Interview with Karina Kreminski (Loving Our City, Too Busy to be Salt and Light)

During the past couple years I have developed an appreciation and respect for Karina Kreminski and her writing. Her blog tells you what she is currently doing as a profession, “I am a Lecturer of Missional Studies and a part of the Tinsley Institute team at Morling College in Sydney. It is a centre for missions and missional studies helping to equip leaders to be on God’s mission in our world.”

Karina was kind enough to answer a few of my questions. My prayer is that her answers inspire and challenge you to join God in what he is doing in everyday life!

Question: What do you think are the key reasons so many churches have lost sight of the fact that they have been sent (John 17:18) into our culture instead of merely waiting for people to show up on Sunday morning?

Answer: I think that we live in a culture that fosters a consumerist worldview. This is a false narrative that we have believed as Christians which competes with the narrative of the kingdom of God. The fact is we can’t live out both stories and be faithful to the gospel. I also think that some of the leadership philosophy coming through in the 1980s for example encouraged a very pragmatic and corporate way of doing leadership in the church. We have not theologically critiqued some of these values very well in my opinion. I feel moreover that we have highlighted methodology over a focus on discipleship and embodied practice in our teaching and preaching as leaders. We need to understand the identity of the church which is that it is a body of people sent into the world by God on his mission. It is not a vendor of religious good and services as George Hunsberger has said.

Question: What motivates, inspires and empowers a person (or a church) to sacrificially love their neighborhood and their city?

Answer: I think we need to understand that the church is a part of the ‘ecology of relationships’ that exist in the broader neighbourhood. This is something that Paul Sparks is helping us to understand in his book The New Parish. Once we realise that “God with us” means that the image of God is found in everyone and also that God is active in our community, it should influence us to take action beyond the confines of the four walls of the church. So we need to get our thinking right but not just leave it there. Instead, we then take action and connect with what God is doing in our community.

Question: What are some practical ways that Christians can get out of their comfort zones and begin to live as the hands and feet of Jesus Christ in their neighborhoods?

Answer: Get to know your neighbours- literally! Who are the people that live right next door to you but you don’t even know their names? The Art of Neighbouring is a great book that can encourage us as the authors tell us to know our neighbours names and then practice hospitality towards them. Another thing we can do is volunteer at the local community centre. What are the programs that are already happening that Christians can get involved with? This is a great way to build friendships. We need to focus on making friends rather than simply ‘connecting’ or ‘networking’ with people. Engage in missional habits like prayer walking so that God shows you his heart for the community in which you live. You will be surprised at what God reveals to you as you walk around you neighbourhood.

Question: How would you encourage a person who says they are simply too busy to get to know and love their neighbors?

Answer: Yes this is really an issue. The fact is that there is no way around this one really other than to make time for building relationships with people. Think of one activity you could stop doing or limit such as watching TV and then give more time to connecting with people. It shovel come naturally rather than forced. Be intentional as you step outside your home and God gives you an opportunity as you bump into your neighbour who you haven’t seen for some time. Sometimes it’s simply about being intentional in the everyday moments rather than carving out more time to build relationships.

Interview With Alan Roxburgh

This is an interview I did with Alan Roxburgh about year ago while blogging for Missional in Suburbia…

alan roxburghAlan Roxburgh is a pastor, teacher, writer and consultant with more than 30 years experience in church leadership, consulting and seminary education.  Alan has pastored congregations in a small town, the suburbs, the re-development of a downtown urban church and the planting of other congregations.  He has directed an urban training center and served as a seminary professor and the director of a center for mission and evangelism.  Alan teaches as an adjunct professor in seminaries in the USA, Australia and Europe.  His books include: Reaching a New Generation, Leadership, Liminality and the Missionary Congregation, Crossing the Bridge: Leadership in a Time of Change, The Sky is Falling – Leaders Lost in Transition, The Missional Leader (co-authored with Fred Romanuk), Introducing the Missional Church (Baker, Nov 09) and Missional Map Making (Jossey-Bass, Jan 2010).  He was also a member of the writing team that authored Missional Church: A Vision for the Sending of the Church in North America.

Through the Roxburgh Missional Network, Alan leads conferences, seminars and consultations with denominations, congregations and seminaries across North America, Asia, Europe, Australia and the UK.  Alan consults with these groups in the areas of leadership for missional transformation and innovating missional change across denominational systems.  Along with the team at RMN, he provides practical tools and resources for leaders of church systems and local congregations.

Through Allelon Alan co-directs the Mission in Globalizing Culture(s) Project.  This is a multi-year project addressing questions of mission in Western culture(s) from the perspective of the local church and its context, and the implications for leadership development.

When not traveling or writing, Alan enjoys mountain biking, hiking, cooking and hanging out with Jane and their five grandchildren as well as drinking great coffee in the Pacific North West.

Question: In chapter one of your new book (Missional: Joining God in the Neighborhood) you write this, “In this book I propose that what I call “church questions,” with a primary focus on the church, only misdirect us. At this point in our history, we need to be asking radically different questions: What is God up to in our neighborhoods and communities? How do we join what God is doing in these places? Church questions are a subset of these far more important questions.” Explain for those who have not yet had the opportunity to read the book what you mean by the idea that we have been asking the wrong questions.

Alan Roxburgh: Almost all the books I read right now in terms of ‘missional’ are, in one form or another, proposals for fixing and/or making the church more effective. I am certainly not against this. My point is quite different. Its the focus of these books and the conversations they generate. The energy resourcing them is about the church. The focus of the conversation is the church. This is where I talk about the church being, either implicitly or explicitly, the subject and object of these conversations. This is what I mean by our asking the wrong questions. Not only are these the wrong questions but, theologically, they are the most uninteresting kinds of questions. Really, they are a continued expression of our North American preoccupation with ourselves. Church questions are the religious side of life coaches helping people to self-actualize. I know this sounds totally counter-intuitive to most people, especially clergy whose whole life is invested in church and shaped by church questions. My contention is that church questions are not the questions that preoccupied the early Christians. We need a reorientation of our imaginations to engage the world opening up before us. The good news is that the Spirit is breaking the boundaries and containers into where we have put the Gospel.

Question: Some people might misunderstand and think you are minimizing the role of the church in the world today. From the reading I have done of your book  I get the sense that you believe the church is incredibly important and relevant today. How would you explain the role of the church when it comes to the mission of God?

Alan Roxburgh: Yes, I do believe the church is incredibly important to the mission of God in the world. I am a member of a local church. I preach bi-weekly in my own parish so I’m pretty committed to the local church. But I also believe that the Spirit is out there ahead of us in the neighborhoods and communities where we live and work. It is as we Christians re-engage our neighborhoods by asking the question of what God is up to on the streets where we live that we get a picture of how the Spirit wants to shape our churches. So its not a question of whether the church is important or not. Of course it is. Rather, its a question of order an focus. I don’t primarily, discern what God is calling the church to be by huddling together in church meetings or having outsiders give us some mission/vision statement. We don’t even get there by reading books (even mine) on how others have made their church ‘successful’. Its as we learn to enter and sit at the table of the other (Luke 10: 1-12) that we get the chance of hearing what the Spirit is up to. Those encounters then change and change the shape of our churches. This is a reversal of how most churches function. Now this is not about giving away theological convictions but it is about having them shaped and reshaped by our contextual encounters with the Spirit in the communities where we live.

Question: I must confess that I enjoyed chapter five immensely! You are arguing that the way we read God’s Word may actually hinder us when it comes to us becoming disciples of Jesus Christ. You write, “Scripture isn’t a textbook of information; it isn’t a formula for making life work or a religious Dr. Phil for people who want to improve their lives, expand their bottom line, or ensure their kids get the right start in life. It is full of stories that invite us into the drama of where God is moving creation. Christians are invited to embody this drama.” Explain for us in practical terms how misreading scripture, as you have mentioned, could keep a suburban family from faithfully following Jesus into the world. Describe what that might look like.

Alan Roxburgh: One really simple way to illustrate this is our deeply embedded individualism. Everything about suburbia is about the self-actualizing individual. Go inside the homes of suburban folk and individualism is the way of life from each having their own rooms, TVs, computers etc. So, the deepest value of modernity and the Western imagination is codified in bricks and buildings, in the design of houses, the construction of roads and the TV adds that bombard us 24/7. What this means is that the typical suburban Christian reads his/her Bible from the perspective of the individual. The Bible is a guidebook for me, for my self-development, for my personal life. NO! When the typical suburbanite reads, for example, Paul’s letter and comes across the pronoun YOU it is read individualistically when in fact all this language is plural about social community. The narrative about self and identity in the Bible is the opposite of the narrative the the suburbs. And so, churches shape their ministry around meeting people’s needs or the self-development of individual Christians (often called discipleship) when these are actually the opposite of what is happening in the Scriptures.

Question: In chapter 11 you write about the danger of “decisionist evangelism”. If I understand you correctly, and please let me know if I am off base, what you mean by this is that we have reduced the gospel to simply making a decision to follow Jesus. You go on to explain that when it comes to the gospel we need to understand the depth and power of the word “peace/shalom” as mentioned in Luke 10. So here is the question, what does it mean for disciples of Jesus Christ to bring a gospel of shalom to our cul-de-sac? What does it look like?

Alan Roxburgh: You’re asking a question that really needs a lot of time and space to address. ‘Shalom’ is shorthand for the ‘reign of God’ that has come. It is far more than personal peace etc and way more than some decisionist evangelism that invites people to make ‘personal’ decisions (there is that misplaced individualism again). To be very brief, to live the shalom of God in the cul-de-sac would mean, minimally, recovering basic practices of Christian life (I write about this elsewhere). It would mean living into the rhythm of Luke 10:1-12 which means choosing to stay put and make the neighborhood ones’s priority. It would mean modeling kingdom life which, for example, would mean create extended family in the house with open doors that welcome the neighborhood into its life.  There is so much to discuss here. Let me be very clear though, I am convinced that the cul-de-sac is not something to be cursed but is the place where God’s transformative shalom is waiting to be birthed.

Question: This may be a little off track from your book, but I know that there are quite a few leaders who are attempting to transition their church from traditional to missional. What are four or five things that you believe are most critical for such a transition to occur? Since I am always looking for hope and reasons to be encouraged in these uncharted waters, have you witnessed any churches that have actually made the missional transition?

Alan Roxburgh: Hmm! Always struggle with the ‘four or five things’. But let me be foolish. Pastors trying to transition…

Stop trying to change and transition your people. That makes them a project. Start loving them for who and where they are just now. This creates safe space. You start to model what you believe the Spirit is calling your church toward. In other words, YOU move back into the neighborhood and start practicing Luke 10. Until you do that stop trying to change others.

Share the stories of what God is doing in the neighborhood and be a detective of divinity by looking at where the Spirit is stirring heart desire in others in the church. Encourage them, work with them.

Become an interpreter of the Biblical narratives so people can start to read their neighborhoods with God’s eyes.

Stay put, stop moving from church to church.

What if Jesus chose where to live the same way we do?

How would things be different today if Jesus used the same criteria we use before he moved into his neighborhood? Safe, people who are just like us, great schools, low crime rate, private, exclusive, charming, close to good restaurants and shopping, etc…

Instead of seeing brokenness, suffering, danger and poverty as issues to avoid they were the very things that motivated Jesus to come as God incarnate. The gospel compels us to continually be moving toward the darkness, not away from it.

If your neighborhood is not everything you want it to be, if you see it’s limitations, the cracks, the loneliness, the sin, the pain; you have correctly identified the areas in which God wants you to be investing your life.

The places we choose to live, the reasons we choose to move, how we treat our neighbor, all reveal if we are living a life centered on the gospel.

Neighborhood or Network Missional Community by Caesar Kalinowski

This video by Caesar is helpful for those of us doing Missional Community in suburbia. By nature of our context we are spread out and so the idea of immersing ourself in one neighborhood is not easy to accomplish. We know that being on mission, living as missionaries, is a part of our gospel identity. So…we have to be creative. I guess that puts us in the “Network Missional Community” category.