For me, the "meat" of the book was in Parts 3 and 4. In Part 3, Woodward explains his take on the Ephesians 4 offices/roles/gifts. His departure point is Ephesians 4:11-13 (NIV):
It was he [Jesus Christ] who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
This list has also been explored by Alan Hirsch in The Forgotten Ways. He refers to it as APEST (Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Shepherds, Teachers) and has loads of charts and figures dissecting the different roles.
Woodward takes this a few steps further. He renames the roles (equippers) altogether: Dream Awakeners (Apostles) Heart Revealers (Prophets) Story Tellers (Evangelists) Soul Healers (Pastors) Light Givers (Teachers) Devoting a chapter to each, he explores the focal concern and telos (destination mark) for each equipper. There is rich, rich stuff in those chapters:
Dream awakeners understand that discipleship is ultimately about helping people follow Jesus in the concrete realities of life. . . . Pastors have a deep sense of the brokenness within us and our communities, and they seek to bring healing and wholeness to people and relationships. The recognize the difference between counterfeit community—where people wear masks and try to hide themselves from God and others, creating isolation—and authentic community. Soul healers create a sense of family, where people can learn to live vulnerably.
In Part 4 of the book, Woodward explores how these different roles play out in the context of a faith community. He suggests four elements, led by four questions, that must shape the culture of a missional community: Narrative—What is God’s calling for our church? Rituals—What are our core practices? Institution—How will we fulfill our calling? Ethics—What does it mean for us to be faithful and fruitful? Each of the five different roles gravitate toward leading the community into exploring these different questions.
Woodward repeatedly focuses on the importance of polycentric (shared) leadership as a way of modeling a community that counters the cult of American individualism. He emphasizes the importance of “thick” liturgical practices and common rhythms of life among the community. Polycentric leadership must be crucicentric (looking to the cross) and Spirit-led.
The appendices to the book offer some wonderful resources to the reader who might be interested in applying some of these ideas in his or her own context. Each equipper role is broken down by Mission, Heart, Focus, Ministry, Weakness, and Effect. There is an example of the kind of Equipper Candidate Reference form used by Woodward when vetting possible equippers for his community. Finally, he includes over 40 different questions one might use to interview an equipper for a formalized congregational role.
The book is a great attempt at trying to occupy the ground between the formulaic, blueprint church growth books of the late-90s and early-00s, and the more recent, albeit often nebulous, organic church books. He is sure to have critics on both sides. While this may be the first think he writes on the subject, I certainly hope it is not the last. (less)
The book is poignent, funny, and heartbreaking, one of those page-turners that takes you through the emotional spectrum. Sarah weaves together two nar...moreThe book is poignent, funny, and heartbreaking, one of those page-turners that takes you through the emotional spectrum. Sarah weaves together two narratives: her story of being diagnosed at 27 with breast cancer and the treatment that followed, and her subsequent move from Connecticut to Oregon, where she befriended a family of Somali refugees. Over the course of several months, she formed a deep relationship with Hadhi and her five daughters, Fahri, Abdallah, Sadaka, Lelo, and Chaki. Sarah helped them adjust to life in America while, at the same time, they helped Sarah heal from the psychological and emotional wounds her cancer and fundamentalist Christian upbringing left behind.
One of my favorite vignettes in the book is situated in one of the most mundane tasks most Americans take for granted: adjusting the thermostat.
Why is it so cold in here? I wondered, realizing that I was still wearing my coat because I was cold, too. “Hadhi, your house is cold,” I said, pointing to Chaki and Lelo, whose teeth were chattering.
Hadhi looked at me helplessly, as if to say there was nothing she could do.
I looked around the living room. There was vent on the wall, but no thermostat or “on” switch. After looking around the apartment for a while, I found the thermostat in the hallway and turned it on. Warm air blew out of the vent in the living room, and the girls began running around the house screaming that I had set their house on fire.
“Everybody relax!” I said, laughing. “It’s not a fire; it’s heat.”
We sat around the vent that was blowing out warm air as though it were a roaring fire. As the girls warmed their firgid fingers and toes against the hot metal grate, I scolded myself. I’d been visiting the family a few times a week for the past month. How could I not have noticed until now they didn’t know how to turn on the heat?
One of the markers of invisibility is the inability to fully participate in a system without outside help. For Hadhi and her family, this was manifest in simple things, like not knowing how to use a thermostat, and in more complex things, like trying to apply for government housing assistance while remaining hidden from an abusive ex-husband. Sarah stepped in from the outside and help make them visible.
Similarly, Sarah’s fundamentalist upbringing created a system in which she believed that her cancer was an expression of God’s anger toward her for something she must have done, though she couldn’t identify what that might be. She is painfully honest about the lack of support she received from her church, her fiancee, and her Christian friends. Sarah became invisible to the church and invisible to that God. It was Hadhi and her daughters who helped Sarah become visible again, but you’ll have to read the book to find out how.(less)