14 Jan 2021 Theme Letter | FORMING FLOURISHING MISSIONAL COMMUNITIES AND ORGANIZATIONS
Happy 2021, HuD family around the world! Our 2021 theme is Forming Flourishing Missional Communities and Organizations. If before the ravaging Covid-19 pandemic we felt the need for godly, effectual leaders globally was serious and urgent, then it is even more dire now! As we trust God for physical health and healing worldwide, we also want to maintain a balanced diet of leadership nutrition (as in the diagram below) for holistically well-formed leaders.
A QUICK RECAP
For 2020 as we focused on Deep Mentoring. This was a theme that was heavily based on leadership nutritional input #1 (Biblically Informed Practice) and #2 (Character Development) towards firmly grabbing the origin and objective of leadership as well as the heart of leadership respectively. It was about forming leaders deeply (and slowly) and how discipleship and leadership are really the same kind of formation work but discipleship ought to be first in importance, order and rank.
In the two preceding years (2018 and 2019) we had really delved into the rhythm of leadership, emphasizing input #3 (Reflective Lifestyle) with sub-themes like ‘slowing down for loving union with Jesus’ (The Emotionally Healthy Leader), ‘Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership’ plus Discerning and Pursuing God’s Will Together. Indeed we must be ‘reflective practitioners’; the best leaders are. In 2017, we had Focus on Family First as our theme. Family is our first and most important missional community, the goal of leadership (input #4).
All of this has been, and continues to be in the context of “Lifelong Learning in a Diverse Community” which is the “Continuing Development of Leadership.”
In 2021, we are zooming in on nutritional input and outcome #4 (again) and #6, which are MISSIONAL COMMUNITY as the GOAL of leadership and ORGANIZATIONAL DYNAMICS as IMPLEMENTATION of leadership respectively. Of course, everything we have done and will do shall always be ‘Biblically Informed’ (#1). Our praxis must always be informed by good theology. Our 2021 theme, therefore, is Forming Flourishing Missional Communities and Organizations.
This is what we were made for: to flourish. From Genesis to Revelation. Here is a reminder of the very first chapter of the very first book of the Bible:
God spoke: “Let us make human beings in our image, make them reflecting our nature so they can be responsible for the fish in the sea, the birds in the air, the cattle, and, yes, Earth itself, and every animal that moves on the face of Earth.” God created human beings; he created them godlike, reflecting God’s nature. He created them male and female. God blessed them: “Prosper! Reproduce! Fill Earth! Take charge! Be responsible for fish in the sea and birds in the air, for every living thing that moves on the face of Earth.” (Genesis 1:26-28, Msg, emphasis mine)
The last chapter of Scripture also contains these words: Then the Angel showed me Water-of-Life River, crystal bright. It flowed from the Throne of God and the Lamb, right down the middle of the street. The Tree of Life was planted on each side of the River, producing twelve kinds of fruit, a ripe fruit each month. The leaves of the Tree are for healing the nations. Never again will anything be cursed. The Throne of God and of the Lamb is at the center. His servants will offer God service—worshiping, they’ll look on his face, their foreheads mirroring God. Never again will there be any night. No one will need lamplight or sunlight. The shining of God, the Master, is all the light anyone needs. And they will rule with him age after age after age.” (Revelation 22:1-5, Msg., emphasis mine)
The vision and mandate of God for earth and humans are clear: flourishing. In the mean time, the struggle continues to bridge the huge chasm between our current sin-ridden reality and God’s perfect shalom.
WHY THIS THEME NOW?
Yes, as just seen from the bookends of Scripture above, a vision for flourishing has been from eternity past and will continue well into eternity future, so why this HuD theme now, in 2021? Well, a vision for flourishing seems appropriate right after the devastations of a Covid-19 pandemic year 2020. The promise of God through the prophet Joel is this:
The Lord says, “I will give you back what you lost
to the swarming locusts, the hopping locusts,
the stripping locusts, and the cutting locusts.
It was I who sent this great destroying army against you.
Once again you will have all the food you want,
and you will praise the Lord your God,
who does these miracles for you.
Never again will my people be disgraced.
Then you will know that I am among my people Israel,
that I am the Lord your God, and there is no other.
Never again will my people be disgraced. (Joel 2:25-27, NLT)
How refreshing, from the LORD! Besides the spiritual promise from above, it is an observable natural phenomenon that there is growth and flourishing after devastations like forest fires. We are hopeful.
DEFINING FORMING, FLOURISHING, MISSIONAL COMMUNITY AND ORGANIZATION
By FORMING we mean an intentional imagination of the head, profound pondering of the heart and meticulous creation with the hands. The act of forming in itself is an example of flourishing as we are then being the co-creators with God that we were made in His image to be and do! Andy Crouch defines being in the image of God as “the unique role that human beings play in representing the cosmos’s Creator in the midst of creation” (Crouch 2013, 12).
FLOURISHING is “to live within an optimal range of human functioning, one that connotes goodness, generatively, growth, and resilience” (Fredrickson and Losada 2005, 678). When we flourish, we experience emotional, psychological and social well-being. We are full of life—peaceful, cheerful, satisfied and productive (Keyes 2002, 209, 211).
Check out this painting of flourishing by Shelley Trebesch, whose book we’re studying throughout 2021: “We accept ourselves as we are, knowing our strengths and weaknesses. We engage challenges, enjoy learning and embrace an overall sense of purpose. We expect our days to be useful and hopeful. Flourishing people have strong relationships and connectedness to community, contributing as well as receiving. They are curious about differences and suspend judgment for optimized learning. Sound appealing? Sound like what God might intend life to be?” (Trebesch 2015, 12)
A MISSIONAL COMMUNITY is… “a committed group of Jesus followers, the size of an extended family, empowered by the Spirit, to participate in God’s mission of redemption in a particular neighborhood and/or network” (Missional Church Network). And that is the goal of all leadership that The HuD Group encourages: missional communities. As mentioned before, our own families are our first and foremost missional community.
By ORGANIZATION we are referring to a whole slew of entities such as families, churches, mission agencies, NGOs, nonprofits, commercial enterprises and businesses. Organizations are “communities of people called together for a purpose. Christian organizations—churches and companies—exist for the greater purposes of God’s kingdom” (Trebesch 2015, 12). Ultimately, I agree with Trebesch, that “Christian organizations should be flourishing and thriving because that reflects their Creator’s image” (13).
Our HuD vision is blazing, strong: to see in every sphere–demographic, geographic, field, issue, network–a movement of inspired, informed and invested people of Godly influence. Whenever two or three come together we have a community or organization. Leaders often are responsible for the coming together of such communities and organizations for a purpose but even if this happens by some other organic means, leaders are still responsible to ensure flourishing. Unfortunately very few leaders in the world have actually been trained in the dynamics of leading communities and organizations. Just having a good heart, noble intentions and a compelling vision wouldn’t cut it. That is why we are making the time in 2021 to focus on the attitudes, paradigms, principles, values, processes, knowledge and skills to form flourishing missional communities and organizations bringing shalom on earth and glory to God in the highest! The LORD is with us; let’s go for it!
Crouch, Andy. 2013. Playing God: Redeeming the Gift of Power. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
Frederickson, Barbara L. And Marcial F. Losada. 2005. “Positive Affect and the Couple Dynamics of Human Flourishing,” American Psychologist 60, no. 7 (October).
Keyes, Corey L.M. 2002. “The Mental Health Continuum: From Languishing to Flourishing in Life,” Journal of Health and Social Behaviour 43, no. 2 (June).
Trebesch, Shelley T. 2015. Made to Flourish: Beyond Quick Fixes to a Thriving Organization. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.