Rarely but occasionally, one experiences what I call a “My Fair Lady” (MFL) moment. If you have seen the movie, it’s the moment when Rex Harrison, who has been labouring hard to teach ‘proper speak’ to Eliza Doolittle a Cockney flower girl, finally cries out “By George, she’s got it”. It’s the moment a teacher who has been working hard for a long time to teach a student some key point, and despairs that they will ever ‘get it’. Then suddenly the penny drops and the teacher cries out (in their mind anyway) by George she/he’s got it!
On a recent rip to the United Kingdom I had the opportunity to talk with various theological educators. In one such conversation I was talking about the education of the church leaders of the future with the principal of a large UK theological college. It was then that a very rare ‘MFL’ moment occurred, when he said “The problem is that we don’t know what we are educating them for.
Wow! That is a massively important admission, and a very rare one in theological education in my experience. For the church of the future will be, one way or another, either by default or by design, very different from today.
If the church is actually to be ‘Unbound’ i.e. ‘set free’ from its missionally damaging bondage to old forms and missional strategies, its socio-cultural isolation within its physical, psychological and spiritual walls, then it will need new a type of leaders indeed Missional Leaders.
Such leaders will need to be entrepreneurs who are prepared to take risks. They will be able to not just ‘think’ outside of the box but to ‘get’ outside the box of traditional church thinking. They will be ‘flexible and innovative’ and will prayerfully submits their imagination to the guidance of the Holy Spirit and the voice of the New Testament, and dare to ‘imagine what is not’ for the glory of God. Indeed they will have what might be called a Star Trek’ vision, i.e. a preparedness to go where “no man (or church) has gone before”, that is along a ‘road as yet unmapped’.
“the problem is we don’t know what we are educating them for”.
They will need to be able to exist, devise and implement missional strategies ‘on the edge of Chaos’. That is, they will be comfortable and competent to mission in the swirling kaleidoscope of the ever changing mosaic of parallel universes that comprise 21st century western culture. This in contrast to the relatively stable and unchanging nature of traditional local church ministry.
The need is dire yet, in the face of chronic missional failure, we don’t see many ‘MFL’ moments. The reality is that traditional institutional leadership training regimes of theological colleges simply ‘Don’t get it!’. Rather they generally continue to blindly select and train future leaders for the standard Sunday-Centric, In-drag, Christendom-form (SIC) model of church and mission.
That however, is for a church that will not exist. Go figure!