I have been on a self-imposed book buying moratorium as I wait to begin my D.Min. program. Something tells me that I’ll be buying a lot of books during my time in that program, so I should save my book money for those. However, my trips to the local libraries just aren’t enough. I guess I’m too used to ordering stuff from Amazon.com at the drop of a hat! So yesterday when I went to Tulsa to take my truck back for a recall, I stopped by Cokesbury and bought a new book: Off-Road Disciplines: Spiritual Adventures of Missional Leaders by Earl Creps.
So far, I am very impressed with this book. When I read books, I often think of the kind of person who would really benefit the most from reading it. For me, this book is an excellent introduction to postmodern/emerging concepts for those conservative or evangelical clergypersons who might be suspicious of these movements, but are still passionate about reaching people influenced by postmodernity in a missional way. To be honest, this book seems to be written for an older audience. I’m pretty sure the reason this might fit those types well is related to Creps’ socio-cultural context, which I mention a bit below.
Let me offer you a few great quotes from my early reading, as I’ve found myself underlining quite a bit so far. In the first chapter, Creps talks about the need to move from a centralized model of leadership (the big, authoritarian pastor model) to a model where Christ is at the center of our lives in missional communities. Unfortunately for us, he believes this shift is often, if not always, motivated by death of our dreams and ambitions.
A missional life, then, experiences the centrality of Christ as our failures expose the illusion that we merit the center position. Failure, among other forces, reveals this illusion for what it is, crucifying it and giving us the chance to invite Christ to assume the central role in practice, instead of just in doctrine (p. 10).
He continues later in the chapter with what I believe is the biggest danger for those of us who care about reaching people for Christ in creative and culturally-sensitive ways. Emerging Church “techniques” imposed on a community can easily devolve into what he describes here,
We like to transform things technologically, thinking of ministry as an instrumentality, ourselves as the CEO, the Holy Spirit as a sort of power cell, and the church as an object we modify. In so doing, we risk creating not much more than a hipper version of irrelevance (p. 14).
He closes this chapter with a challenge that speaks to me in a way that is painfully clear,
In it all, God calls me out of the center that He alone rightfully occupies, to let go of things I treasure, to meet Him among the marginalized where He is always most at work. I will meet Him there most profoundly if the transformation of my inner life is at stake (p. 14).
I really relate to a lot of what Creps is doing in this book. He is operating out of the Assemblies of God tradition and runs the D.Min. program at the Assemblies of God Theological Seminary in Springfield, Missouri, so I imagine he has many of the same challenges as those of us in mainline denominations who are used to doing things a certain way – especially those of us with more “conservative” theological pedigrees. No doubt he has plenty of challenges unique to his setting as well. In any case, I’m looking forward to continuing my conversation with Creps through this book, and I pray that God will continue to mold me into the missional leader I am called to be.