Here at the start of 2019, Missio Alliance turns 7 years old!
As the father of a 7-year-old myself, I have some perspective on this season of life. Observing my daughter, I see a growing awareness of, and confidence in, her unique personality. With plenty of exploring left to do, she’s nevertheless getting more comfortable in her own skin. I’m also pleased to see her becoming more discerning in her friendships. With more experience under her belt, she’s much more mindful of who likes her for her and less inclined to try and get everyone to like her. Perhaps the most exciting thing I’m seeing emerge is her desire to decide what’s important to her and figure out how to go after those things. Whether it’s becoming a better bike rider, reading increasingly challenging books, or doing science experiments –it’s fascinating to see her decide for herself that these things are important to her and then to allocate time and energy away from other activities and options to invest in them.
It’s fascinating to witness these same characteristics at work in Missio’s own organizational development here at the 7 year mark.
It’s not a straightforward thing to speak of personality when it comes to an organization. This is even more complicated for us as we’ve been quite intentional about not being “personality driven” as a ministry. And yet, at the ripe old age of 7, it seems to me that Missio Alliance is indeed settling into some essential features of personality.
When I recently asked those who have been tracking with Missio Allince for some time how they view our collective personality, there were a number of recurring themes. Friends used words like “hopeful,” “intentionally multicultural,” “beautifully ecumenical,” “thoughtful,” “imaginative,” and “resourceful.”
Just as my daughter is discovering that there are features of her personality that are rising to the surface and leaving others with a distinct impression of who she is, so too would it seem that these are some of the characteristics that define Missio Alliance for others. There’s no doubt that aspects of our personality have been developed awkwardly and there’s certainly plenty of room for growth and development in years to come. Yet to the extent these these are accurate descriptions of how a broadening community of theological practitioners views Missio’s emerging personality, we are tremendously encouraged and credit the work of the Holy Spirit in our midst!
Partnerships have always been the bedrock of our ministry. There is a practical side to this – ministry is simply more generative and sustainable if it’s born out of relational collaboration. But there’s also a theological side – believing that the integrity of Christian witness calls for forging new kinds of togetherness and unity in mission.
Seen from both those angles, we are profoundly grateful for our network of Alliance Partners (who collaborate with us in the most substantive ways), additional co-sponsoring partners who make our national gathering possible, and those who have joined our Friends Network, an international fellowship of Christian leaders that is growing weekly.
We are also incredibly excited to announce that we have entered into a strategic alliance with the BGAV, a denominational body that has been one of our biggest supporters from the very beginning. You can read more about this elevated partnership here. The BGAV stands out among national denominations in its commitment to reimagine its structures and purposes for a new day of mission. Alongside ministries such as Fresh Expressions, the V3 Church Planting Movement, and other national initiatives, we are actively discerning strategic opportunities to help denominations, schools, and church/ministry networks intersect and collaborate for the sake of equipping leaders and churches for a new day of mission across North America.
Alongside this exciting development, we also celebrate a number of Board transitions. Leroy Barber, David Bailey, and Jo Anne Lyon have each played an invaluable role in shaping and directing our ministry over their term as Board members. As they transition from their roles, we we are excited to welcome Rich Villodas, Tara Beth Leach, and Sean Palmer as new Board members! At the end of March, Juliet Liu, our Editorial Director, plans to step away from that position to serve on our Board as well.
A final announcement to be made is bittersweet to say the least. In fomenting the earliest of conversations of what would become Missio Alliance, no one was more instrumental than Chris Backert, National Director of both the Ecclesia Church Network and Fresh Expressions US. Chris’s postures, gifts, and instincts as a leader have been crucial for the development of Missio Alliance over the years. Thankfully, as a friend and the leader of Fresh Expressions US, one of our Alliance Partners, there’s an important connection that will remain intact.
When a small group of leaders, first gathered in 2011 to discuss the need for a new ‘space’ in the North American church, we were cognizant of what felt like two dominant realities – a progressivism that believed the best course for future ministry was outside the grounding of orthodoxy and a conservatism that believed the best course for future ministry was a contemporary version of the Protestant Reformation. We came together with the conviction that a space between these loud realities was necessary and faithful. We also believed that a space was needed for serious engagement with the critical questions and challenges of mission in our day, but yet, was grounded in the longstanding witness of the Church.
It’s been a joy to work heartily to see this new space for fellowship and sharpening emerge these last 7 years. The simple truth is that there are far more people who have expressed a longing for this sort of community than we originally had hoped. Given the realities of our time, it’s easy to see why.
It was not an easy process to come to the place of stepping aside from Missio Alliance. The realities of my own life, the growth of both Fresh Expressions and Ecclesia, and the needs of Missio made it clear though that the time was now. Yet, I am greatly hopeful that more fruitful days are ahead for the Missio Alliance Team, Partners, Friends, and Community. I’ll look forward to seeing many of you at Awakenings in late March!
The final thing to comment on as Missio Alliance turns 7 is our developing sense of ministry priorities. Looking back over the course of our short history as well as looking toward the future, there are at least three areas that it seems the Spirit is calling our attention to in unique ways: awakenings as a priority for our national gatherings, ChurchTogether as a priority for our efforts in the area of mutuality in leadership, and formation as a priority for our resourcing efforts.
For the first time ever, we are convening a national gathering under the same title, “Awakenings.” From the observations of our team and conversations with a wide range of leaders, we feel like there’s something the Spirit is wanting us to pay attention to in that word. We receive it as a sort of call for our national gatherings to do two things simultaneously. First, to provide a space where a diverse array of church leaders can come together to listen and learn from one another about the ways God is at work amongst the various groupings and streams of the body of Christ – awakening us to the fullness of God’s presence and work already among us. And second, to provide a space of relational and spiritual encounter through which God might foster new forms of connection and collaboration – awakening us to fresh expressions of faithfully witnessing to the good news of God’s kingdom in the future Jesus is leading us toward together!
This past Fall our annual SheLeads Summit came together under the title and theme of ChurchTogether. This was, in part, our attempt to address the #ChurchToo movement as a blight on the integrity of significant segments of the Church and entrenched philosophies of church leadership. At the same time it represented a development in the focus of our efforts in the area of gender mutuality, namely, a desire to generate conversations and a movement of churches and ministries that long to embody leadership cultures in which women and men flourish in their relationships with and leadership alongside one another. We’re incredibly excited to continue exploring and prioritizing the particular role that Missio Alliance can play in helping leaders, congregations, and ministries understand and participate in the healing and reconciling of male/female relationships made possible by Jesus!
This final area of priority might be the least clear in a practical sense, but also feels tremendously appropriate and needed. In short, it seems vital that we continue thinking through how our resourcing efforts can be most formative – formative for leaders personally, and formative for teams and groups in a communal sense. One of my and Missio’s heroes in the faith is Dallas Willard who said, “The most important thing in your life is not what you do; it’s who you become. That’s what you will take into eternity.” This is the sort of impact that want to prioritize in our resourcing efforts – that what we curate and create is useful to leaders and communities in forming them in ways that reflect the loving character and purposes of God!
To everyone in the Missio Alliance community, and especially to those of you who have been with us from the beginning – thank you for all the ways you have supported us. It’s a truly exciting time for us and we’re covet your prayers as we seek to remain faithful to all that God has in store for the next 7 years and beyond!Learn more about the emerging personality, growing friendships, and future priorities of Missio Alliance as it turns 7 years old! Click To Tweet