Review: Missional Map-Making

I had this book on my bookshelf for over a year before I cracked it open.  I regret that.  This is a must read for pastors. I don’t care if you’re 99 and a Hospice patient, well ok.  Anyway, Pastors, you should read this book!  If you are involved with leadership in the church, you should read it.  Area administrators, read this book.  If you’ve got a small church, read this book.  If you’ve got a large church, read this book.  Even if you’re planting a church and starting fresh, read this book.  Have I driven my point home yet?  Hey guy at the bus stop.  Ya you.  Here, I’ve got a book for you to read. Moving on.

Here’s why I think you should read this book:   Finally there’s a book that lands on some answers to move forward into the near future in our ministries.  Many books have made some suggestions about what’s going on.  Some have done well at looking back, but given only hints to what the future might need to look like in our churches.  Now I’m going to tell you why I think so.

The book is pretty simple and straightforward.  Most of this book has things in it I have thought of in the last 11 years.  Most of  the random ideas, or thoughts about how church should be.  Many, many conversations with other pastors in past 11 years have crawled onto these pages.   Some of these ideas I’ve already done.  So for me this book is validation.  Validation from someone that has been around the ministry block a few more times and me.  Someone that’s old enough to be my father.  So this is aged and seasoned experience and reflection.  It’s wise, ear to the ground and to the sky listening.  Now, to the cliff notes.

The premise of the book is about our paradigms.  The unspoken things we know, believe about, and discern the world around us.  Without deep reflection its hard to know what our paradigms are.  Maps tell us about the places we live or how to navigate the landscape.  If the landscape has changed and we’re using old maps, we won’t be able to get where we want to.  You’ll find that the map you picked up at the Michigan Welcome Center printed in 2011 is much more helpful than the one sketched by Father Marquette and French-Canadian Explorers in 1673.  Church, lets examen ourselves with the Spirits help a take a long hard look at our maps.

We know culture has taken a turn, we know that the landscape has changed.  Now, many of us in the church admit that we haven’t turned with culture.  When I first was exploring the cultural shift we’re in 11 years ago, not many people would admit that we needed to change in the church at all.  The world was just more sinful than it had been.  More people had turned away from their upbringing.  It was more the World’s fault.  Honestly I was hearing more blaming from pastors than acknowledgement.  Now I’m seeing more pastors understanding the uppehval, but still shell-schocked about what to make of it.

The church needs to allow people to make new inventory of the landscape.  The problem is that the shift is still happening.  The dust has not settled.  It’s like and earthquake, with aftershocks and a tsunami.  The ground shifts and settles, shifts and settles.  Church, set free your pioneers.  Not everyone is Christopher Columbus, Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, or Neil Armstrong.

Roxburgh lays the book out in 2 parts.  Part 1: When Maps No Longer Work, and Part 2: The Map-Making Process.  Pretty simple, straight forward things.  Part 1 looks back and brings us up to speed, and explains why we’re where we are today.  Part 2 looks and directs to the future.

Part 2 is hard ward.  Not because its that complex.  We’ve made the world, and the way we do church complex.  The hard work will be found in the stillness.  In the closing your mouth, and using your ears.  Drowning out the voices, and 50+ years of conferences and seminars telling you to stand up and lead.  Jesus turned the world upside down, did he not?  Lets follow his lead.  Listen to what God it doing in, through, and with your people.  This takes time to germinate.

Less is more.  Truly.  The author suggests that we reclaim disciplines of prayer, and scriptural discernment.  Things that made the church dynamic in the past. Things that we of the Modern Era have cast aside or forgotten.  Things that helped the ranks of Christ-followers to swell by prolific proportions.  I’m not suggesting that we don’t pray in the church, or that God doesn’t here us.  I’m just saying we’ve made things in the church clean, clear and efficient that have no business being.  Would you describe your marriage or your relationship with your best friend like that?  [If you do, you’re sick.]  This isn’t complex.  God wants your heart.  It takes a long time to truly and deeply give yourself away to someone.  Lets give our hearts away to the Father, and each other.  Give yourself away and you’ll find the nature of God and your intended nature.  Less is more.

I am a make maker. I know some of you that are reading this are thinking “finally he sees it, I’ve known for a while now.”  This became clearer as I read this book.  Although I’ve done little to help the church see the new maps I’ve compiled.  Again, here comes my Moses Complex coming back. [“Lord, isn’t someone more qualified for this job?”  I need to schedule an appointment with Stewart Smalley.]

To wrap it up:  Get this book.  Read it, reflect on it, pray.  Then share it with a friend who needs it.  If we center our leadership in relationship and listening again the church will change.   May you have the strength to look in the mirror, stillness to hear the voice of God in the silence and courage to lead into a new world.  Peace.

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