Missional Map-Making: Skills for Leading in Times of Transition is one of those books that jumped out at me as one that I needed to read. First, it was penned by Alan J. Roxburgh who has been a key player in the missional movement for a very long time. Second, the title alone highlights the fact that Roxburgh is not just talking recipes but is seeking to dive deeper into the heart of what is happening in the church today.
The text is broken out into two parts. The first is entitled, “When Maps No Longer Work”. In this first part Roxburgh makes a cogent argument that the world is not changing but has changed. The shift has occurred and our culture has moved from the “enlightenment/modern” understanding of the world to the “post-modern”. This means that our entire way of understanding the cultural terrain is broken.
Roxburgh uses maps as his key metaphor. He argues that each of us have internal maps to help us navigate our daily meanderings through life in this broken world. This is the primary function of worldview. They are to provide us the means by which to make sense of the world around us.
But what happens when the world is no longer what it once was? What happens when the maps no longer work?
This is catastrophic when it comes to leadership. Roxburgh makes great connections from the business world and from the world of philosophy to make his point that leaders must not use the old maps but must be willing to change their maps so that they can lead the community of God’s people toward reaching a lost world.
I think one of the best arguments he makes is in chapter 7 where he discusses the development of the internet and compares it to the culture at large. The internet was initially a linear connection of a handful of super-computers. It is now an interconnected web with no beginning or ending. This is true of our culture. The boundaries are being erased and as a result we struggle to even speak “multi-culturalism” or “pluralism” because inherent to both are boundaries.
The boundaries are disappearing, so argues Roxburgh, so what will the church do about it?
Part two, “The Map Making Process” seeks to answer that question. There are four key components to building a new map that Roxburgh discusses. The first is to assess and understand the changes that have taken place in your community. Unless we have a firm understanding of the lay of the land it will be very difficult to draw a new map. We must become surveyors of the new landscape.
The second is the cultivation of a core identity. This core identity is developed from the Biblical narratives and calls people to a renewed confidence. It is a pushing down to the “regular folks” the mission of God and removing it from the hands of the “pros”.
The third is the “cultivation of parallel cultures in the kingdom”. This means that we must ease change into being by living out the new culture alongside those in the old. As more and more people live off the new map the old map will give way. While this is requires patient and slow change it is the way of love.
The fourth are “partnerships between a local church and neighborhoods and communities.” Roxburgh argues for the church to partner within its neighborhood to meet real needs and to care for the community within which it resides. These partnerships will help the church to ask the right questions and begin to draw an even more proper map for it’s world.
This is a great text. It’s strength lies in the critique of contemporary church culture’s ability to engage with a changed world. It’s weakness lies in application. While Roxburgh provides some good stories, the reader is left wondering, “How?”. I was expecting this from the start (thanks to a very well done introduction). The truly engaged leader will be spurned on to creativity and thoughtfulness.