Missional leadership on the road to Emmaus – Steve Taylor

Steve Taylor is the Principal of the PCANZ Knox Centre for Ministry & Leadership

Luke 10:1-12 is a favourite text in mission today. It presents mission as a journey.  Rather than “come to us” modes of attraction to church, mission is “playing away from home.” The disciples are sent by God to spend time in homes, amid the domestic life of local village communities.  They start by speaking the shalom of God to those they meet. Where that peace is welcomed, they stay, accepting the hospitality, respecting the culture and customs of the communities in which they minister. The Kindom of God is revealed in signs of healing, God’s shalom made real in lives and neighbourhoods.

Luke 24:13-13 is a favourite post-Resurrection text. It offers numerous echoes of Luke 10:1-12. In both narratives there are journeys that will end in Jerusalem. There are disciples in pairs, on the road who experience divine encounter in the ordinary and everyday

Hospitality is a key to divine action, with God’s shalom resting on a home only as welcome is extended. The result is the Kindom of God revealed in the ordinary and every day of domestic life.

The Emmaus story is wonderfully depicted in a painting from 1601 by Caravaggio. Titled “The Supper at Emmaus,” it hangs in the National Gallery in London (https://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/michelangelo-merisi-da-caravaggio-the-supper-at-emmaus). The painting captures the moment in Luke 24 when around table, Jesus is revealed.

Jesus is surrounded by three people.  Each are responding differently. One stands in the background, perhaps a servant watching. Another pushes his chair back, galvanised into action while a third, arms raised expresses astonishment.  The different responses reveal the complexity of leadership in mission.

As a group of PCANZ ministers we find our experiences clarified by this painting.  In this in this post-Resurrection season, we have committed to mission. We gather monthly, using online technology, as part of a KCML Mission Action Experimenting cohort. Every time we begin not with action, but with listening. This is a double listening, first to Scriptures (like Luke 24:13-13 and Luke 10:1-12) and second to our communities. We want to find what Jesus is already doing in our communities. We realise that joining God comes from listening and observing.

Like the disciples on the road, we realise this can be quite natural and organic. And it can never be done alone.  Hence we have gathered a group from our local Parish.  Together we engage in clear processes, first completing a KCML Listening Canvas of our communities, second a KCML Discerning Canvas, as we look, like the disciples in Luke 10, for signs of healing, the shalom of God made real in lives and neighbourhoods.  Only after double listening do we act, developing with our local action group a mission experiment that seeks to embody more clearly God’s Kingdom in our communities. We are learning:

  • The responses to mission are diverse. In the Caravaggio painting, while everyone has a different reaction they all have their eyes fixed firmly on Jesus. If the task of leadership means bringing people with us, then the response of each person needs to be considered.
  • The task of discernment is communal. All may have their eyes fixed firmly on Jesus, but all will have a different perspective depending on where they are standing.  The task of leadership is to foster an environment that allows all to have a voice and together discern what God might be speaking. So provide ways for quiet ones to share what they are seeing, for what introverts see is essential in discernment.  Also provide ways for extroverts to connect positively with others, for their energy is essential in creating relational warmth. Good group leadership skills, like the Mutual Invitation Method (http://www.kscopeinstitute.org/mutual-invitation/), are essential in ensuring the diversity of the body of Christ is heard.
  • Keep looking beyond the frame, aware of the bigger picture. The Caravaggio painting captures only one moment in an unfolding drama. Missional leadership establishes clear processes, in which each moment is respected, as part of an unfolding process. Being part of the picture, we never see the whole vista. Instead, we trust the Divine painter.
  • Resist the temptation of defining mission as only action.  We say mission and we think programmes or feeding the homeless.  We mention hospitality and we point to how our hall is used by community groups. Yet activity that results from anxiety is often misguided.  Many churches in the PCANZ are greying and elderly. The temptation to launch another programme can come at the expense of time with Jesus at table and the unfolding of discernment.
  • Resist the temptation of defining mission as only being. Mission means that as well as looking up (listening in prayer and worship), we are interacting with those both inside and outside the church. These outward connections are mission. Mission is sharing and love others as Christ first did. The task of leadership is to encourage people to live the gospel at home, at work and within the community they inhabit.
  • Mission is getting up from the table with Jesus and moving in response to God’s Spirit. It is being invited in where God opens the door for sharing God’s peace and shalom. In turn this opens the door to God’s Kindom for those who are hungry and ready to receive.
  • Mission is hard work. It includes being together with fellow travellers on the road who are as bewildered as the disciples on the road to Emmaus about what God might be up to in the world, listening to Scripture, sharing joys and struggle, clarifying our processes, provides support and encouragement as together we work for God’s Kingdom in our communities.

KCML offers Listening in Mission and Mission Action Experimenting cohorts online every year.  The next cohort begins with a taster on August 23.  For more info contact Steve Taylor principal@knoxcentre.ac.nz.

By Mission Action Experimenting 2018 cohort (Phyllis Harris, Mark Johnston, Jill McDonald, Margie Rea, Steve Taylor, Cate Williams)

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