JR Woodward’s CreatingA Missional Culture is a book that I have anticipated reading for a long time. JR has been discussing and testing the content of this book for the last ten years as he has worked together with multiple teams to lead a missional faith community called Kairos in southern California, and has also deployed his skills in an effort to build a missional network of churches called Ecclesia as well.
The book is a mix of personal narrative, theory, practice, and a proposed alternative and unconventional structure for churches. The proposed alternative was precipitated by an array of experiences and data reflecting high levels of burn-out among modern vocational ministers, and what Woodword points to as a need for plurality to insure that the local expression of the church can be all that it is meant to be.
For me, this book could serve as a handbook for much of what I attempted to cultivate in faith communities of college students in Morgantown, WV. As I read chapter after chapter, I felt affirmed and encouraged to read that our local way of “being” church was in-step with concepts generated by JR and others who are part of the Ecclesia Network.
The book is broken into sections to help a church begin thinking through how it can become more missional in its focus. It also has a series of chapters dedicated to five key types of leaders Woodward believes help a local community be all that it can be in Christ. These practitioners/leaders are people who work together to help the larger faith community discover their calling, seek justice, experience healing, contextualize the Gospel, and grow in their understanding of scripture. He uses new terms to talk about equippers mentioned in Ephesians 4 apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor, and teacher, because depending on denominational background and perspective, these terms can mean something very different. In his book, he also charts a path forward for communities seeking to move toward a polycentric leadership structure.
JR’s book falls in a similar category to South African born writer Alan Hirsch’s writings about the five equipping gifts and a need for plurality in leadership, and I believe the two are friends. That being said, JR offers a quality handbook that moves quickly beyond theory to practical steps a faith community can take to move toward a more polycentric leadership structure. He even includes a reference form that can be used to assess potential leaders/equippers for their strengths and qualifications for leading as an equipper.
I would recommend this book for church planters as well as people in vocational ministry who are looking for a more team oriented approach to leading their faith communities. It is an informative book, and was written by a person who walks the talk and has been doing so for several years.