Gordon Cheung, part of a church planting team in Glasgow’s south side, considers missional leadership in the face of overwhelming environments.
When it comes to mission and ministry, few things in life are ever perfect. This is especially true in dynamic environments which are constantly changing – such as any environment that involves a collection of people! If we wait around for the perfect convergence of people, talents, resources and opportunity then either we’ll be waiting a long time, or when they do come together the situation will have evolved.
This is a concern when we look out at the myriad of problems that exist in our communities. Take my neighbourhood in North Pollok in Glasgow. It’s one of Glasgow’s schemes but it’s certainly not the worst area in the city. Still, 30% of adults claim out-of-work benefits which is 40% higher than the Glasgow average; 13.7% of young people are not in work or training, 16% above the city average; 47% of households with dependent children have single parents, 15% above the city average; 37% of children are in poverty, 14% above the city average; 22% of the population is aged 15 or younger, which is 33% above the city average; 48% of people have a D or E social classification, 40% above the city average; 42% of homes are owner occupied, 8% below the city average; and between 1996 and 2012 the population declined by 22%. These statistics give the impression of an area where many residents, particularly the most vulnerable, are not fully experiencing a life of shalom.
It would be amazing if we had the budget to deploy a hundred strong multi-disciplinarian team of experienced and passionate missionaries to establish an urban mission hub – but we don’t. There are twelve people in the worship community I am part of, who also have jobs and families, and the situation seems overwhelming!
So, I’m reminded of a shepherd, standing before a bush that was burning but not being consumed, and the voice that spoke from the bush that asked:
“What is in your hand?”
Missional leadership is not always about attempting to meet every need. Rather once you know what network or neighbourhood you’ve been called to serve it is about finding the right overlap between the needs that are present and the resources and abilities that God has placed in your hands. “Once a mission community… has formed and is clear about the people it is called to, the question becomes how best to serve them. The answer begins to emerge by prayerfully exploring how opportunities and available resources can be matched.” These combinations are unique, as are the contexts that you may be called to. It is a testimony to the creativity of God and the missional imagination that He releases through those willing to serve, that in so many contexts across Scotland his people are looking at what is in their hands and offering them to God.
For us in North Pollok, it was about realizing there were a lack of social amenities in the area, that people were actually looking for clubs for themselves and their young people to socialize in, to take note that God had placed within our hands significant musical and artistic gifts and through the fact that we were local our children went to local schools that led us to forming “The Voice Project”, a set of community and school choirs that helps to work towards the peace of the city by adding joy, through singing, of those who take part. By seeing what was in our hands and how it overlapped with the needs of the area we’ve seen God create favour with staff in schools and with our neighbours.
If you go to a university and sign up for a management or leadership course this idea of using what is in your hand is called “bricolage” and “effectuation”. It’s about not waiting for an ideal set of resources and skills to become available to solve the problem in front of you. Rather it is about improvising with what comes to hand because you refuse to give into the situation, and then choosing and navigating a path through the opportunities that open-up. If you’re a person of faith, like me, who believes that God is constantly at work in the world, then you may prefer to call it being led by the Spirit.
It was a staff that Moses held in his hand. When he was asked, Moses threw the staff on the ground and saw it turn into a snake. When he was asked, he put it in the sea and saw it split open so he could lead his people to freedom. When he was asked, what was in his hand, he answered and gave it over. As you consider the missional context you find yourself in and the challenges it presents maybe allow God to ask you:
“What’s in your hand?”
Forge’s Pioneer course is a year- long, spare time course for those who are looking at what is in their hands and asking how they can give it over to God in order to reach networks and neighbourhoods with the story of Jesus. As part of the programme we’ll introduce you to a number of fellow pioneers, all in unique contexts, who through bricolage, effectuation and following the Spirit, are bringing good news to those who need to hear it.
 Understanding Glasgow [Cited 5th February 2018] Online: http://www.understandingglasgow.com/assets/0002/1242/Corkerhill_and_North_Pollok.pdf
 M. Moynagh. Church for Every Context : Introduction to Theology and Practice. (London: S.C.M. Press, 2012) 249
 M.L. Di Domenico, H. Haugh and P. Tracey, Social Bricolage: theorising social value creation in social enterprises, Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice (July 2010) 689
Such a brilliant question Gordon! Well worth some serious reflection! What’s in our hands? What’s in my hand?
And I personally appreciate the irony that we know what we think the obvious ‘best thing’ would be! I’m right with you on this one: “It would be amazing if we had the budget to deploy a hundred strong multi-disciplinarian team of experienced and passionate missionaries to establish an urban mission hub – but we don’t.”
And here’s the beauty of it …IF we did, that would be doing it in our strength, but God in his GRACE and WISDOM is all about being AWESOME in our weakness. So that in our weakness he is strong! So that through the foolish things of this world he reveals his salvation, his grace and his love.
God bless you guys!
I think this is great question, but from a theological (ecclesial) perspective it perhaps needs to be interrogated. At the heart of this question is the idea that a local congregation or group must come up with the goods in and of themselves to make stuff happen. This is admirable, and possibly even necessary initially. But it isn’t sustainable in the medium term and it it doesn’t accord with the creeds or biblical theology. God’s initial provision of the staff for Moses needs to be taken in context of his later provision of manna for the whole people of god to share with each other later on. Our understanding of ecclesiality can only be understood in the context of the idea of church being one, holy, catholic and apostolic. Our understanding of redistribution and provision cannot just be based on Acts 2 but must be understood in the light of Paul’s injunction to share resources between congregations in Corinthians. Without catholicity, apostolicity unravels. Without the later provision of manna, and the sharing of it amongst themselves God’s people God’s momentary provision of the staff for Moses would have been meaningless. So I think you have captured an important part of the picture, but by no means the whole picture that is necessary.