Alan J. Roxburgh. InterVarsity Press, 2015.
—Reviewed by Janet Silverthorne Walker, Pastor, National Wesleyan Church, DC Campus, Washington, DC.
Denominations are faced with the ever constant need to determine how their missional mandates will be met. As organizations, they engage their subsidiaries (local churches) as the mechanisms for meeting these mandates. However, organizational structures often inhibit rather than help our efforts to produce sustained intended outcomes. True, some denominations may boast of the large influxes of people to whom they minister while others wonder why their often elaborate, codified policies and programs of engagement fail to secure even modest returns.
The quest of the twenty-first-century Church is to remain a viable place of worship where the tenets of Christianity are espoused. Denominations must determine what structures can best serve their purposes and meet the expectations of a people in search of a God who is real.
The book begins by examining structures and how they are intricately interwoven into the fabric of our lives. It convincingly explores the notion that just as physical structures define the landscapes, they also serve as psychosocial barometers that shape our perspectives. As the book unfolds, the discourse parallels organizational structures along with their defining narratives that legitimize how decisions are made and ultimate goals are established. Leaders unconsciously default to these narratives that become the underlying determinants when crises occur.
The book’s major thesis captures the difficulty organizations must surmount in designing new narratives as they attempt to manage cultural change. The discourse focuses on the influence of Eurotribal traditions in Protestant denominations and highlights the extent to which an unconscious default to structural narratives presents a stumbling block in times of transformation. Yet, it is in this very arena that change must occur if organizations are to continue to thrive. Political, social, and intellectual thought that undergirds denominational structures must also be examined when the agency of the Spirit shifts the trajectory of the work of the Church.
Although significant exploration of the role of the Spirit in the process of transformation is presented, there is little discussion on the theological underpinnings that guide the agency’s dependence on the Spirit to manage organizational and denominational change. This would have been a major help when discussing the issue of trust, for example.
This book brings to light a new perspective on denominations’ attempts to remain relevant in an ever-changing environment. The dynamics between denominational leaders and their local churches as crucial elements to transformation are well delineated, giving readers a clear understanding of what it takes to manage successful change. This book demonstrates that good outcomes are possible with intentionally good interventions.