Journeying into the Heart of Missional Leadership

Now that we’ve wrapped up a great year of Missional Ecclesiology, Bishop Todd introduces our 2020 theme: Missional Leadership. How does missional leadership fit into the big picture of what the Telos Collective is all about? What can we look forward to this year?

By Bishop Todd Hunter

We’ve covered a lot of ground at the Telos Collective during our first three years! We have focused our teaching, training and coaching on 6 Core Competencies that I chose as fundamental to ministry. We explore one of the competencies each year at our annual gathering and we will continue through 2022. My goal is training and equipping Telos Collective leaders to be competent in each of these areas:

  1. Gospel of the Kingdom (2017)
  2. Cultural Engagement (2018)
  3. Missional Ecclesiology (2019)
  4. Missional Leadership (2020)
  5. God’s Empowering Presence (2021)
  6. Spiritual Formation (2022)

So far we have highlighted three of our six Core Competencies for ministry. That brings us to 2020—a pivot year wherein we turn our focus to Core Competency 4: Missional Leadership. For our purposes, we define missional leadership as embodying the work of a missionary in your context. If you’re new to the Telos Collective, don’t worry. This is a great place to jump in.

You probably intuitively know how important missional leadership is in a congregation. Practically speaking, it’s the crucial element to a congregation flourishing in the other five Competencies. As we embark on this journey in 2020, I will give a crash course on what we’ve done so far, paint a picture of what is to come, and pull it all together under the umbrella of missional leadership.

A Look Back

Core Competency 1: The Gospel According to Jesus

In 2017, we looked at God and his Kingdom, and how for Jesus, everything flowed from this topic. Right out of the gate, in his first public words (Mark 1:14,15), Jesus came into Galilee proclaiming the good news of God, saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.”

The only bucket, the only grand explanatory scheme that can carry both the full purposes of God and the full needs of humanity is the Gospel embodied, announced and demonstrated by Jesus. Jesus’ Gospel provides hope for coherence upon which we can ground a life marked by humble and peaceful confidence. His Gospel gives us a north star for alignment and the basis for integrity, and through it, we find a sense of rootedness or grounded-ness—a way of carrying ourselves in the world.

Jesus’ Gospel provides hope for coherence upon which we can ground a life marked by humble and peaceful confidence.

Core Competency 2: Cultural Engagement

In 2018, we talked about how some religious leaders have responded to the swift changes in culture by what has become known as The Culture Wars. I believe we must drop the culture wars paradigm. Partisan political power and winning wars are not biblical categories. We love the human beings who make up and make culture, but we resist worldliness. We seek to model Jesus’ kingdom paradigm: When it comes to doing something about what is wrong in the world, Jesus is best known for his fondness for the minute, the invisible, the quiet, the slow—things like yeast, salt, seeds, light. And manure (Eugene Peterson, Tell it Slant).

We love the human beings who make up and make culture, but we resist worldliness.

For us, effective cultural engagement means we learn to pursue the good of the city in ways that set aside our handwringing, our utopianisms and our demanding impositions. We must pursue the good of the city by becoming learners, paying attention, and listening by cultivating a heart of genuine, humble curiosity that seeks to learn the culture’s pains, assumptions and desires/teleology. In the kingdom, we are always safe and never need to do bad in order to do good.

Core Competency 3: Missional Ecclesiology

In 2019, we focused on how God’s plans, purposes, mission and telos give rise to the Church and give definition to ecclesiology. The Church is constituted by, animated by, and incorporated into the mission of God. The calling and sending of the Church are central to God’s self-revelation. The Church, as the body of Christ and bearer of Divine blessing, is sign, foretaste, instrument of the Kingdom. Miroslav Volf has a helpful way to imagine the interplay between Christ the head and his body: No Church without the reign of God…no reign of God without the Church.

The calling and sending of the Church are central to God’s self-revelation.

The liturgy and sacraments, at their best, serve to announce the Gospel in and through the Church. The liturgy and sacrament, when taught properly, serve to “send the Church into the world to do the work you have given us to do, to love and serve you as faithful witnesses of Christ our Lord.”

A Look Ahead

Core Competency 5: The Person and Work of the Holy Spirit

In 2021, our work will be to lift up the Holy Spirit. As Anglican Jim Packer has put it: “We live, by God’s plan and purpose, in the age of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is Jesus’ deputy and representative agent in our minds and hearts, continuing the personal presence and ministry of Jesus within the Church.”

The life of the Church is marked by an interactive relationship with the Holy Spirit. This is true because God’s purposes in full-orbed, others-oriented discipleship requires a power that matches his intentions. Thus, we hold Luke 24.49 (“Wait until you have received power from on high…”) as a paradigmatic reality for Christian ministry. The Holy Spirit moves us to be and do in the manner of Jesus. The Holy Spirit gives the Church a sense of being authorized to work on God’s behalf in the world. The Holy Spirit gives the Church capacity to live into its sending.

The Holy Spirit gives the Church a sense of being authorized to work on God’s behalf in the world.

Core Competency 6: Spiritual Formation

In 2022, we will address spiritual formation,which is actually spiritual transformation. Everyone comes to Jesus with a formed spirit; the questions are: Which way is my spirit bent? Where does it need realignment with the kingdom? Spiritual formation is the (re)creative work of God in our lives, meant to train us for life in his kingdom. Spiritual formation is completely rooted in grace. God acts first, in grace, doing what we cannot do on our own. But grace does not set us aside or render us passive. Grace is opposed to earning, not effort. God delights in our childlike partnership with him.

Spiritual formation is the (re)creative work of God in our lives.

The genius of Jesus is this: Spiritual formation happens from the inside out. Outlooks, choices, actions and words come from the heart, not from externals. As Dallas Willard put it, “The life we live out in our moments, hours, days and years wells up from a hidden depth. What is in our heart matters more than anything else for who we become and what becomes of us. What we decide to seek in life is the key to our current character, and further determines what our character will be.”

Join Us on Our 2020 Journey

I just gave you a lot of historical and future context! But if you have hung in with me this far, I want to tie it together for 2020: Leadership is the God-ordained way of kneading kingdom, mission, Spirit and formation into the life of a church. This is our most practical topic of all because it is necessary for all the others to “stick.” Most churches require some level of change to move in the direction of the Core Competencies I’ve talked about. And that change calls for complexity, subtlety and nuance in leadership.

Leadership is the God-ordained way of kneading kingdom, mission, Spirit and formation into the life of a church.

At the outset, we must learn 2 basic practices of missional leadership:

  • Never grab for power as leverage to create change.It pollutes our work from the outset, makes a leader untrustworthy, and puts a political spin on the culture of the congregation. In that system some people are used; others are a target. No one likes being either.
  • Working with God, we are working with ultimate power; we do not need additional power. Jesus’ model for creating a missional community did not involve rationalizing power-grabs as a means to an end. He knew the fundamental nature of reality was a Trinity of beings who are totally competent love. This knowledge funded his attitude and behaviors in his temptations, during the storm, in the Garden, at his arrest and trials, etc.

Moreover, missional leadership calls for the exercising of the gifts Paul highlights in Ephesians 4: casting an apostolic vision; gently pastoring people forward; teaching (explaining biblical content), prophecy (showing the gaps of faithfulness in our communities) and evangelism (calling people to a commitment to pursue formation and mission). There is so much more to say, but this year we will explore each of these crucial areas in more depth.

Come On—Let’s Play!

I love these topics and how they all work synergistically together. I wait for our annual Intersection Conference like a kid waits for Christmas! This year, I warmly and enthusiastically invite you to my new hometown: Nashville, Tennessee. We are taking into account all your feedback from previous conferences, and from a heart of hospitality, seeking to design our 2020 conference around your missional leadership goals.

If you have never been to an Intersection Conference, don’t worry about having to catch up on the conversation. If you wish, you can review prior years’ talks online (2017, 2018, 2019)—but it is not necessary. Each year can stand alone.

But at the Intersection Conference, you will never stand alone. We take great joy in hosting formal and informal conversations around our 6 Core Competencies. As we begin our focus on missional leadership, jump into the deep end or wade in slowly, as seems best to you.

I hope to see you, your colleagues and your teams in Nashville May 14-15 as we dive into “For the Sake of Others: An Anglican Imagination for Missional Leadership.”

Register Now for Just $99.

The Rt. Rev. Dr. Todd Hunter is the founding bishop of The Diocese of Churches for the Sake of Others and founder and leader of The Telos Collective. He is past President of Alpha USA, former National Director for the Association of Vineyard Churches, retired founding pastor of Holy Trinity Anglican Church in Costa Mesa, CA, and author of Christianity Beyond Belief: Following Jesus for the Sake of Others, Giving Church Another Chance, The Outsider Interviews, The Accidental Anglican, Our Favorite Sins, and Our Character at Work.