The Sky is Falling!?! by Alan Roxburgh – A Literary Review
I am in the process of reading a number of books to help shape a larger research paper that I am working on that deals with Missional Leadership, or the idea of shaping church polity around God’s mission, instead of shaping the mission around church polity. (If you know of a good book in this area, let me know.)
In light of this, over the next few weeks you will probably see a number of literary reviews. I guess one of the differences between a literary review and a straight up book review is that literary reviews are written to help with future research. So I am writing with the idea that this will guide me to what I want to go back and study. There are various approaches to literary reviews, but here will be mine.
I basically start with my sense of the author’s thesis, followed by a general overview of the book, and then I focus on themes that are pertinent to my research. With that said, here is my review.
Roxburgh, in The Sky is Falling, contends that we are living in a time of discontinuous change, and in this time of transition, liminals (traditional leaders) and emergents (new leaders) must come together to start new missional orders at local community levels and include the five equippers as well as poets, under the direction of an Abbot/Abbess.
Roxburgh takes the first two chapters to show how liminals and emergents (often young leaders) are trying to address the same issue – missional faithfulness amidst discontinuous change – from different angles, without taking the time to listen to one another. He then demonstrates the need to find new frameworks (conceptual maps or lenses), skills and resources for leading congregations in these times of change (what happens to us from the outside) as well as in transition (our inner responses to changes we experience). In learning to work with discontinuous change, he suggests we understand the five phases of change: Stability, Discontinuity, Disembedding, Transition, and Reformation. The “transition” (liminality or disorienting change) phase requires adaptive leaders to engage in communitas (emergents and liminals together) in order to “reenter the primary narratives of Scripture to hear together what God may be saying” (116). He closes with a proposal to start missional orders in local communities, where the equippers and poets work together as a team, under the guidance of an abbot/abbess.
THEMES TO REMEMBER
Roxburgh works hard to help us understand that in times of transition and discontinuous change, while we desire to revert back to our old way of doing things, (like Robinson Crusoe trying to build a boat to get back to life that was lost), we must develop new frameworks, skills and resources in order to function in a radically new place (65). He notes that adaptive leadership must become primary in times of complex discontinuity, instead of focusing on the technical, role-performance, and management skills, which are primary in times of stability.
So what are the skills and abilities of adaptive leaders? Adaptive leaders should understand the difference between change and transition (41) and the phases of change (Chapter 5). Additionally, adaptive leaders should be aware of the threats and opportunities in this time of transition. And because the future is unpredictable in discontinuous change, Roxburgh says: “leaders who want to cultivate missional communities in transition must set aside goal-setting and strategic planning as their primary model. Leadership in this context is not about forecasting, but about the formation of networks of discourse among people. It’s about the capacity to engage the realities of people’s lives and contexts in dialogue with Scripture” (89). Adaptive leaders cultivate environments of communitas, where together people try to sense where God is at work.
One of the key ideas to revisit in Roxburgh’s book is how to engage in scripture in times of liminality, (Chapter 8). He mentions that by reentering the story of scripture in communitas, we will avoid jumping into programmatic strategies and possibly hear what the Spirit of God has to say to us. Other important chapters are (Chapter 10) where he talks about transition and leadership, as well as (Chapters 11 and 12) where he reveals his proposal for the future. The following pages have key charts reflecting primary ideas contained in the book (31,41,54,88,91,105,110,135,153,182).