It’s been almost a year since I first read an early copy of Structured for Mission. When I finished reading it I offered the following line of endorsement, “For those of us seeking to lead organizations and networks in ways that open up space for the sake of developing a fresh imagination of how God is at work in our day, this is an invaluable resource!” My appreciation for the insights and perspectives that Roxburgh offers in this book has only increased and become more important for the initiative that I helped to create and currently direct, Missio Alliance. I’d like to provide two potent examples of how elements of this book are shaping the structure and ministry of Missio Alliance.
I’ll begin with structure. In the book Roxburgh keenly observes the intrinsic connection between organizational structures and legitimizing narratives. He notes, “merely addressing the organizational structures without addressing these underlying narratives will bring short-term change that eventually returns things to the status quo” (35). In paying attention to the voices of leaders on-the-ground and all they were telling us about the growing irrelevance of denominational and tribal loyalty for their communities, we’ve recognized that a certain kind of “circle the wagons” narrative has long shaped the organizational structure of many church systems, always growing stronger in times of massive cultural change such as we are now experiencing. Thus, as an initiative that has emerged in response to the call for new forms of trans-tribal conversation and resourcing related to the issues facing the Church in a new day, Missio Alliance has been intentional about developing an organizational structure that is predicated on partnerships between schools, organizations, and ministry networks through which new kinds of dialogue, understanding, and collaboration can be advanced.
A second example of how this book is impacting our organization pertains to a specific expression of our ministry that flows directly from the organizational structure I just named; namely, seeking to create new kinds of trust and understanding between Christian bodies and members of different theological streams. As Roxburgh comments, “addressing this crisis of trust is one of the most pressing challenges the denominations have to face if there is to be a fundamental change of imagination” (141). Because Missio Alliance exists as an initiative that is founded on shared convictions (as opposed to doctrines) and driven by trans-tribal partnerships (as opposed to representing a specific institution or even theological stream), we are able to play a unique role when it comes to convening others. One way this has been expressed is through our Once & Future Mission Series. This is a series of events and writing projects that seek to bring representatives of particular theological streams together in order to communicate the unique expression of God’s grace and mission within their tradition, which may then be received as a gift to the wider Body of Christ. Through this effort we have seen denominations which, while sharing a common history, never really engage one another, come together over shared concerns which has then led to new spaces of relational development. At the same time, we are seeing the boundaries that have typically kept members of differing theological streams apart from one another become more porous, allowing for greater kinds of awareness, appreciation, and shared learning.
Admittedly, this is all very new and experimental work. Missio Alliance has only been in operation for about three years. Yet, if Roxburgh is right, as I believe him to be, it’s precisely in this phase of development that we are best able to lay the groundwork for systems and structures that might create the kinds of space and relationships necessary for the emergence of an imagination and narratives that are simultaneously rooted in God’s work among his people and thus shaped by the guidance of the Holy Spirit.