At the moment, I’m reflecting on Roxburgh’s metaphors for the kind of leadership needed in the church of today. You can read more about them in The Sky is Falling and various of his other books. It’s been inspiring me to think a little about the kind of leader I want to be; at the end of the series, I will probably tell you which of his metaphors I resonate with most and which ones I’d most like to learn from, preferably by hanging out with someone who leads in that way. Perhaps you also will comment where one of the metaphors inspire or resonates with you?
The first post in the series is here. Today, I’m thinking about leader as prophet…
I find this excerpt from the book the most helpful:
Alongside the poets, there are the prophets, whose focus and desire is that the people of God rediscover the Word of God. They want to reform the common life of God’s people around faithfulness to God’s unfolding story. While poets invite dialogue in awareness and understanding, prophets call people to act on that knowledge.
It is not, Roxburgh suggests, for the prophet-leader to find ways of returning to the past; there is always a drive towards ‘the present practices of the eschatological Spirit’. Yet this is not to say that the prophet is divorced from the past. No, instead prophets understand that the tradition must be indwelt, that the people of God must engage their context in such a way that their response is conditioned by the Christ-narrative in its wider Scriptural context.
Roxburgh claims that ‘liminality is the rich soil of prophetic imagination’. I find that to be a helpful perspective: without the pain and confusion of liminality, there is nothing in which the dreams and words of a prophet can germinate. And, thus, I begin to understand that the frustration of some believers with the Western church today might even prove a gift, even exactly the kind of strange gift that this God gives. Because without the longing for a better future, without the belief that the Spirit of God is calling forth new ways of being the church, without the deep discomfort of liminality, perhaps there would be no soil for the dreams of the prophets; perhaps they would not stand up and start speaking God’s now Word to us and perhaps the church in the West would slip quietly into the background of history.
The prophet-leader’s deepest longing is to centre Christian community within God’s story, a community which has largely ‘lost the
ability to recognize the alternative story that lives in the Bible’. He or she is given ‘not to change the world, but to resist the reductionism of the world in the community of Jesus and to point to a different way of being that community’; the task is not so much to listen to the people with a view to releasing them into fresh insights together (this is the poet-leader) but instead to listen to and speak God’s Word to the people.
Do you know any prophet-leaders? Would you want to be one and why or why not?