Missional Guru Test

kinnon —  May 23, 2008 — 18 Comments

First let me establish what I mean when I use the "g" word:

guru: one who is an acknowledged leader or chief proponent

As I wander the interwebs reading of missional this and that, I’m struck by the number of folk who’ve become "missional gurus". They have apparently unraveled the mysteries of the missional "secret sauce" and are desperate to share their insight with the rest of us – whether by blog, book or conference. I have a simple question I’d like us to ask our dear sistren and brethren as they share their missional insights.

"So, how’s it working for you?"

I confess that I’m really not interested in hearing theories anymore. I want to know how the missonal profundities emanating from the particular guru are applied in their own lives – right now. Not last year, last century or last millenium. But. Right now.

  "Where are you plugged into a local expression of a missional community? How does that impact what you are sharing with us?"

Jesus lived what he taught the disciples. We should have no less expectation of those who want to disciple us.

UPDATE: Jared Wilson weighs in, and (after an email from me) so does the iMonk. I must confess that I’m profoundly disturbed that the InternetMonk site is going quiet in the next couple of months.

UPDATE 2: Erika Haub, as is her gift, provides a much needed perspective on this.



A television editor, writer & director since 1978. A Christian since 1982. More than a little frustrated with the Church in the West since late in the last millennium.

18 responses to Missional Guru Test

  1. Would it be fair to ask for results, too? I know we hate to get too focused on numbers, but Jesus’ life had clear and documented results. Should we be holding ourselves accountable for measurable results?

    I like the idea of missional and I too have read the books and blogs. I also want to know how it is working. It is a nice idea and great to talk about. But, what should we expect when we live like this? What do the experts experience when living like this?

    Great post, Bill!

  2. Mike,

    Let me point to a person who I would see as a “possible missional guru” though he would cringe at me saying this. Dave Fitch lives and practices what he teaches and preaches. He is a friend with a wonderfully wacky sense of humor, but he’s also someone I highly respect.

    Another “possible missional guru,” tattoos and all, is my buddy, Pernell Goodyear. When they speak, teach or write – I listen. They aren’t being theoretical (though Dave is one of the most insightful and knowledgeable people I know) – they speak from right in the middle of what they believe.

    Dave is part of the team at Life on the Vine. Pernell is the gentle leader of the Freeway in Hamilton, ON. (Pernell and Dave are also great friends – Dave having spent much of his teen year’s in Hamilton.) You can watch an interesting video with Dave and two with Pernell (and Alan Roxburgh) in the Allelon videos area here.

    Please note that there is a level of arrogance in me ascribing possible guru status to anyone. This is my opinion. Batteries not included. Your mileage may vary. Void where prohibited by law.

    (Bill: A funny note on this comment. TypePad, my blog host, flagged it as spam and I had to retrieve it from the spam folder. Maybe someone’s trying to tell me something. If only I had ears to hear.)

  3. AMEN, BROTHER!!!!
    That story will preach.

  4. Hi Bill, I love hearing the stories of Pernell and David, they are doing it in ” real ” time. I guess the problem I have with the missional guru stuff is that it is almost reduced to program mentality. You know, almost like plug and play. And of much of ” missional ” is small…underneath the radar of detection, and not the results not easily measured by most church tools of detection.Over the past year missional to me has becoming more involved in The Mustard Seed Street church. It’s messy, chaotic and unpredictable most times…I just show up help feed, talk, share and pray…there is no program. I just show up most times scared shitless, well outside my comfort zone. The lord openens doors, gives me opportunities to step in along side him. For me that’s missional, no guru, no magica formula…just someone trying to be a follower and trying to be faithful.
    Mike brings up in his commment, ” Is it fair to ask for results.” Not at all, I expect results, but I don’t go in with any idea of pre-concieved results, and sometimes, you dont’t see results for weeks.

  5. Deacon & Usher were here


  6. My first impulse, of course, is to assume I am one of the guilty parties you allude to. I hope not, though I don’t try to put myself across as an expert (by any means). I consider myself and my little community one in transition (even in recovery, in some ways), moving clumsily towards being missional, trying very hard to walk the walk before talking the talk.

    I do have some concerns, however, about the issue of “results”. First, if we understand the reality of what missional living demands, some of the “results” are not going to look very “successful”. If someone were to ask me “How’s that working for ya?” in respect to our missional engagement, I might very well say, “I am exhausted, humbled, confused, unsure… So, it’s going great!”

    Also, core to being missional is being faithfully contextual in ones given sphere, thus results will vary hugely. For example, I might see 10 genuine converts in a year in suburbia as an equal “success” as 100 converts in a northern Ugandan village. While both communities engaged the same virtues and values of missionality, both the way this was fleshed out and the context/circumstances out of which they were born are completely different. Therefore, comparing results is tricky.

    And let’s face it: when we ask for “results” we are measuring. And when we measure we inevitably compare. Yet person/community must be accountable according to their context, something that is difficult to evaluate from the outside.

    Then again, perhaps I am just rationalizing the last 6 years of living on next to nothing in this inner city neighbourhood. We haven’t seen many “decisions” through our work. No long lists of “souls saved”.

    I take hope in a few things: first, that we see the on going conversion of lives, though perhaps not expressed in an event. Second, we have seen thousands of Christians begin to understand for the first time what it means to be communities of Christ in the world. And finally, I am confident that we are being obedient to the calling- always open to direction and correction- of the Holy Spirit.


  7. Ed,

    Thanks for speaking from the middle of the journey.

    Deacon & Usher,
    Funny blog

    Not even remotely. You are transparent and open about being in the middle of the community. If anything, you shame many of the rest of us for being mostly talk. Press on, bro and drag us along with you.

  8. Thanks Bill. Perhaps, being most aware of our own failings, I don’t always feel like we are doing much. The encouragement is helpful.


  9. Re: Results.

    This is a tough one for me. I hear the response from everyone and resonate – the measurement path can go to bad places and in fact has. It’s been abused by the mega-church folks, word of faith movement and so on.

    OK, that said, our God is a results being. *Everything* that comes into contact with Him changes in one form or another. Mountains melt, seas part, rocks cry out, sick healed, dead raised and stoney hearts are made flesh.

    Those are results.

    We see Christ send out the disciples and they come back amazed at how the world around them came into submission to his power. Demons cast out, sick healed, etc. Again, results.

    Before Christ ascends, He commands us to go. Based on the context of his life and his preaching and the experience of the disciples, I am guessing he expected us to experience results.

    My point being, if we are engaging the world in his name (living a missional lifestyle?) we are representing him and acting on his behalf. Is it reasonable to expect some kind of result to come from those engagements? I am not driving solely at ‘power’ results, like physical healing, although that is welcome. I am saying we should expect the world to be different than when we first engaged it, like it is when our Father engages it.

    I think if we engage and look and say, “I can’t honestly see any results” then we have to get on our knees and ask why and search for the why. As Drucker ( a real business guru!) said, “Your system is perfectly designed to deliver the results you are getting.”

    I know measuring leads to judging. Judging in the right context is good. We judge on a daily basis. Do I like that young man calling on my daughter? Is that slimy worm good to eat? (ha ha) Did that message align with scripture?

    We get into trouble when we judge results to measure our worth or value before God. We all suck really. No one comes to Him as a hero. So, for me the results/measuring is not about am I OK with God or not or am I any good. It is about, am I growing? Am I faithful? Am I becoming more like my Father? I think those are legitimate goals.

    If you got this far – thanks for reading!

  10. Mike you say, ” think if we engage and look and say, “I can’t honestly see any results” then we have to get on our knees and ask why and search for the why. As Drucker ( a real business guru!) said, “Your system is perfectly designed to deliver the results you are getting.”

    I’m not a guru, and not doing anything big. But I’m involved in ministry on 3 local fist nation reserves. And it has sort of been like farming, the ground has been has hard as pavement for planting anything…residential school wounds, addictions, poverty. You sort of begin to understand what Jesus was talking about, the farmer planting seed, and the various types of soil. I think alot of times we revert back to our short term missions thinking, where your in for s few weeks and build something that is easily measured and you head home. But I’m thinking alot of missional stuff is freaking slow hard work. I would think we were on the reserve almost before we could see any real measurable results.It took so much time in just preparing the soil, building relationships before we could plant anything, that if it was just about tangible results we might have quit early.
    And that’s why I love reading Jamie’s journey it’s so encouraging. Man, I read about times when he seems so close to packing it in, but hangs in there.Maybe that’s the essence of missional, ” hangin in there “…and the results come eventually.

  11. Bill, and Mike…that should have read we were on the reserve for almost 3 years before we saw real measurable results. Peace…Ron+

  12. The iMonk’s post is fantastic.

  13. Hi Ron!

    Thanks for the response. I have one question. Do you believe that what you are experiencing working on the rez is what you should expect?

    That is not meant to be a leading question or a backhanded critique, BTW. I just want to understand where you are coming from on this. I’ll respect your answer either way.

  14. Bill, this sure got me thinking. It will be on my blog tomorrow with a double post. Thanks for shaking me up again.

  15. Hey Mike, great question. The reality, I had no idea what to expect. From day one it was like flying by the seat of your pants. There was not a whole lot of information to help us. So it’s been a huge learning process, both for them and us. And, maybe that’s why it’s been hard to define results. I guess the most defineable result is we are seeing Jesus becoming a living reality in the midst of the community. I guess it’s just taken alot longer than I expected…very nieve on my part I guess. I hope that is an answer to your question Mike.

  16. Thanks Ron, that means more than you know.

  17. The whole guru thing is just dumb.

  18. Ron – thanks for a wonderful and honest answer. I am glad yo be your brother.


What do you think?

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.