then brings out some very practical ideas. One thing I found refreshing about his work is he didn’t spend his time bashing away at how church “is” and how we’re “getting it wrong.” He presents his case for what he sees as a good model, then demonstrates how that has worked in some different contexts. He moves in a positive direction.

It’s a positive direction, but it is challenging. While the American church has been chasing a CEO model for the past few decades, Woodward is taking his thoughts in a different direction. While I have watched my own denomination pick up the model of “satellite” churches, which focuses on one strong leader who broadcasts his sermon to several sites, Woodward refreshes the idea of multiplication through multiple leaders. 

In our either/or society we’ve created two types of leadership. We either go with centralized leadership, or decentralized leadership. Woodward’s suggestion, which he builds off of Ephesians 4, is polycentric leadership. We need to unleash the gifts of the apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor, and teacher again. We need to trust each other and the leading of the Spirit.

What is needed is a culture change. We need to examine, as a church, how we are doing things and come to some conclusions. And it needs to be done as a body. Creating a new culture of unleashing gifts when it’s been a “top down” model is a tricky deal. Woodward is incredibly thorough in drawing in how he has seen this work. He doesn’t just give illustrations. He lays out practical thoughts, principles, and strategies.

It is a book that needs to be absorbed slowly, talked about, then probably read again. No organization can make wholesale changes at the snap of a finger. Woodward’s propositions are well worth considering.

I received a review copy of this book from InterVarsity Press and am under no obligation to give this book a positive review.

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