How Churches Become Missional -- By: W. Rodman MacIlvaine III

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 167:666 (Apr 2010)
Article: How Churches Become Missional
Author: W. Rodman MacIlvaine III

How Churches Become Missional

W. Rodman MacIlvaine III

W. Rodman MacIlvaine III is Senior Pastor, Grace Community Church, Bartlesville, Oklahoma, and Veritas Worldview Institute Fellow, Oklahoma Wesleyan University, Bartlesville, Oklahoma.

How can churches shift to a missional focus? As Roxburgh and Romanuk put it, people ask, “How do we transition from a consumer model of church to one that is essentially missional in nature.”1

As this writer began to explore potential hypotheses for how missional change occurs, he assumed that senior leaders initiated changes in the conventional manner: (a) set down a plan, (b) recruit leaders, and (c) cast a vision. However, an extensive review of missional literature suggested that this is not the way missional culture change takes place in most churches. On the contrary the literature reveals that missional change is often quirky, nonlinear, and generally precipitated by a crisis.2

When a crisis is responded to in a spirit of humility and discovery, it creates an environment in which missional culture change can take place. This missional change is then expressed in service to the community (an external change), and a different way of worshipping as a community (an internal change).

Of course not all churches encountering a crisis will move in a missional direction. Some leaders respond to crises with anxiety and revert toward rigid leadership styles. Others seek to live vicariously through the ministry models of other churches. But

churches primed for healthy missional change see their crises as an invitation to discover God’s new direction for ministry.

The Role Of Crisis In Leadership Development

In 2002 Warren Bennis made a claim that is rare in leadership literature. He suggested that he and his coauthor had made a new discovery. “We have developed a theory that describes, we believe for the first time, how leaders come to be. We believe we have identified the process that allows an individual to undergo testing and to emerge not just stronger, but equipped with the tools he or she needs both to lead and to learn.”3

Initially their research was designed to study generational differences in leaders. Interviewing eighteen leaders between the ages of eighteen and thirty-five, and twenty-five leaders age seventy and over, their objective was to observe how leaders grow and change relative to their respective cultures. Their u...

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