Equipping God's People to Create Missional Culture

Equippers as Environmentalists: Re-Imagining Leadership in Today’s Western Church Part III


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As the third part in this series, you would benefit from first reading the introduction and then Part II first. Having defined culture, let’s continue.

Leaders as Environmentalists
With a broader understanding of culture and realizing the gift of culture-making that God has given us, we can see the need for leaders to be people who both understand culture and help shape and cultivate it. Leaders are environmentalists. When I use the word environmentalist, I refer to a person with a heightened sense of contextual awareness, as well as a person who helps to shape and cultivate culture within a group of people or at large. As Schein says, “If one wishes to distinguish leadership from management or administration, one can argue that leadership creates and changes culture, while management and administration act within culture” (Schein 2004:11).

Here, Schein gives the first clue for why equippers in the church ought to be environmentalists instead of master programmers, and it’s because master programmers often fit within the current culture without questioning the underlying assumptions of that culture. Master programmers focus on efficiency within the culture, where as the environmentalist takes the time to question the underlying assumptions of a culture. In fact, master programmers in the church often fail to discern how the practices, convictions, and narrative of the host culture might differ significantly from the kind of culture that God desires to see develop, and so might unwittingly baptize practices, convictions, and narratives into the church quite efficiently.

The church needs leaders who are environmentalists, who understand the underlying assumptions of the culture in which the church finds herself, and are thus aware of both the possibilities and dangers of our current context. Environmentalists must engage in what Kenneson calls Bilingual Theological Reflection (Kenneson 1999:29-31).

Engaging in Bilingual Theological Reflection
Bilingual theological reflection is the task of understanding the grammar of the dominant culture, as well as the grammar of God so that we can better embody the good news in the context in which we find ourselves. Kenneson states, “Every generation in every culture must take up the hard work of discerning the opportunities for and the obstacles to embodying the gospel faithfully in that place and time” (Kenneson 1999:241). Since environmentalists engage in bilingual theological reflection, they realize the importance of becoming literate in critical contextualization – which is the art of being able to dialectically dance between identifying with and challenging culture. We will take some dance lessons later, but let’s first consider some of the major cultural shifts taking place in the West today, so that we know what kind of steps we need to learn.

In the next post we will examine the first major cultural shift as it relates from print and broadcast to the digital age.

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