Apostolic leadership

The first role given to missional leaders, in their journey towards helping establishing missional congregations is that of “apostle” or “sent one” (Cordier 2014:264). The missional leader is, first and foremost, someone that has been sent by God – that is overwhelmed by the missio Dei – and exemplifies and models the spirituality, values and habits of the missional lifestyle. The implication is that a missional leader’s own journey with God – especially his/her willingness to be constantly embarking on a new journey with God – together with his/her apostolic formation is most fundamental when considering him/her for the role of leading a congregation on the journey to becoming missional (Cordier 2014:264). It is not primarily about strategic thinking or management, but about a grounded and integrated missional theology and an awareness of his/her calling; in which a thorough and internalised knowledge of missional theology – both the missio Dei and the mission ecclesiae – is non-negotiable (Cordier 2014:265).

Rebuilding language houses

The well-known Canadian philosopher – Charles Taylor – says that all the different stories that form part of our lives creates what he refers to as “social imaginary”. Social imaginary shows us how human beings make sense of the world, and is transferred through language, but especially through story. Peter Senge (1994:235,237), refers to mental models – the images, assumptions, and stories that we have within our thoughts regarding ourselves, other people, institutions, and every other aspect of reality. The Old Testament theologian, Walter Brueggemann, explains that language and stories are used to build “houses of language”; complex houses wherein all of us exist/live. It is through language that the world opens up to us and becomes understandable; even more, it is with language that we build our language houses, our reality (Branson 2007:95).

This “language house” is composed of many stories – some of these stories differ quite radically, still others are constantly fighting each other to become our life’s great narrative – all of whom give content to our search for what being human means; to help us define who and what we really are (Roxburgh 2011:61).

Missional leaders are characterised by exactly this ability – they are able to help people realise the extent and impact of their language houses, thus opening up the door for change/remodelling. The missional leader provides a missional hermeneutic; i.e. the theological foundation and grounding in support of the journey towards mission, while always remaining a student that is constantly reading and thinking about what “being called” means, in this way acting as missional conscience – constantly reminding the congregation of its “sent” or missional identity and calling (Cordier 2014:267). In order to do so, the importance of the use of missional language cannot be overstated – it is the responsibility of the missional leader to create and establish missional language – a language that accentuates our “being sent” – and to dream in such a way that the congregation cannot but buy into it and let it become their identity, the main influence on the way they see and understand themselves (Cordier 2014:268).

In order to be able to achieve this, three interrelated skills are needed (Cordier 2014:268):

• A Missional Biblical hermeneutic; or the ability to unlock the Biblical message hermeneutically from a missional perspective.
• The use of coherent missional language – in order to consistently communicate the Bible’s missional perspective, missional leaders have to be able to create new language with which the congregation is able to articulate its missional identity.
• Good, energetic and enthusiastic communication that is able to carry people along. Missional leaders have to be able to communicate in such a way that the congregation cannot but buy into the congregation’s movement towards mission, as they are already being taken on the journey through the missional leader’s words and being energised by his/her passion and enthusiasm.

Facilitator of cultural change

As discussed above, the missional leader guides the congregation in the process of adapting and/or revitalising/changing their culture (Cordier 2014:269). It is thus of the utmost importance that the missional leader is empowered in those capacities that make him/her proficient at changing and shaping culture; as the process of changing a culture is a very demanding task, one that most leaders historically are not prepared for. Of course, these much-needed capacities cannot be summed up under one header, but they do form a “cluster” that empowers the missional leaders for the complex journey of changing culture on many different levels (Cordier 2014:269). The cluster can be grouped and described as follows (Cordier 2014:270-2): The capacity to handle change and uncertainty, bolstered by a deep and passionate conviction and commitment that this transformation is indeed God’s will for the congregation.

The capacities necessary to bring about a change in culture have to start with knowledge of the existing culture in a congregation, with the capacity to fully understand and respect the existing culture because of the theological identity from which the “listening to the other” originates (Cordier 2014:273). The missional leader has to have the courage and conviction of their own theological identity, for it is only then that true listening becomes possible. This process of true listening unlocks within the missional leader the ability to both understand and facilitate the transformation process, as opposed to the mere management of programmes, with imaginative creativity and innovation.

For creativity is the ability to see that things do not have to go on as they always have, to recognise new possibilities and dream new dreams (Cordier 2014:274). But, for the process of change to be successful, the missional leader needs to be able to become the bridge between different parties in order to accomplish integration; and for that, he/she needs to be deemed trustworthy. When all of these things are in place, the missional leader is granted the capacity to build and empower leadership on all levels of the congregation; becoming a mentor capable of seeing others’ talents and gifts, binding them together into an effective and motivated missional team, and helping them to develop missional practices and disciplines as part of their missional spirituality (Cordier 2014:275). This includes, but is not limited to (Cordier 2014:276-7): the capacity to form and establish missional habits within the congregation; the ability to embrace strangers and strangeness, to cross boundaries and encourage others to do the same; a willingness and capacity to experiment and take risks, thereby embracing change and discerning God’s presence and activities in that change.

Niemandt, Developing Missional Congregations, 10-11