The “Quote/UnQuote” Interview with Reggie McNeal
Phil Miglioratti talks with Reggie McNeal, author of “Kingdom Collaborators: Eight Signature Practices of Leaders Who Turn The World Upside Down”
Phil ~ Your first words jump out: “Everyone knows that something big is up.” Then you close your introduction with “It’s happening again!” What is the “something big” that has captured your attention and why is your hope rising?
Reggie ~ We are in the phase that follows each new information revolution. The last one before this was the invention of the printing press, making possible the Renaissance and its religious counterpart, the Reformation. This is a time of great discontinuity, as every cultural/societal institution comes to grips with the implications of the digital revolution. The church is no different. People are moving away from institutional religious expressions, instead searching for movements and meaning, not just ritual and practice. In the case of the North American church this is a time of trying to figure out how to capture the energy of the movement that swept the Western world in the first centuries after Jesus visited the planet. This is the only way forward to relevance. In this book I contend that leaders across all walks of life (not just institutional church leaders) are showing us this way. I am encouraged by this development.
Phil ~ Unpack the significance of the segments of your sub-title:
Reggie ~ I think it’s important to note the characterization that I have chosen to help us understand the ‘Kingdom’ – “Life as God intends.” We open the Bible in a Garden with the Tree of Life in its center. We close the Bible in a city where the River of Life runs through it with trees of Life on both sides. In the middle of the book Jesus proclaims: “I have come to give you life (abundant as God intends); and, even stronger, “I AM the life.” He lives out in full view the life God intends us to have. Not just his message, but Jesus’ ministry and manner all convey the kingdom to us.
• Signature Practices = Passion has to be married to capacity to have impact. I have observed that leaders with kingdom impact share some important competencies and capacities with each other. By calling these out I hope to increase these practices among leaders who share a kingdom perspective and are determined to have kingdom impact.
• Leaders = in every domain, not just church (but there as well). Not just positional leadership, but personal leadership that reflects a kingdom priority of helping people live more the life that God intends.
• Turn the World = we are instructed by Jesus to pray for the kingdom to “come on earth” so kingdom work always has a this-world signature.
• Upside Down = right-side up, really. God’ intended purposes for life as he intends (my characterization of what “kingdom” means), reversing and reclaiming what hell has stolen
Phil ~ What happens if a leader is “dissatisfied with the status quo” of culture but wants to
protect or preserve the status quo of church practices, policies, and programs?
Reggie ~ Very little progress happens in our world without disruption, and the accompanying
tension. “Protect and preserve” is a ministry agenda that is born out of fear and control, two evil
twins that drive many ministry decisions in America. Allegiance to religious activity over genuine
spiritual vitality prohibits kingdom expression and prosecutes a competitive mission, not just a
Phil ~ Unpack the strategic significance of the questions you ask in the section you devote to
“Shaping a Discipleship Culture”
Reggie ~ I think it is important to put the following questions/responses in context. In the
book I claim that kingdom collaborators cultivate environments that major on people
development (which is my term for discipleship, since “discipleship” in our church-programming
era largely refers to curriculum and processes largely carried out by church for church people on
church property for church development. I am not naïve – programs are inevitable, and not evil.
However, in a program-age we tend to develop programs (we have a small group ministry,
women’s ministry, mens ministry, recovery ministry), then recruit people to them with our
substantial marketing prowess. Kingdom leaders disciple people at home, at work, in their social
interactions, their neighborhoods, their leisure pursuits – in other words, they want the lives of
people in their constellation of influence to be growing and maturing into the life God intends for
them. Their conversations and interactions are seasoned and shaped by this desire.
- Why are we reluctant to examine our assumptions about discipleship? = One would think that our great capacity to turn out religious consumers over missional followers of Jesus would be enough to challenge our thinking
- Does your thinking about discipleship begin with a program or with people? = People are built to last – forever! Too often we think up programs of religious activity, then measure the success of the program, rather than the admittedly more difficult measure of whether we have more mature disciples developing. Our scorecards assess program success; we don’t typically celebrate items like “we have this number of better marriages” or “we have an increase of people loving their neighbors.”
- What is (your) underlying narrative of discipleship? = A narrative of “we need to fix people” will create a different culture than “we need to help people grow into their God-design”; the underlying narrative of discipleship efforts will determine the shape and character of our engagement with people
- Do we need to turn people into church people first before we connect with them for discipleship? = Our discipleship methods/programs depend on getting people hooked into a church group typically; we need to figure out how to disciple people who are not susceptible to being congregationalized in their spiritual journey
- Discipling: “Regular scheduled programing” or can we “customize” = Any of us with more than one child knows that our kids respond differently to various incentives, conditions, and influences. We should recognize that the same holds true for helping people become the person intends them to be (my notion of discipleship). In a world where everything is customized – from ring tones to personal music mixes – assuming a standardized approach to discipleship makes no sense.
- Didactic discipleship or personal discovery? = Most adults learn through problem-solving. The meaning for discipleship efforts is clear: people need to address needs they want help with. Since Jesus didn’t use a classroom model for discipling, why do we?
- How do we help people know they are developing as disciples = People want to know that they are growing. It’s that simple, and that profound. Most church discipleship programming never allows people to chart or celebrate their progress. Imagine a basketball game where all hoops were taken off the backboards, and the game was just about running up and down the court, throwing the ball up against the backboard. How long would that game stay interesting?
- Success: growth…or participation? = As it is currently, the “success” of most church programming is “how many participated?” as opposed to “are people growing?” The assumption is that if people participate in church programming they are growing as disciples. This is not necessarily the case. The goal should be maturation, not just participation.
Phil ~ What is the reason “kingdom collaborators…practice a robust prayer life” is the first of
the eight signature practices?
Reggie ~ Kingdom collaborators are working with God, so they want to pay attention to what
he is up to. Prayer is God’s gift to us to bring us up to speed, not his gift to us to bring him up
to speed. “Pray without ceasing” involves non-stop listening, not non-stop talking.
Phil ~ What do we need to learn from: “Jesus loved parties”?
Reggie ~ What I’m trying to say here is that God is One who celebrates life, so he loves life
celebrations. His critics accused Jesus of being a party animal. And eternity starts off with a
Feast. That will be the best party ever! Maybe we might ask ourselves if people want US at
their parties. If not, why not?
Phil ~ Reggie, please write a prayer every reader can pray with you . .
Reggie ~ Father, help me see your kingdom today – all around me in every area of life. Help
me be a person of hope and blessing, helping those around me awake and live into the vision of
the life you intend for them. Lord Jesus, thank you for showing us what a kingdom life looks
“Viral kingdom leaders—leaders who infect those around them w/ their values—aren’t just hoping for a better life in the hereafter; they’re working to make it possible for ppl to enjoy a better life in the here-and-now.”—@reggiemcneal #KingdomCollaborators http://ivpr.es/2FxHice