by Eddie Gibbs
For several years now, I’ve relied on Thomas Friedman’s The Lexus and the Olive Tree to help me understand some of the overall dimensions and major themes of the post-cold-war world.
InterVarsity Press, P.O. Box 1400, Downers Grove, IL 60515-1426, 2005, 237 pages, $14.00.
—Reviewed by David Dougherty, OMF International Leader Development Team and program director for IFMA-EFMA LeaderLink Program.
For several years now, I’ve relied on Thomas Friedman’s The Lexus and the Olive Tree to help me understand some of the overall dimensions and major themes of the post-cold-war world. I have also been hoping to find a book that would help me understand and navigate the world of post-modernism. I believed that Fuller Seminary professor Dr. Eddie Gibbs’ LeadershipNext (combined with his earlier book ChurchNext) would be the answer to my search.
In a 2003 interview, Gibbs previewed this book by saying, “When you look at baby boomers and the generations before them, they all represent a culture of control…Instead, we need to use the language of empowerment.” In LeadershipNext he fleshes out that preview.
Gibbs provides contrasts and connections between “modern” and “post-modern” ministry. He begins with the new cultural context characterized by ambiguity, globalization, corporate megaliths and network structures. His chapter on moving from hierarchical and controlling leadership to empowering leadership is a high point in the book, and one that is most applicable for missions leaders. Likewise, the chapter on the necessity for team ministry provides clear and convincing support for the most popular trend in contemporary missions leadership. The chapters that focus on leadership traits, activities and attitudes will help any missions leader working with the emergent generation to understand the culture and context of these members. Gibbs then deals with understanding and negotiating the costs of leadership.
His final chapter looks at leadership development and emergence. It deals more with hopes and dreams than track records and proven reality, but my experience tells me his directional ideas point in probable and relevant directions.
I didn’t understand Gibbs’ efforts to paint “next generation” ministries as uniquely focused on discipleship. He challenges “the contemporary church to reorder its priorities to transform church members into disciples who are learning to walk with God on a daily basis…equipping them to translate their witness into the life situations and languages where God has already strategically placed them” (17).
I pastored a southern California church for almost fifteen years and don’t recognize anything distinctive in his goal. It’s exactly what many, if not most of us, were striving to accomplish.
Gibbs is an unabashed supporter and defender of the “emergent” approach to ministry. My sense is that the battle for the soul of mission organizations has not yet been decided in the “emergents” favor. As we see in the case of Gibbs’ own Anglican Communion in the United States, there is a growing level of “push-back” from faithful adherents of more traditional ministry.
Leaders who read Dr. Gibbs’ ChurchNext and LeadershipNext might also be interested in D. A. Carson’s critique from a more conservative perspective in Becoming Conversant with the Emerging Church: Understanding a Movement and Its Implications. Interestingly, Gibbs wrote a review, “Emerging Solutions—and Problems: D.A. Carson’s Theological Analysis of Brian McLaren, et al.,” of Carson’s book in the October 2005 issue of Christianity Today.
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