The Moldy Body of Christ
Dr. Clark points out that the Doctor of Ministry in Leadership and Global Perspectives is a program designed for reflective practitioners. We reflect on the church, the world, and leadership. As it turned out, meeting in England proved to be the ideal place for reflective engagement.
I had never experienced history with the same depth as I experienced it in England. While walking in the streets of Oxford or downtown London I discovered centuries of religious
tradition, political figures, and academic thought intersecting in a unique way. I was familiar with famous names like Queen Elizabeth, John Wesley, or C. S. Lewis, but it is a different experience to walk where they walked. These centuries of history have also shaped the present into a new landscape.
Sociologist Steven Vertovec says that England is a society characterized by superdiversity. It only takes a short ride in the tube or a walk in the streets of London to experience the diversity that journalist Ben Judah described in This is London. I could not avoid noticing the ethnic, religious, and lingual diversity as I explored the city.
This change of landscape has presented a challenge to traditional church models. Dr. Martin Percy informed us about the increasing segment of society called the nones. These are people who do not believe in the church, but believe in spirituality. He says, “The challenge of our age is to know what to do with our moralistic nones.”
Dr. Cathy Ross pointed out that Christianity needs to be contextualized in order to connect with people in different settings. Yet, when a church location has not changed but the surrounding culture has, ministry contextualization becomes a harder discipline to achieve. Religious traditions and methodologies can be easily confused with dogma, and the fear of betraying the past can become an obstacle to engage the future.
This is where being a reflective leader becomes important, because as Dr. Clark pointed out, being a reflective practitioner expands engaging capacity. This engaging capacity is rooted in a sense of humility that recognizes our internal and external limitations. This level of humility is internal, because as Dr. Peter Trufano says, “It is hard to lead well unless you know yourself well.”
Knowing ourselves well does not only involve knowing our strengths but also our weaknesses. As Dr. Clark points out, “We all have pathologies from our own upbringings.” This humility is also external, because as Dr. Chuck Conniry reminded us, “We see through a glass darkly, and we can never engage with
truth outside our human experience.” Therefore, we need to be open to revising our methodologies and even our convictions in the process of engaging with an ever-changing society. In the words of author Dr. Edwin Friedman, we need to grow into well-differentiated leaders.
Walking in the streets of Oxford, I noticed a statue of a crucified Christ. As I looked closer I noticed that the Body of Christ was covered with mold after years of being in the same location. This picture made me think of the central theme that I saw throughout the sessions. If the Body of Christ is not willing to adapt, it can become moldy.
I was inspired by three fascinating testimonies from leaders who saw the mold growing in the Body of Christ and were willing to revise their methodologies and convictions. Steve Chalke, Founder of Oasis Global challenged me to think of the church’s role in social engagement from a more entrepreneurial mindset. In order to increase community impact by establishing schools or hospitals, he warned us that pastors need to start thinking of ways to create revenue rather than depend only on the money from offerings. David Male challenged me to revise my ministry mindset. Rather than creating programs in the church and then looking for people to attend them, he challenged me to identify the needs of the community, become engaged in addressing those needs, and love people where they are. Krish Kandiah, founder of Home for Good, challenged me to stand for the cause of the orphan by promoting adoption as part of our Christian mindset. All of these ministry experiences have a common thread. They do not emphasize how to bring people from the community into the church, but how to bring the church into the community. In the memorable words of Dr. Martin Percy, the goal is not “having butts on seats, but off the seats.”
After all of these experiences I came back home with lots of food for thought. The words of Dr. Martin Percy continue to resonate in my mind, “Jesus feels the unfelt, hears the unheard, and touches the untouched.”
I am compelled to expand our social engagement by strengthening our partnership with the local elementary schools, our involvement with the orphan cause through Foster Kids Charity, and our engagement with the refugee ministry through Love Is. I am also compelled to explore the legal framework needed to develop entrepreneurial initiatives that may facilitate the impact in the community.
Just like London, the City of Richardson is heading towards superdiversity, and the need to develop Ethnos Bible Church into a multiethnic ministry that is engaged in the community through key partnerships is even more important than
before. It will require for me to continue to be a reflective practitioner, one who is expanding my engaging capacity through a continuous reflection about the church, the world and leadership.
To see the PDF Photo Album entitled “England Advance 2016 in pictures” click on the Dropbox link below.
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