I’m feeling better than earlier this week because I have finished three more books. Two of those were review books but, even better, the third was actually related to research.
You could probably tell that because it has already made it on to the blog in the last few weeks. I can’t decide how it makes me feel as a book. I seem to seesaw from great excitement (that someone is putting into words the frustration I feel with the church in the West) to an intense depression (at the thought that curating the needed changes will fall largely to my generation and yet I feel clueless already). And then I go back again to excitement – temporarily, at least.
One of the three books I have been reading is Roxburgh’s The Sky is Falling. As I came to the end of the book, I came across Roxburgh’s metaphors for the kind of leadership needed in the church of today. I’d seen them before in various of his other books and it made me think that to reflect on each metaphor or category might make for an interesting blog series. I wondered if it might inspire me (and you?!) to think a little about the kind of leaders we might want to be; at the end of the series, I will also 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?
So, first up: leader as poet…
I don’t know about you but it’s not a connection that I would have made before. In fact, it makes me ask what Roxburgh means. Listen to some of what he says about this kind of leader:
Leadership…is about cultivating an environment that will give voice and meaning to the events that seem to be determining people’s lives. This is the work of a poet… Poets listen for the stories, symbols, signs, and language beneath people’s words… The poet has need to neither criticize nor judge, only to bring to the surface the voice and soul of the people so they are able to give voice to what they are feeling.
Essentially, to lead as poet means to articulate the traditions and narratives of the people, to listen to the dominant culture shaping their lives, but to listen at a level deeper than the surface trends. Yet the poet is also immersed in the Christian narrative and can ‘cultivate the imagination of an alternative world’.
A poet is an asker of questions, an inviter of dialogue that leads towards an articulation by God’s people of ‘their experience of the loss of a world and…[a hearing of] the possibilities of alternative imaginations and futures’. The key thing about a poet-leader is that they encourage dialogue amongst the people and they do so by using stories, symbols and metaphors, language which is ambiguous enough to give space for a community to come together and wrestle their way towards a common understanding of both their dominant narratives and the Christ-narrative.
Do you know any poet-leaders? Would you want to be one and why or why not?