Missional Pattern 8: Missional Authority
Leaders of missional congregations together practice the missional authority that carries the vision of missional vocation in the community and cultivates the practices that embed that vocation in the community.
Shared authority. Missional congregations may have one or more pastors or ministers. But at the core of the congregation is a small community of leaders, paid and/or unpaid, ordained and lay, who may have a diversity of functions, roles, and titles. This authority is not to lord it over others. Instead, this authority is given by the Holy Spirit. Congregational leaders serve under God, the ultimate authority. In missional congregations, this core group of leaders is in the vanguard of thinking about and participating in God’s mission in the world. Congregational leaders welcome contact and collegiality with leaders of other congregations that are seeking to be more missional.
Carriers of vision. Leaders of missional congregations may help to discern and formulate the church’s missional vocation. But effective and faithful leaders always carry that vision and help hold the congregation accountable to the vocation to which God has called the congregation. Carrying the vision means keeping it before the congregation, reminding people of it, holding people accountable to what they said they would do, discerning whether what the congregation is doing now is consistent with its vocation. It is said that most visions are under-communicated by a factor of 10! Missional leaders are redundant in communicating the congregation’s missional vocation. They know that vocation so well, they embody it.
Cultivators of missional practices. Leaders of missional congregations intentionally cultivate the practices that embed its missional vocation in the life of the community. These leaders understand that carrying out missional vocation is more than developing a strategic plan, good as that is. Missional vocation is supported by practices (regular habits developed over time that demonstrate the way things are done in the reign of God). Practices like hospitality or bearing one another’s burdens do not become second-nature in the church unless people are trained for them, reminded of them, and encouraged in them. Missional leaders not only cultivate these practices in others, but they perform these practices themselves. Leaders who preach a simple lifestyle that is friendly to the earth, practice a simple lifestyle. Leaders who encourage hospitality, are hospitable. The core leadership group practices right relationships in its dealings with each other, in the same way that it expects others in the congregation to practice right relationships. Leaders pray for each other as they train the congregation in prayer. Leaders forgive each other as they teach others to forgive. Leaders are to live out the implications of being a missional church.