Near the end of his book Missional Map-Making (Jossey-Bass, 2010) Alan Roxburgh talks about cultivation, offering it as a model for effective missional leadership. He suggests that we need to abandon traditional leadership models which (p. 179) “start with strategic planning, with articulating a vision, forecasting a future, and working to secure support from the congregation.” He suggests that there is a role for strategic planning “but towards the end as people initiate experiments in mission.”
He identifies the leadership role as one of encouragement and facilitation. P. 180 – “Leaders can be available to assist and facilitate, connecting people with resources, and so on, but this is a genuine work of the people that emerges from among their common life of discernment. The role of the leadership is to continuously cultivate the environment that enables people to gather energy and imagination for mission at multiple points of experimenting.”
He thus identifies the model of cultivation as the helpful one, pointing out that this is something that most of us need to learn. Our forms of cultivation tend to focus on using mechanical equipment and poisons to establish control. That is how we do our gardening – and can be how we lead our churches. Cultivation rather ought to be about understanding the place and role of all the plants – rather than a sort of ‘slash and burn’.
In church terms – p. 181 – “this means that the leader is continually functioning as an interpreter, pointing out how and where these experiments connect with, come out of, and are shaped by both the biblical narratives and the core values of the tradition to which the local church belongs.”