Glocal leadership

Monday, 19 September, 2011

Graham Cray's monthly e-xpressions column.

If fresh expressions of church are to make a long term contribution to the re-evangelization of the UK, and the wider mission of God in our land, much will depend on the recognition and training of appropriate leaders. Many of these will be lay rather than ordained, but the comments I wish to make apply to all 'authorised' leaders who are given some training. It is the nature and perceived purpose of that training that is crucial. The Church needs glocal leaders!

The term 'glocalisation' was coined by sociologists (who else would have come up with such an ugly word?) to describe the impact of global change on local communities. This can range from seeing Starbucks and McDonald's wherever you look, to the closure of a local firm because of 'the world market', to a global menu available on your high street, to a local firm developing a global brand. Many people in the Facebook and Twitter culture belong both locally and to wider networks not restricted by geography. Glocalisation can connect and it can isolate. It has both positive and negative effects, varying from place to place. My point is merely that all communities are now glocal communities, and that the local church in an interconnected world is a glocal church. Just as people are encouraged to 'think globally and act locally', so Eddie Gibbs suggests that a characteristic of fresh expressions should be that they are 'locally engaged with global issues' (Eddie Gibbs, Churchmorph: How Megatrends are Reshaping Christian Communities, Baker, 2009). The glocal church needs glocal leaders.

Training for pioneers and missional leaders has to be on an action-reflection model, with much higher proportions of relevant practice than was traditionally the case for seminary courses. I take that for granted here. Rather, I want to emphasise that leadership training, for a glocal church, has to be both contextual and connected.

Every missional leader needs skills in discernment, in reading a context in the light of the mission of God. No-one should be authorised who cannot do this! But contextual training is not just a matter of training leaders to read the context with which they are familiar, or where they have been placed. It also requires experience in reading contexts with which they are not familiar, or they will be in danger of being blinded by familiarity. It is hard to read your own context discerningly if you have never faced the challenge of reading an unfamiliar one. Contextual training needs exposure to more than one context.

Even the most distinctive context is glocal. It has been shaped by wider influences, and is the result of connection. Training for glocal leadership needs to be connected in two ways: to the historic faith and to the world church.

How has the 'givenness' of the Gospel, that which makes us Christians and which all Christians share, been expressed and embodied in different eras and places? All mission is about 'constants in context' (Stephen Bevans and Roger Schroeder,Constants in Context: A Theology of Mission for Today, Orbis, 2001). Training needs to focus the shape of the church in different eras as well as the intellectual expression of its belief.

And how is the faith expressed and embodied in the world church today? The centre of world Christianity is no longer in the West. Much of the world church in microcosm is present in the UK. Training for the glocal church needs to introduce leaders to the riches of the world church.

The purpose of this connected element of training is not just to be better equipped for the glocal, but to establish an understanding of the interconnectedness of the whole church, of belonging to the whole, of catholicity. Context and connection provide the key to training.

There is no context-free training, so the context of training is part of the training itself. I am convinced that it is not so much the location of training – in a college, on a course, in a locally created scheme - which matters, but the clarity of its purpose and the appropriateness of its shape, for that purpose. Training has to be shaped by the constants of the faith and the context of mission. That context is glocal and requires glocal leaders.



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