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Becoming Missional Leaders for the Sake of Others


An invitation from Bishop Todd Hunter to explore missional leadership at the 2020 Telos Collective Intersection Conference, May 14-15 in Nashville, TN.

Leading a church through the changes required for missional living is seriously complex work. For instance, many, understandably, are fearful of the rapid changes taking place in our culture. No longer do we share a common vocabulary or values with our neighbors. Having faith conversations is a little bit like speaking in a foreign language.

But missional leadership is at the heart of our work in a post-Christendom culture, so let’s think about it a bit.

What does Missional Leadership mean?

For our purpose here, we can say that missional leadership is embodying the work of a missionary in your context. To go a bit deeper, missional leadership arises from, and remains today located within Jesus’ Gospel of the Kingdom. It points the Church toward the sentness implicit in Christian spirituality (Mt. 10:1,7,8; Luke 9:1,2; 10:1,9; John 20:20, 21; I Cor. 5:17, 10, etc.).

Missional leadership seeks to bring each member of the Church and the whole Church into alignment with the kingdom of God, his present ruling and reigning, and into cooperation with the movements of the Holy Spirit. It is a participation in Christ’s leadership, bringing personal repentance and Church-wide change where needed.

Missional leadership articulates vision and shapes values which call into being and form a community in consistent missional engagement – and the inner heart transformation necessary to do it.

An Opportunity to Grow as a Missional Leader

Upon Archbishop Beach’s commissioning, I founded and now lead an Anglican Church in North America initiative called the Telos Collective. Our goal is forming missional leaders from every diocese at the intersection of gospel and culture. At our upcoming annual conference, May 14-15 in Nashville, TN, we will focus on “For the Sake of Others: An Anglican Imagination for Missional Leadership.”

To whet your appetite for the conversations we will have there, I want to share five characteristics of missional leadership that will help shape your imagination for missional engagement in your own community.

1) Missional leadership centers on noticing and cooperating with the rule and reign of the kingdom here and now. Attentiveness to the kingdom is important because it grounds us in the truth that missional leadership is not merely a technique or style that we can put in our professional toolbelt. It is a posture and presence oriented toward God and others. It seeks alignment with the kingdom as a model of leadership. It is a participation in and with Christ’s ongoing kingdom-of-God leadership.

2) Missional leadership engages culture and cultural change with a gentle, peaceful confidence. Non-anxious missional leadership is grounded in the notion that this is our Father’s world. He is its Creator, Savior and Sustaining-Superintendent—and humanity remains God’s project. We live in this Trinitarian-bathed world which, by his loving, wise design, is perfectly suited to finding God and serving others. Divine intention is not in doubt. Of his telos we can be totally assured: One day Jesus will hand over the kingdom to his Father and everything will be perfect. No more tears or pain—just the knowledge that God is God and that he has been right all along. He is working on our behalf from creation up to the new heavens and the new earth.

3) Missional leadership articulates the vision and shapes values that call into being and form a community in consistent missional engagement – and the inner heart transformation necessary to do it. As Miroslav Volf has put it: “no Church without the reign of God…no reign of God without the Church.” Missiologist Lesslie Newbigin is helpful in gaining a vision for missional ecclesiology. He writes: “Missional ecclesiology is bound up with the logic of election: The one (or few) is chosen for the sake of the many, and the particular is chosen for the sake of the universal—not for special privilege but special responsibility.”

4) Missional leadership takes seriously the words of Jesus: “It is better that I go away and that the Spirit come…” We live, by God’s plan and purpose, in the age of the Holy Spirit. The Church cannot participate with Jesus except through the person and work of the Spirit. Missional leadership helps the Church come to a genuine, interactive confidence in the Spirit, doing ministry fueled by the person and work of the Holy Spirit. Luke 24:49 is a core instruction for missional living: “Wait until you have received power from on high.”

5) Missional leadership aims at the transformation of lives and communities so that they are aligned to Christ. Jesus’ genius is that such transformation comes from the inside, out—from one’s heart to one’s attitudes, actions and words. As Dallas Willard has put it, “Spiritual transformation into Christlikeness requires a conscious, clearheaded and public commitment to living as a disciple of Jesus Christ. That is, to a decision to give our lives to him as his constant students, learning from him how to live all aspects of our lives as he would live them.” Missional leadership involves calling the Church to receive the gift of this kind of life.

Where Do I Start?

My aim with this article is to shape your imagination so you can begin to live gently, peaceably, little by little live into a life of missional leadership. As we learn from the Apostle Paul, modeling is a core practice of spiritual teaching—and thus of missional leadership:

Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.

(1 Corinthians 11.1)

I love being on the journey of becoming a missional leader. I have pursued it for 44 years and I never tire of it! I value the constant learning and formation it produces in me. And I would love to engage you in conversation about it. If you resonate with these thoughts on missional leadership, and want to explore it further in a group of like-minded clergy and lay leaders, I warmly invite you to join me at The Intersection Conference, May 14-15 in Nashville, TN.

Learn more about the Intersection Conference here.

The Rt. Rev. Todd Hunter is the bishop of the Diocese of Churches for the Sake of Others. He is also the founder and leader of the Telos Collective.