Archive for the ‘leadership’ category

Mission-shaped ministry in ministry-shaped churches

May 1, 2010

Enjoying sitting in on a panel discussion about how to train men and women for ministry and mission in a multi-cultural and multi-religious setting? It seems that the question is easier to ask than to answer.  For the classic western college or seminary, one answer seems to include the building of partnerships with seminaries in those countries that contribute to the multi-cultural setting in the home base. Another involves exposing future pastors to Islamic, Hindu, and Buddhist (amongothers) centres of worship and their respective leaders and representatives.

Beyond these more obvious responses, it is also becoming increasingly obvious that the traditional model of a three year preparation (as it is here in the UK) may in fact be too short a time period to realistically expect much from the training institute. The challenge requires the acquisition of cross-cultural skills, language acquisition, an ability to negotiate religious plurality, and other skills.

It is apparent that these are not readily squeezed into the classic model of a college or seminary training that offers everything that will be required for a life-time’s ministry. The reality of the challenge should suggest a greater modesty with respect to the claim about what can be acheved in three years. Additionally, it demands an accompanying emphasis on life-long learning and the intentional provision of formal and informal opportunities to accompany the journey of ministry.

An emphasis on ministry that is mission-shaped then allows for the breaking down of the classical divides between being trained and set aside as either minister or missionary. It remains to be seen as to whether the current re-evaluation of patterns of ministry training will deliver, though surely we should be praying to this end. However, focussing solely on the individual who is being trained to offer mission-shaped ministry is destined to overlook the fact that congregational expectations are going to have to be addressed. This will require congregational re-education and the role of a theological college in this regard remains an unanswered challenge.

Global and European: Leadership and mission

March 24, 2010

I’ve just had a fascinating conversation with one of our students who mentors young Christian leaders. Maybe it’s me who’s a bit slow, but I’ve always understood ‘global leaders’ to be people with world domination in mind. He’s helping me to see that it’s really about local leaders who think globally. Errrm, right. I think I get it. But what does thinking globally mean if I’m a mission leader here in Europe?

Let me try a more familiar way into the conversation. Europe is a continent of diversity. Diversity is experienced in many forms, including ethnic and religious diversity. Mission encounter in Europe is therefore going to be an encounter with diversity. It means that were we to stand on a soapbox in the local marketplace and start preaching the gospel (does anybody do that today?), some wouldn’t understand our English (or French, or Danish, et al), some would be hostile because of their different religious views, and most of the people would be totally baffled by our Christian language. Imagine for a moment how you’d react to the different responses.

Diverse responses are also increasingly a factor in pastoral ministry. For example, how do you make decisions in church? It’s easy, isn’t it? Brits hold a business meeting, the Norwegians get everybody together and talk their way to a consensus, and the Africans think we should just pray about it and God will show us. Diversity can lead to disagreement and a global leader (I think this is what our student means) recognises this as a reality of the way the world is and she, or he, learns to develop the kind of emotional intelligence that helps them deal with their own uncertainties and anxieties in the face of disagreements.

Thinking globally means understanding global diversity. Recognising global diversity in your own situation calls for a keen ability to listen, observe, and learn. But, isn’t that just what good research should be all about. Hopefully, it’s the kind of research that Nova is able to offer to leaders who are active in European mission.