One example of the present missional moment struck me as worthy of real consideration by missionally thoughtful leaders this past week. I refer to the way younger people are responding to two of the presidential candidates—Barack Obama
and John McCain.
One is the youngest and the other is the oldest in the current primary contests. This demonstrates powerfully that age is not a major factor with this emerging generation. What is at stake with this younger generation is authenticity. (You may think these two men are the least authentic candidates or the worst possible choices but this is not my point here at all.) This generation, which will soon become the dominant force in American life and culture, is hungry for vision. They want change but they want change that will create new forces for new conversation and new solutions. They simply do not think the way my generation thought. They do not only want "change for the sake of change" as some now suggest. (It is easy to take cheap shots at this "change" agenda without listening at all.) They have a pretty clear idea of what this change will look like but most of those over forty are not listening at all. One thing is certain, they want leaders to listen and they want to see problems solved without constant confrontation, the style preferred by my generation.
This all leads me to comment on one of my favorite books on the missional Church and this time of great change: The Present Future.
Author Reggie McNeal has written one of the most thought provoking books on mission that I have ever read. It is subtitled "Six Tough Questions for the Church." They are tought but they must be asked. I was first exposed to this book while serving on the board of Biblical Theological Seminary. The entire board was asked to read it and then interact with it in an open meeting on a retreat. It was very profitable and led Biblical to strengthen its missional focus.
McNeal contends, in some very well-written prose, for the emergence of missional congregations and apostolic leaders for the 21st Century. He wisely demonstrates that the decline of the modern church is real, though often missed by most older leaders. He shows pastors and leaders how to think and then lead in the light of the future that is quickly becoming the present.
George Cladis, senior pastor of Westminster Presbyterian Church in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, says that "This is the most courageous book I have ever read on church life. McNeal nails the problem on the head. Be prepared to be turned upside down and shaken loose of all your old notions of what church is and should be in today’s world."
The Present Future is written under the rubric of six new realities that we must all eventually face if we are to truly love the Church and its mission.
One – The Collapse of the Church Culture
Two – The Shift from Church Growth to Kingdom Growth
Three – A New Reformation: Releasing God’s People
Four – The Return to Spiritual Formation
Five – The Shift from Planning To Preparation
Six – The Rise of Apostolic Leadership
McNeal forces me to ask: "Will we in the church see how hungry people are for real vision today? Will we seek for
transformational leadership—not just management, and transactional
leadership?" These questions work themselves to the forefront of my thought process daily. I live for the mission of Christ. I urge you who are leaders, either pastoral or lay it does not matter, to read this book and thus to get a better handle on what is really happening in our culture and what we can do about it if we care about Christ’s mission.