Walking as Jesus Walked

Having the Mind of Christ

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Church Unique

Church Unique: How Missional Leaders Cast Vision, Capture Culture, and Create Movement

Church Unique: How Missional Leaders Cast Vision, Capture Culture, and Create Movement, Will Mancini, Jossey-Bass Publishing 2008 (ISBN 978-0-7879-9683-3), 271 pp., $23.95

As the days of American Christendom wane, a great deal of literature has emerged dealing with the ministry of the missional church. Over the last decade leaders and scholars from across the evangelical and mainline Protestant landscape have converged on a set of practices and concepts that speak to the way churches may organize to impact an ever-shifting, even amorphous postmodern culture. The missional church movement has arisen to address these paradigmatic shifts now on the ecclesial radar screen. It is a movement that brings together a wide variety of voices and interests.

One of those interests is the new Leadership Network Series published by Jossey-Bass. Of the many facets of the missional church, the Leadership Network Series shows much promise to take the missional, and even emergent, church conversation to deeper waters, e.g., with respect to leadership development, cultural critique, church growth, spiritual formation, organizational theory, to name a few (xvii). It is a series that promises to focus leaders, especially entrepreneurial leaders, on practical issues and to address fundamental questions, such as, What does a missional church look like, and how do I lead it? The Leadership Network seeks to foster the kind of innovation that can assist high-capacity leaders in the area of overall church development, with specific attention to outreach and evangelism.

Enter Will Mancini’s work Church Unique on utilizing a wide-range of disciplines to help leaders maximize their impact on the local church’s mission as well as to discern and unlock the church’s unique plan to influence the surrounding culture (xxii). Church Unique is the name Mancini gives to the ways leaders and churches may go about developing strategies to live a vision that creates a stunningly unique, movement-oriented church – that is, a church that can cast a vision that oozes out of the leader’s life and then is inclined and motivated to penetrate the culture outside the church (xxii). It is this unique ‘movement’ that Mancini stresses in terms of the church’s ministry, regardless if the church is a new church plant, a large evangelical suburban church, a small Pentecostal urban church, a Roman Catholic parish, a parachurch group, or liberal mainline congregation (p. 6). What Mancini takes time to point out are the ‘unmistakably unique and incomparably different’ aspects of the local church’s culture (p. 6). As Mancini notes, God is not in the business of mass-producing the church (p. 6). Every church’s DNA is unique (p. 10).

It is to this end that Mancini guides leaders into how they may understand their church’s own particular ‘microculture’ and discover ways to minister at the same time to the church’s surrounding ‘macroculture’ (xxiii). Here, the issue is not to fall into the ‘thinkhole’ of finding a one-size-fits-all, methodological blueprint of the church as it is to discern God’s unique thumbprint in the church (xxv). The distinction is critical as Mancini highlights the pitfalls of church growth strategies that move into uncritically adopting assumptions that are harmful and not truly ‘purposeful’ of local church culture and custom (xxvi). What Mancini does, then, is to provide a critique of firmly held church growth assumptions, on the one hand, and expose the ‘vision vacuum’ in most churches today, on the other (p. xxvi). Mancini’s book functions as a manual to recover, indeed, discover, the ‘Kingdom Concept’ that drives the church to carry out and realize Christ’s Great Commission and Commandment, while helping leaders cast the vision uniquely given by God’s Spirit (Chapter 9).

Church Unique is divided into four parts, all of which assist leaders in the art of visioning: Part One, ‘Recasting Vision,’ helps to understand how the world has changed and how leaders cannot continue asking the same questions of the past on the new mission field of post-Christendom; Part Two, ‘Clarifying Vision,’ asks the questions that can assist leaders and churches identify the ‘Kingdom Concept,’ or ‘sweet-spot,’ that defines how they may go about glorifying God and making disciples; Part Three, ‘Articulating Vision,’ addresses how churches may develop the ‘Vision Frame’ that identifies the processes by which they may clarify the Spirit’s leading; and Part Four, ‘Advancing Vision,’ introduces the ‘Vision Integration Model’ of walking leaders through the steps of promoting and advancing the vision in the life of the church, speaking succinctly to the most important assumption of the whole book: ‘the success of advancing the vision[of the church] is directly proportional to the degree to which the vision is first aligned and integrated’ [with the unique culture of the church] (xxvii). Mancini’s ‘Parting Thoughts’ and Appendixes bring out the specific ways churches may work to bring into alignment and integrate the various parts of their histories, cultures, and ministries.

Several issues float to the surface when reading Church Unique. First, as a pastor new to a large but established, mainline Protestant congregation in the Mid-West, I enjoyed reading through Mancini’s work on casting vision and discerning the DNA of the local church. I thought Mancini struck the right notes when it came to the healthy ways in which pastors as leaders need to go about listening to God’s voice and understanding the lay of the land in the life of the church and community. In this sense, Mancini’s book is not simply another ‘purpose-driven’ gimmick or ‘seven steps to effective church growth.’ Rather, his work prompts deeper questions into why the church does what it does. Here, Church Unique functions more as ‘spiritual director’ than ‘church growth consultant.’

Second, Mancini’s work, along with the entire Leadership Network series, begins to flesh out the contours of the missional church. While Mancin notes that there is no overarching blueprint on what a missional church looks like per se (as each church is unique), he does bring into play how churches can take practical steps to implement what distinctively is them (xxv). On this score, Mancini may sound like another church growth consultant, helping a church identify its core mission. On closer examination, however, there is a concerted effort to identify and discern how particular churches may live into and out of God’s all-encompassing kingdom-love. Mancini’s words on ‘aligning’ and ‘integrating’ others into the vision are certainly words of wisdom here.

And, lastly, as part of the ongoing missional and emerging church conversation, Mancini’s work needs careful scrutiny – not much for what he advocates but for how the broader ‘conversation’ in the areas of missiology and ecclesiology unfold. Here, it is important to see Mancini’s efforts as part of a much larger movement, one that is coming to terms with a rapidly changing, postmodern culture on the one hand and the fragments of a vibrant post-Christendom culture on the other. To be sure, Mancini’s work does not so much contribute to the substance of the deeper ecclesial debate now taking place concerning the church’s distinctive marks, as it does reflect some of the symptoms of the church’s ongoing obsession with the methods by which renewal may come about. As Mancini contends, this is a work that all churches can utilize (p. 6); here is another approach churches can employ to impact the wider culture; hence, the emphasis on process. Matters of theological content take a back seat.

Despite this criticism, Mancini’s work definitely promotes thoughtful and healthy ways leaders in the church can work to advance God’s kingdom in the world. His book provides helpful steps toward discovering what God’s Spirit is doing and how the church can align itself with that action. This is important, for with the rise of congregational studies, and the increased focus on church practices, organizational theory, spiritual formation, and the growth of emergence and missional in the church’s consciousness, there is something unique happening at this moment in history. There is a convergence occurring on many different fronts. Mancini’s work and book only reveals that this is so.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Delegate Info

Here is Delegate Information regarding General/Jurisdictional Conference.  It all feels a little self-serving, but I guess it's part of "getting out" the name. 


Andy has been an Elder in the UMC since 1992. He has served as associate pastors at Terre Haute Temple and Brownsburg Calvary. She has served as senior pastor at Vincennes Community and Franklin Grace.

Leadership Positions

Some of the Leadership Positions Andy has held include Wesleyan Theologian of the Leadership Table of the new Indiana Conference, Dean of the Wesleyan Connexion Project, Chairperson of the New Church Starts Section (Church Growth and Evangelism), Chairperson of Christian Unity and Interreligious Concerns, Instructor in Evangelism in the Course of Study/Extension School, Instructor in Evangelism in the Lay Speaker School.

Church-Wide/Community Wide Positions

Some of the Leadership Position Andy has held include Member on the Board of Trustees at United Theological Seminary in Dayton, Ohio, Board of Directors of United Way in Johnson County, Vice-President of Study Connections in Franklin.


Andy is married to Peggy Meinert Kinsey of Mt. Vernon. They have three children – Caleb (19), Hannah (16), and Grace (15).

Mission of the Church

The United Methodist Church stands in need of CPR:

1) Confess our problems are deeply theological and spiritual, and that we need to “rethink” in radical ways how the church participates in God’s mission and how leaders in the church – both clergy and laity – are trained and equipped to meet the challenges of the day.  Before we can have a "call to action" we need a "call to confession and repentance."

2) Practice disciple making in the Wesley tradition and “operationalize” the mission-statement of the church “to make disciples” at all levels of the church’s life and witness.

3) Redeploy the church’s resources from our centralized Boards and Agencies to Annual Conferences and local churches, creating more associative networks of missionaries and pastors at the grass roots to send out and share the gospel.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Spiritual Literacy

Spiritual Literacy in John Wesley's Methodism: Reading, Writing, and Speaking to Believe (Studies in Rhetoric & Religion)

Michael Cartwright has highly recommended the above book to understand more fully the nature of early Methodism.  Burton's argument is that John Wesley wanted to make ordinary Methodist men and women readers, writers, and public speakers because he understood the powerful role of language in spiritual formation (p. 1).  I look forward to reading it and learning what it may mean for ministry today.

Imagination in Place

I don't know if many pastors read Wendell Berry's work, but I would commend the following book:  Imagination in Place.  Mike Matther recommended it to me.  It is well worth to the time to reflect on what Berry writes and how it pertains to pastoral ministry.

Imagination in Place

Monk Habits for Everyday People

Monk Habits for Everyday People: Benedictine Spirituality for Protestants

Monk Habits for Everyday People: Benedictine Spirituality for Protestants, by Dennis Okholm (Grand Rapids: Brazos Press, 2007), 144 pp. ISBN – 978-1-58743-185-2.

At the end of After Virtue, the philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre writes that a new Dark Ages has descended upon Western culture, and that what matters is the construction of local forms of community in which the moral and intellectual life can be sustained. He argues how, to survive this new dark time, we will need to cultivate “the tradition of the virtues” and to become “aware of our true predicament,” as the barbarians are not simply waiting beyond our frontier but have been governing us for some time. Indeed, our true situation in the West, with all its fragmentation and meaninglessness, has now become one of waiting: We are waiting not for a Godot, but for another – doubtless very different – St. Benedict (1984, p. 263).

MacIntyre’s pessimism is not entirely misplaced. We could indeed construe the present age as a new dark ages, with genocide, terror, war, corruption, poverty all pointing to a growing dis-ease about the future. There is a kind of pessimism that speaks to what we must do to survive, let alone thrive, amid the current crises. Here, our waiting may not simply be for a St. Benedict as for the One who can make all things new (Rev. 21:5). Our hope in Christ is what will encourage us to live as faithful witnesses, in season and out (2 Tim. 4:2). It is what will call us to practice the Gospel in the bonds of peace (Eph. 4:3). This is the power that will truly sustain us over time.

In many ways, MacIntyre’s After Virtue in 1984 marked a turning point in late twentieth century theology (and philosophy): No longer can theology avoid the importance of how the practices of a community shape the moral and spiritual life; no longer can theology remain aloof from the importance of community in providing moral and spiritual guidance. While the debate over the years may have taken different forms among various schools of theology, the trajectory of the debate in terms of its communal impact is no longer disputed.

All of this is to say that St. Benedict may be closer to us than we might think! Ever since Esther deWaal’s Seeking God in 1986, and Kathleen Norris’ The Cloister Walk in 1996, a whole new monastic movement, influenced by Benedict’s Rule, has swept through the churches. Call it a part of the “new monasticism,” Dennis Okholm’s work Monk Habits for Everyday People is a great way to introduce persons to the literature of a field rapidly becoming saturated with monk-like features and practices. In fact, Monk Habits is a good place to start the conversation about the importance of Benedictine spirituality and practice for the life of faith. It is a book clergy and laity in the Protestant community will want to explore, as they address spiritual hunger and moral confusion. Indeed, Monk Habits is a work specifically addressed to a Protestant (i.e., Evangelical) audience as it shares the wealth of insight from Benedict’s rule and tradition (p. 20).

One of the main purposes of Okholm’s Monk Habits, then, is to serve as a helpful apologia to folks in the Protestant churches. Opening chapters on “What’s a Good (Protestant Evangelical) Boy Doin’ in a Monastery?” and “Why Benedictine Spirituality for Protestants?” make the case that Okholm states throughout the book: that Benedictine spirituality helps to deepen our walk with Christ. In fact, in the “Afterword,” Okholm has a thoughtful commentary about the Protestant Reformers’ historical opposition to monasticism and to the misunderstandings about monasticism that have taken place between Protestants and Roman Catholics since the Reformation (p 115 ff). In this sense, Okholm’s work is a breath of ecumenical fresh air.

This is not to distract from the rest of the book. In addition to the opening chapters, Okholm provides a “Suggested Reading” list of Benedictine literature, along with “Suggestions for Practicing Benedictine Spirituality.” These complement the well-written chapters on silence and listening, poverty, obedience, humility, hospitality, stability, balance, and mission. Throughout, we as readers come see more fully how “scripture is the original rule” and how “good spiritual habits are good for spiritual health” (p. 9). Okholm’s ability to weave The Rule into the fabric of the text provides a meaningful account to what many in the Protestant/Evangelical community may want to dismiss as “irrelevant,” or even “ancient.” This is unfortunate.

As someone who has used Monk Habits in the local church, I can say that The Rule was both ancient and relevant and that there was a fascination among the laity with what Okholm was describing. There was questioning, to be sure, but there was also a hunger for the kind of spirituality Okholm was sharing. Persons genuinely wanted to understand what Benedictine spirituality was about and what formative influence the monastic community (i.e., the church) can have in their lives: What are these practices that shape and form? What is this silence that speaks to the longings of the heart? What is the role of scripture in guiding the mind and soul? What is this Rule that can discipline and comfort? Thoughtful inquiry gave rise to earnest conversation.

Monk Habits is a book in a growing list of literature on monasticism. Upon a recent stay at St. John’s in Collegeville, Minnesota, for example, I came away with similar stirrings about The Rule and about Benedictine spirituality, not to mention a suitcase full of books and pamphlets! How to be a Monastic and Not Leave Your Day Job, School(s) of Conversion: 12 Marks of a New Monasticism, Inhabiting the Church: Biblical Wisdom for a New Monasticism, Wisdom Distilled from the Daily: Living the Rule of St. Benedict Today, The Rule of Benedict for Beginners: Spirituality for Daily Life – all address the breadth and depth of Benedictine spirituality. All speak to the way Benedict’s wisdom might speak to the church today. And I haven’t mentioned The Rule itself, which invites prayerful reading!

With the growing literature on “emergent church,” “missional church,” and “ancient-future church,” and with the increasing concentration on the importance of practices for the “concrete church,” Okholm’s book offers a welcomed voice. His work can definitely serve as a necessary counter-balance to what can easily become another consumer “fad” or “trend.” Indeed, in a consumerist society, the temptation can all too easily become one of making the monastic option one more commodity in a line of spiritual experiences. This is certainly not what The Rule is about, but it is a danger nonetheless. Thankfully, Okholm’s Monk Habits points us all in the direction we need to go and helps us to realize that the light still shines.