Alan Roxburgh has spent over 30 years in church leadership as a pastor, teacher, writer and consultant. He leads The Missional Network, an organization that consults denominations, congregations and seminaries around the world in the areas of leadership, systems and change. He has written numerous books, including most recently, Joining God, Remaking Church, Changing the World: The New Shape of the Church in Our Time.
Alan recently joined me on the RePLACING CHURCH Podcast (also available here) to talk about the use of words like “missional” and “discipleship,” the influence of Lesslie Newbigin, the “Great Unraveling” in the church in the West, making God useful, the leadership of abbots and so much more.
One theme that came up again and again in our conversation is the haunting reality that the church is addicted to power, control and trust in our own human agency.
This addiction affects everything from our understanding of “discipleship” and denominations to our practices of leadership and perspectives about what God is up to in the world.
In order to begin to shed this addiction to power, Alan repeatedly urged, the church must move from tactics and techniques to the table. The table, it seems, is precisely the place where we admit that we are powerless to overcome our addiction to power, and thus, the place to begin the journey of transformation of ourselves, our neighborhoods and our world.
Read the following excerpts about moving from tactics and techniques to the table, and check out the entire conversation here:
“The richness of that conversation around ‘Missional’ [has] run its course… [and it has] just become another word for another tactic and another technique for ‘fixing the church and making it work.’ ”
“[In Luke 10] what Jesus basically says is ‘Go as the stranger to receive the hospitality of the other, [at their table]… and that’s where you’re going to hear what God is up to.”
“[The Eurotribal churches are] churches of a deeply distorted imagination, which is that Christianity is about ‘whiteness and power’… And so today, these churches are highly anxious systems because the world that they thought they’d created doesn’t exist anymore. And what happens when any system gets highly anxious is that it works harder at trying to figure out how to fix itself. That’s the ecclesiocentricity. And the argument I make is that you can look across any denomination today in North America, you can look across almost all the church planting movements in North America and they are fundamentally driven not only by an ecclesiocentric drive, but fundamentally by human agency. That is, ‘the church is in trouble, we — we — can figure out the tactic and the strategy to fix the church and make it work again’… What I’m trying to say is that God’s not there. God’s left that stuff. And we will never discover what God’s up to inside of that.”
“We need to form again communities in the local that are built around table and eucharist and scripture. And that can be extremely simple. I am convinced that eucharistic communities are critical for the healing of the local and the transformation of the world. So I am not saying, ‘Get rid of church’ at all. But I am saying, ‘You don’t need clergy for that stuff.’ But I also believe we need people who are extremely well-formed and trained in the ‘Great Tradition,’ to use Catholic language, who are what I would call ‘local theologians’… who are more like an abbot, who live deeply into the story and the tradition, and they live deeply into the story of the local, and they are gifted in bringing these together, but bringing these together around table and eucharist and conversation — those are the kind of gifts that we need.”
Check out Episode 19 of the RePLACING CHURCH Podcast as Alan shares about his own vow of stability, the influence of Lesslie Newbigin, what he calls “The Great Unraveling” happening in the western church, the future of theological education and church leadership, and learning to ask the question, ‘how do we join in what God is up to in our neighborhoods and communities?”
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