Global realities to leading in community, some thoughts

The photo for this piece comes from our trip to Marburg on Wednesday. It’s a town about an hour from where we are, where Martin Luther and Ulrich Zwingli discussed the symbolism of the elements in the Lord’s Supper. The following is from Wikipedia:

The Marburg Colloquy was a meeting at Marburg Castle, Marburg, Hesse, Germany which attempted to solve a disputation between Martin Luther and Ulrich Zwingli over the Real Presence of Christ in the Lord’s Supper. It took place between 1 October and 4 October 1529. The leading Protestant reformers of the time attended at the behest of Philipp I of Hessen. Philipp’s primary motivation for this conference was political; he wished to unite the Protestant states in political alliance, and to this end, religious harmony was an important consideration.

I assume the painting in the photograph is Luther and Zwingli in the midst of their discussion.

Back to the leading in community discussion…

Wednesday 15th March

How do any of the global realities discussed, shape your understanding about yourself as a leader with the Alliance?

  • Power and authority
  • Globalisation vs nationalism
  • Polycentrism
  • Funding challenges
  • Changing technology and information overload
  • Corruption
  • Secularism
  • Millennial rising
  • Rising fundamentalism
  • Keeping up with constant change

What opportunities and challenges do you face that these global realities hold for collective leadership within the Alliance?

How could we as leaders better understand and work with these realities in order to provide more effective leadership within our local and global contexts?

Thursday 16th March

Much of our focus is on the leader – the charismatic, servant, inspirational leader. Yet, we know, no one leader is able to tackle the challenges of our world today. So we want to move away from that, and learn what it means to be a leader in community.

The place of Friendship in the Mission of God (Kirk J Franklin and Cornelius J.P. Niemandt)

‘A missiology of friendship as well as community in the missio Dei creates a greater openness to others by walking and serving humbly as friends with Christ and each other. The theme of friendship in God’s mission draws inspiration from Jesus’ willingness to give his life for his friends. Knowing the crucified Christ intimately through participating in community and friendship provides an essential foundation for mission. Valuing friendship as a core value demonstrates Christ’s love that overcomes the issues of inequality and racism. A missiological understanding of friendship and community deepens the value of partnering in mission. This helps create a third space – friendship in mission – which helps overcome the gap between the West’s new colonialism and its power and resources, and the global South and East, who live without the power and influence of financial resources.’

Exploration of what this concept means: Leading in community.

The Alliance, Principles of community, came out of a discussion in Ghana in 2012 and were recently affirmed in a consultation on community in December 2016.

  • We are created for community and called to community (creation and calling).
  • We are God’s people, called to consistently and lovingly relate and behave according to the instruction of his word and the example of Christ (identity-who we are together).
  • Living and serving in community glorifies God and provides a tangible example of the Gospel in action. We reflect the image of God through intentionally modelling authentic community (how we live together).
  • A community that glorifies God attracts people to God and his mission (what we do together).

Our questions

Again, lots of our thoughts came out of table group discussions, and it doesn’t really seem to work to note down the outcomes here without more context. I’ll give you the questions and maybe draw some conclusions at some point over the weekend. Tomorrow morning is our final session, so we are about to wrap this up… at least, do as much wrapping up as is possible in a conversation of this nature.

In what ways do these principles reflect your personal leadership practice within your immediate work community?

In what ways do these principles affect the community mentioned above?

Given the Alliance’s Principles on Community and our discussions up to this point, why would we consider the concept of leading-in-community to be important?

What does it mean to lead in community: locally and globally?

Given our learning of what it means to lead in community, what would be some unique characteristics of this kind of leadership?

How would this growing understanding of leading in community change practice within the Alliance, as well as within your local context?

Towards global missional leadership

It was a pleasure, yesterday, to receive a copy of Kirk Franklin’s book – Towards global missional leadership.

Published by Regnum in Oxford, based largely on Franklin’s PhD thesis A paradigm for global missional leadership: the journey of the Wycliffe Global Alliance, the book is designed to be a more accessible means to thoughts about leadership in the global context.

Yet, while I’ve read the whole of the PhD thesis, I’ve not yet read the book – and I can’t really see there being enough spare time for me to dig into it this week. So, I’ll steal my description of what to expect and why to get the book, from the Forward, written by Dr Paul Bendor-Samuel, Executive Director at the Oxford Centre for Mission Studies.

This book does not describe an elegant new theory of leadership dreamed up and designed in an academic laboratory. It describes the fruit of countless conversations, consultations and commitments to listening and learning in many different contexts. It’s authentic.

Bendor-Samuel continues to note that this book ‘is relevant’, by saying,

There is an urgent need for the development of global missional leaders who are able to make sense of our times, and are capable of understanding and leading locally.

And then closes by commenting on why Regnum International is publishing the book,

While we delight to serve the academic community, our mission is to enable the global church to better engage in God’s mission in its very diverse contexts. To do this we seek to bring practitioners and academics together. This book launches a new Regnum Practitioner series. Our desire is that this series will bridge the gap that sometimes exists between, on the one hand, Christian leaders and mission practitioners and, on the other, Christian researchers. Where better to start than with a fresh look at what is required of leadership in mission and the church?

So, those are the highlights of why to read the book, now I just have to find out if this really present a ‘fresh look at what is required of leadership in mission and the church’, and it may take a few days to get into it. I’ll no doubt share my reflections as I go.

The book is available through Amazon as a digital download, or to pre-order from Regnum through the Oxford Centre for Mission Studies website.

 

Talking about global realities

The second day of this consultation on global leadership in community, we started the conversation about global realities – what’s happening in the world today that has an impact on our leadership.

Before I get into some of the questions and thoughts that came up during the day, I should first mention something about the way these consultations work. A good proportion of our work is conducted through conversations in groups around tables, and then by feeding back to the wider group.

Where it is appropriate, I’ve captured the group feedback and shared it here. But, this is by no means the total of our conversations. I’ve not noted here some of the excellent rabbit trails of thought, or single quotes that work well in the context of our discussions but that probably lose meaning when presented in out of context.

Of course, there’s nothing to stop you taking the questions from here and running your own consultation in church or with your leadership colleagues. If you’d like some pointers to get you started I’d be happy to put you in touch with those gifted in this area.

And now, on to today…

We spoke about paying attention to the signs of the times.

In the introduction to the day, six issues were introduced that we have to deal with:

  • power and authority
  • Globalisation vs nationalism (deglobalisation)
  • polycentrism
  • funding challenges
  • changing technologies
  • Information overload

Then we thought some more about the issue of power and authority.

In the ethics of Bible translation who makes the decisions? What gets translated, when, for whom, what language?

In, Discourses of Power by Barry Hindess:

  • The capacity to act is a part of being a human being. We possess a certain power to do things.
  • From an ethical point-of-view comes the question, who has the right to act?
  • Then there’s the concept, when many people or groups are involved, who has the presumed right to act? Because of assumed power (nationality, background, status) they have the right to work.

In, The Academy of the Poor, by Gerald West:

The need to listen to…

  • people from the communities
  • people from organisations

Speaking for…

Often there’s a tendency to speak on behalf of others. As though those communities don’t have a voice. Does our presumed right to act mean that we speak for others, rather than speaking with others?

We can only move beyond ‘speaking for’ and ‘listening to’ if we are willing to enter into a ‘speaking with’… (32)

This is what Jesus did in joining us to ‘live with’ us.

Developing our own list

We moved on to create our own list of issues, by answering the following:

  • In light of the issues, what other global realities also affect you as a leader?
  • How does one or more of these realities affect you a leader, as well as the context in which you provide leadership?

This gave us the following as issues:

  • A new generation is coming
  • Transition from industrial to information age
  • millennials
  • religious fundamentalism
  • Need to plan, but slowed down by previous systems
  • multiple allegiances to movements
  • Secularism
  • Understanding of mission in a postmodern world
  • Decolonisation
  • Rise of pre-Christian cultural beliefs
  • Human migrations and brain drain
  • Colonial ideology
  • Corruption – the church’s role
  • Keep up with constant change
  • Global fundraising
  • Cultural expressions of power
  • Cyber-security
  • Online addictions

We then discussed the areas that have the most impact on us in the Alliance.

We are on an outing for some of tomorrow, so there may not be time to update you on progress. Thanks for those of you who are praying for me while I’m here.

Orientation to a missiological consultation on global leadership in community

This week I’m taking part in a missiological consultation on global leadership in community. We are taking the time to think through what God has to say into a conversation on global leadership.

These are my notes so far. They are imperfect and incomplete, but they are what I managed to capture. I’ll try to make them work in this context, but please bear with me if there are things that don’t make complete sense.

Today was the first day, so we spent a good chunk of time setting the scene.

Background

Prof Piet Meiring:

There are numerous challenges and opportunities facing all who are involved in God’s Mission in the often-confusing globalised world of the 21st Century. With deep understand of the issues at stake, coupled with keen historical and theological insights, we are encouraged to join the Triune God in his mission to the world, but also to explain what it takes to be a missionary leader today.

Dr Paul Bendor-Samuel:

Responding to challenges through the lens of missiological reflection has resulted in a total organisational transformation for the Alliance that is encouraging and influencing a new Bible translation movements around the world and enabling the emergence of a  new kind of leadership;

‘There is an urgent need for the development of global missional leaders who are able to make sense of our times, and are capable of understanding and leading locally.’

Louis and Susan Sutton WEC:

‘…a new approach to global leadership is needed, one that displays generosity of spirit, values friendship among leaders, and invites missiological reflection in the context of community.’

Dr Kirk Franklin

The concept of community in mission may be somewhat countercultural, going as it does against values of independence. Therefore, some considerations concerning its importance include the following:

  • It starts with the desire for any mission movement or structure to become a community of trust, with friendship as an expression of the unity of believers;
  • Community is essential in mission, and relies upon the spirit…(missed the end of this point)
  • Harmonious inter-cultural relationships are required because working in community is essential. God’s desire is for resources to be willingly, readily and generously shared through the community of God’s people, so that all may benefit
  • Community is dependent upon God’s grace because the work of the cross is the ultimate equaliser among people.

Introduction

We are here to explore together what it means to be leaders together in a constantly changing global mission context.

We meet together for the glory of God to give him honour so that his kingdom comes closer to this world that badly needs it.

A new model is needed

Cultural diversity has put pressure on mission. We know this, but nothing tells us how to form community in this.

We have to have wider pools of missiologically informed leaders who can lead in this context.

Discussions

Our discussions focussed around the following four points.

  • The triune God fully embodies his mission
  • The mission of the triune God has the whole of creation in focus
  • The triune God is the ultimate example of unity and friendship
  • The triune God in mission is the initiator, originator and source of authentic giving, receiving and generosity.

We took time to work through these four points, answering the following questions,

  • How do these statements reflect your current understanding of being a leader within God’s mission?
  • What do you think these statements to mean?
  • Given this understanding, what is the significance of these statements in shaping us as leaders within God’s mission?

Then we took time for some personal reflection,

  • Consider how you as a leader, or your approach to leadership, will change if it is to be shaped by this growing understanding of the mission of God

A leadership consultation

The Alliance has been holding consultations since 2006. These are intentional gatherings of people from our community involve participants from Europe, Americas, Africa, Asia and the Pacific. Sometimes we hold one large gathering, at other times we hold smaller, regional events. Regardless of the format, the intention is to allow everyone the opportunity to participate and be heard, and not one part of the world to dominate the conversation.

Next week I get to be part of one of these consultations, as we consider global leadership in community.

My invitation to the event put it like this,

‘As we look to the future we see a need for growing a body of leadership with a global missional mindset who understand the implications of friendship, community, globalisation, polycentrism and other issues impacting leadership engaging in God’s mission.’

I’m excited about this for so many reasons.

  • The opportunity to meet with such a diverse group of Christian leaders – all with different perspectives of what leadership means in their context and what the needs are – and learn from their experiences.
  • Taking time to listen to God together and consider what he may say into a conversation on global leadership.
  • Plus, another expectation that was listed on my invite, ‘Discover/imagine/dream together what leadership-in-community means, looks like and how it functions’ – sounds like fun to me.

Community

It’s probably worth explaining why ‘community’ keeps coming up in so much of the Alliance’s work.

One of the papers I’ve had to read in preparation for next week, says this,

‘The theme of community is of great relevance to the Alliance because it has grown to include over 100 interdependent self-governing organisations. How they relate to each other, and how the Alliance as an organisational structure relates to and supports these organisations is a growing challenge.’

Franklin, K.J., Niemandt, C.J.P., The Place of Friendship in the Mission of God

Not only is it an organisational challenge but community forms part of our foundation as an organisation. The first of our Principles of Community begins, ‘We are created for community and called to community’.

So, we will process our leadership thoughts in community and our outcomes will consider what leadership looks like in community.

No doubt I’ll come back with some thoughts after the consultation. If you want to follow what goes on during the week, or would be able to spare some time praying for what we are doing, look out for updates on my Facebook Page.

Singapore

One of the things that I appreciate about working for the Wycliffe Global Alliance, is the recognition that my family gets for the part that they play in me being able to do what I do. It’s tough for them, as they are the ones that get left behind when I get on a plane and fly off to meet people for different meetings.

To show love towards them and to recognise that, in enabling me to do what I do, they are a part of this team too, the Alliance has an annual Leadership Retreat. A time to refresh in the company of colleagues and their families.

Prior family in the Botanical Gardens, Singapore

Now, we are a little unique in this team. Most of the other families, in this context, comprise husband and wife. Where there are still children at home, they usually have to stay behind because of school. But our two are pre-school, so we got to take Amy and Sophie to Singapore for this year’s Retreat.

Prior family at the southernmost point of continental Asia, Sentosa Island, Singapore

We had three days of holiday before the main gathering. A chance to get over jet-lag and allow the family to acclimatise. We had a couple of early morning walks, made more bearable by the warmth of Singapore at 3 am, and the safety of the city. The kids spent part of every day in the hotel swimming pool, and we visited Sentosa Island, twice. Enjoying the beaches, waterparks, visiting a giant aquarium and riding on the cable car.

Then it was off to a different hotel, out of the city, to join my colleagues and get to know them a little better. We had some formal presentations, but mostly we had time to share, reflect, catch up and pray for one another.

Kirk Franklin, Executive Director, Wycliffe Global Alliance, presenting at the Alliance Leaders Retreat – February 2017

It was a little different doing this kind of thing with kids in tow. They did brilliantly at playing by themselves while we adults sat talking around tables. Tany and I, along with another parent, took turns at taking the kids swimming (the hotel didn’t have a proper pool, but the underused spa tub was big enough for them) for at least some of the day.

It was a wonderful week all round, and especially good for Amy. She now has an idea of what it’s like when I go away to work. My colleagues also have a better idea of the chaos we have at this stage of life, and how we are trying to balance work, raising the kids and functioning as a family.

One prayer, that I keep reflecting on, is that this journey God is taking us on with Wycliffe would inspire Amy and Sophie to grow up following God where ever it may lead them, rather than hating everything to do with faith.

The kids at the hotel window, Singapore

You can see more images from our trip in this Google album.

Alliance Communications Team meetings

This is my team. Well, most of them, plus some invited guests.

We spent a week together at a hotel in Bangkok getting to know each other and discussing the way we are going to work in the future.

The agenda I planned for the week had two simple objectives, for the team to understand who we are and then to work out what this means for the way we work.

Some basics about who we are

I’ve been working in the communications industry for more than 12 years now. A core element of communications is to know inside out the organisation/cause/thing you are trying to represent.

It works like this:

I’m a Christian. I believe in God, his son Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. I believe Jesus died, and rose again, paying the penalty that was due for me and others, and as a result, I have a new life, freedom, joy, hope, that goes with me every day. That’s a huge claim and it has, as it should do, an impact on the way I live my life. It changes the way I treat others and this world. It motivates me to do things I wouldn’t automatically choose to do and stops me from making other choices that don’t fit with what I believe.

What I believe impacts what I do, how I act, the way I live.

As does being a fan of Liverpool Football Club. Yes, I’m a red, and as a consequence, I believe that the only right result in a game where Liverpool are playing is for Liverpool to win. I think that footballing order will be restored when Liverpool are, once again, sitting at the top of the table and European Championships (even if they are a shadow of the original European Cup) return to Merseyside.

As a result, I don’t cheer so much for other football teams, and it’s a rare weekend when you’ll find me rejoicing over a Manchester United, or Everton win.

What I believe impacts what I do, how I act and the way I live.

The same happens in communications work. If we know and understand the core of what we are trying to represent – in our case, theWycliffe Global Alliance – then it will automatically come out in what we do, how we act and the way we live.

So, we spent the week looking at the core elements of what it means to be part of the Alliance.

What it means for our work

Of course, all this theory means nothing if we can’t work out how it applies in practice. To continue the illustration of Jesus, he died for us, so what?

Look at a Bible. The amount of time given over to the story of Jesus’ death and resurrection is pretty tiny. There’s a whole lot of back story and then a whole chunk is given over to telling the story of people working out what it means to follow Jesus.

So, once we’d thought through the core principles, we gave over a chunk of time to discuss what this means for us.

I was surprised by some of the outcomes. People being challenged as much personally about their lives and relationships before even getting down to how they take photographs, write stories and relate to colleagues.

Celebrating and handing over

There were some other things that shaped our week.

Friendships

We’ve never met together as a whole team before. That’s a problem when community and friendship is a core value of your organisation. You can do work via virtual tools, but it’s not so easy to make friends that way.

To address this, we spent time together. On our first day, we spent the afternoon visiting Jim Thompson’s house. We took public transport and walked and talked. It wasn’t so much about the visit, as interesting as that was, but about starting the week getting to know one another.

Celebration

We celebrated too. We aren’t very good at celebrating, instead we are quick to move on to the next thing and keep the production line moving. But, for this week, we took a few minutes to stop and recognise that over the years that this team has been in place some really good work has been done.

On Monday our celebration was with cake. On Friday it was with communion (pictured) as we remembered that our celebration is rooted in the freedom we have because of what Jesus did by dying and paying the price that we should pay.

Handover

The other key element of the week was Susan’s farewell and my greeting.

Susan has been heading up the communications team since it was developed. She’s worked incredibly hard to get this group together and to help them understand the Alliance and the context in which we serve. It was important for her to have the time to say goodbye.

Then I had to say ‘hello’. To set out what I saw as important for us and tell people what it would be like working for me. I want this team to know and understand the Alliance, but we also need to know what it means for our work in the long-term. Beliefs and identity are important for us being able to do our jobs well. They aren’t separate from communications, instead, they are the core elements that inform all we do.

Twitter connections

Last week I was hanging out in London, meeting with mission leaders who face challenges in how to communicate about their work and using Twitter to pass comment on the local skyline.

My observations lead to the following conversation…

I was genuinely interested in visiting The Globe Church, having stumbled upon their website a few months back. I was curious to see what a church plant, close to the centre of London, was like. They’ve only been around for a year or so.

I wasn’t disappointed. The evening meeting was busy with a crowd of what looked like, young professional people from across the city. There was food, good conversation, and I was given a few minutes to share something about Bible translation, which was kind of them considering I was just a random visitor.

The most exciting thing, for me, aside from seeing a young church plant in action, were the conversations we had around the table. Praying for the places where people work and the small office Christian gatherings that were happening and for one person to have the opportunity to talk to her colleague about her faith, as they were both away from home on a training week. Honestly, the missional zeal for what was going on in the city was energising and I loved it.

Thanks, people of The Globe Church, that was a great evening.

A new blog

Time for a new blog.

Not out of choice exactly. The one I’ve been writing for the last 10+ years disappeared in the move from one host to another, and I wasn’t quick enough at rectifying the error. Oh well, it’s annoying but not the worst thing to happen.

Having to start again is a bit like getting a new school workbook. All the scrapes, tears and errors of the past have been erased and I get the chance to start making a new mess.