At the St. Francis Centre in my class I made the argument with a group of pastors and leaders that the No.1 issue in making the missional shift is spiritual formation. The No.1 issue in spiritual formation is this: where do you find your identity?
From here I made the connection to Henri Nouwen’s work in Reaching Out: the journey to loving God, loving self, and loving neighbour (Mark 12) requires three movements: from illusion to prayer, from loneliness to solitude, and from hostility to hospitality. But these three movements are all rooted in the most profound movement: from illusion to prayer. Prayer – intimacy with Christ – is the means of rooting our identity in Him.
Unless our identity is rooted in Christ, we will always be subject to the pressures of the crowd. We will measure success by performance, or by the things we achieve, or the stuff we own. And we will subtly use people to achieve these ends: people become stepping stones or objects on the road to our achievement. When they don’t fit into our plans, we will attack them, abuse them, or push them aside. This isn’t a good way for leaders to live!
Some years ago Bill and Medri Kinnon produced an interview series with Gary Nelson and Dave Fitch in a conversation on the missional shift. It’s a great little series in three parts. In part II Gary opens the conversation making the argument above: the No.1 issue is this: “where do we find our identity?” Mark Sayers writes,
“All our attempts to reshape the Church in the West will at best be sabotaged and at worst fail because there is a huge unnamed problem with people inside the Church. As I traveled around speaking at churches of all sizes and approaches, I noticed that despite their completely different approaches, they had a common problem. It did not matter if the church was a small, emerging missional community; a traditional liturgical church on the corner; or a multisite contemporary megachurch. There was a basic problem of discipleship. The best way to describe the problem was to say that it was a crisis of identity.” The Vertical Self, xviii.