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.

Being the Flavor of the Kingdom in this World

In just the first few pages, I am drawn into Creating a Missional Culture by J R Woodward. He’ll get to the “problems” of the church… and that’s just a big fat target.

But he starts with what the Church IS… as the Lord created us. Enough of what we think the Church is NOT… too many books and blogs on that! Let us talk of what it IS… and build it by the power of the Spirit.

The church is to be a sign of God’s coming kingdom. We are pointing people to a reality of what is right around the corner.

The church is to be a foretaste of what is truly something different. The church is the place where people can get a taste of the future in the present.

The church is to be an instrument of God’s manifold wisdom (Eph. 3:10-11). We are the instrument through which God’s will for justice, freedom and peace is done in this world.

Woodward will then dive into the evidence of what the Church is not, but for those few bright shining paragraphs… I dream. I don’t just dream… I pray. I work. I build. This is what I want out of our church… and for this we pray!