Creating A Missional Culture – Jamie Arpin Ricci Interviews J.R. Woodward

This morning’s post is the first of two that come from an interview Jamie Arpin Ricci did on JR Woodward’s new book Creating A Missional Culture. I had planned to review the book but felt that this interview articulated what the book is about far better than I ever could. It was first published on Jamie’s blog as Creating A Missional Culture.

I had the privilege of asking a few questions of my friend and fellow InterVarsity Press author, JR Woodward, about his new book “Creating A Missional Culture: Equipping the Church for the Sake of the World”. His answers are so great, I thought I would split them into two posts. Without further ado, here it goes:

Jamie Arpin-Ricci: When the Christian book market seems to be flooded with books on what it means to be “missional”, why did you think your book needed to be written? How does it stand apart?

JR Woodward: One of the reasons why I felt the need to write this book is that we too often fail to understand the power of the culture of the congregation in forming us. So I take some time helping people understanding what missional culture is, and why it is important. If we want to develop missional disciples, we need to move beyond an individualistic approach, understanding that we create culture and culture in turn recreates us. I address the five kinds of environments needed to create a missional culture – a learning, healing, welcoming, liberating and thriving environment.

In addition I make that case that not only do leaders create culture, but also our very approach to leadership creates culture. A hierarchical leadership paradigm lends itself to an individualized approach to spiritual formation and often perpetuates adolescence in the congregation. While a polycentric leadership paradigm lends itself to a communal approach to spiritual formation mature disciples.

Here are some of the unique contributions that this book seeks to make, and questions that it seeks to address:

  • Understand what missional culture is and why it is important
  • Discover the five environments that unleash the missional imagination of God’s people
  • Learn how to assess the culture of the congregation you serve through the cultural web
  • Understand how the culture of the congregation will help or hinder the maturity of the church
  • Learn how to identify, cultivate and multiply the five equippers (apostles, prophets, evangelist, pastors and teachers) in the congregation you serve
  • Learn why polycentric leadership makes more sense than hierarchical leadership or flat leadership
  • Discover the power of stories, liturgies, rituals and rhythms in developing a discipleship culture that reshapes peoples desire for God and his kingdom
  • Get practical tools that will enhance your ability to lead as a team of cultural architects, cultivating environments where good things run wild

My hope is that this book adds to the rich conversation about the missional church, for the missional church is not the latest fad; it has been in the making over the last century. My overview of Van Gelder’s book, The Missional Church in Perspective reveals the need for more missional books to be informed by history.

JAR: The subtitle of the book is “Equipping the Church for the Sake of the World”. How does the book equip the church? Does it have anything to do with the 5 symbols on the cover?

JRW: This book equips the church to cultivate a missional culture through a polycentric approach to leadership that releases the five-fold typology that Paul gives us in Ephesians 4. It goes beyond theory to practice.

As you well know, the cover design typically comes late in the making of the book, and so in many ways I was unable to tie the five symbols on the cover directly to the contents, thought they are certainly indirectly linked in many ways. But as you might know, the website reveals the meaning of the five symbols.

The five icons symbolize the five equippers mentioned in Ephesians four, the apostles, prophets, evangelist, pastors and teachers. We are told in this passage that Christ has given these people (who are the gifts) to the church that they might equip and awaken the entire body to live out their calling and build up the body until we reach the full stature of Christ.

What blows me away is how Paul ties these five people-gifts to the maturity of the church. So if we have any hope of having the character of Christ and reflecting his ministry, we need to understand the nature of each of these people-gifts and consider how to nourish every person according to their calling. Because Christ was the archetypical apostle, prophet, evangelists, pastor and teacher, we need to nurture and release each of these people-gifts to live out their calling.

I’m with Hirsch, Catchim and others in believing that the best way to read Ephesians 4 is three dimensionally. In other words, every one fits into this five-fold typology in the sense of their calling. That is the first dimension. The second dimension is that all the other gifts mentioned in scripture (Rom. 12, I Cor. 12 and I Peter 4) are gifts that are given to help us live out our calling. In other words, each of these typologies represents a stream of ministry in the church. And finally, some will live out lives apostolically or prophetically or evangelistically, or pastorally, or as a teach in such a way that Christ gives them the capacity to equip others as an elder/leader in the congregation. So we can look at these five people-gifts as a calling for all, with a view to the different ways to minister, and from a leadership perspective.

Stay tuned for Part 2…

Be sure to visit JR’s site for some great resources & material.