Structured for Mission
The church is living in a time of massive, unprecedented change. Traditional institutions and structures are unraveling in response to rapid social, demographic and economic developments. The existing ways of being the church are no longer meaningful to many. How should the church respond?
Many seek to address this situation by tweaking the established institutions, finding new structures, reorganizing congregations or renewing long-established practices. Some even argue that we need to abandon structures and institutions altogether. We regularly hear proposals for missional churches, organic churches, simple churches, fresh expressions churches and so on.
Alan Roxburgh argues that we need to look deeper. Structures embody the core narratives that shape how people see the world. We cannot simply replace old institutions with new ones. We need to examine the underlying stories, metaphors and cultures that give organizations their meaningfulness. The crisis of the church today is a crisis not of institution but of imagination.
In Structured for Mission, Roxburgh challenges the church to become a place where people are empowered to reimagine their religious life and experiment with new ways of being the church in a local context.
We are living in a brave new world. Will the church be ready?
"A groundbreaking book on church structure that creatively explores the deeper realities of the structures we inhabit by unpacking the importance of legitimizing narratives. Roxburgh insightfully deconstructs the modern, corporate denomination that was largely about structures of command and control. But he proposes a way forward by inviting church leaders to cultivate a biblical imagination and to utilize Spirit-led discernment to engage in experiments in order to discover new practices of structure that focus on the local, distributive systems and networking. A must-read for church leaders across the spectrum of denominations—local, regional and national."
"All future iterations of church structure will pass through this must-read book by Alan Roxburgh. With intellectual breadth, wisdom and clarity Roxburgh explores deep formative questions exposing how our church institutions and structures organize our lives and can be renewed, even transformed. All structures are embedded with narratives and traditions. The future of church structures requires both theological imagination and discernment with the Spirit to realign those narratives and traditions with God's dream for creation thus rendering more plausible material expression in everyday life. I commend Structured for Mission to you."
"Alan Roxburgh is a father figure to many of us in the missional movement and like everything he writes, this is a smart book and a wise one. Defending the importance of structures for mission, he calls us to stop naively pouring our energy into trying to change institutions as an end in itself. Rather, he insists we need to change the narratives that shape the structures that will in turn foster the rich, organic, local missional community we all crave."
"Cultural change is more painful than cosmetic change. But if the church in its local, regional and national expressions is going to move into God's future, we must be willing to question our underlying assumptions and provide space to reimagine. Alan Roxburgh reorients us to seeing God as primary agent and gives us practical help in how to move from a 'manage and control' approach, to discerning the work of the Spirit in the local. The question is: Are we willing to live by faith?"
"The churches of North America, especially those of Eurotribal descent, face unprecedented challenges in our day. As Roxburgh helps us to see, these challenges are not the sort that will be meaningfully addressed by more/bigger/better tactics and strategies, but rather through the development of fresh imagination and new narratives that take shape at the local level. This is a book that can help all of us who lead denominations, networks and Christian institutions navigate this difficult but necessary journey in God's mission."
"'Forget old structures, let's focus on effective strategies,' or 'Let's emerge,' or 'Let's be organic'—Alan Roxburgh names the romanticism and misplaced tactics that trap our anxious imaginations and instead calls for patient theological refection, spiritual discernment and experimental practices. The narratives underneath our structures (in both church and society) are powerful and in flux, and such shifts are about legitimacy, loyalty and how we can participate with God when so much seems tenuous. Roxburgh knows the terrain and is once again a resourceful, engaging, reliable guide."
"For me, the doctrine of Christ's incarnation is mostly about God entering a particular zip code. Jesus didn't come everywhere; he came somewhere. And that 'where' is within the certain structures and institutions of a given place. Jesus went to the temple. And Jesus turned the tables over in the temple. He came to structures to change structures. Alan Roxburgh has, for years, resurrected the Western church's need to examine the inescapable relationship between place and mission. God entered time and space. A placeless God is the god of the deists, not of Christianity. And here, once again, we are provoked to prod, push and consider this relationship once again. If God entered a zip code, shouldn?t we as well?"
"In this clarion call, Alan Roxburgh makes a robust case that most efforts to 'fix our church' are doomed to fail. Instead, Structured for Mission invites leaders on a journey to experience how God's renewal of neighborhoods and churches shouldn't ever be separated."
"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 a successful change. This book demonstrates that good outcomes are possible with intentionally good interventions."
"As a pastor who has been involved in several 'revitalization processes' and has the disillusioned scars to prove it, I found much to be hopeful for in Roxburgh's work. He moves with ease in-between biblical and cultural interpretation, and draws from a variety of scholars and texts. And he strikes a fine balance between urging change and gaining discernment. In the end, this book could be a boon to many pastors and denominational leaders."
Part I: The Loss of Place
Introduction: Three Stories, Three Structures
1. The Place of Structures in the Midst of Massive Change
2. Structures Embody Our Deeply Held Stories
3. Structure and Institutions
4. Reevaluating Structure and Spirit
5. Legitimating Narratives: Structures and the Churches in the Twentieth Century
6. Changing Legitimacy—Changing Frameworks
Part II: Reframing Our Imagination
7. Metaphors and Imagination
8. The Hub and Spoke
9. Changing the Culture of the Denominations
10. From Here to There
11. Journeying into the New Space
12. Who Needs Structures?