In several posts at, I discussed Edwin Friedman’s concern about the Failure of Nerve in today’s leaders. He uses the example of Christopher Columbus and other Renaissance explorers, who broke the imaginative gridlock of his generation by going beyond the “contemporary maps” of their age. Columbus went east past the “dragons” as other explorers went south past the end of the earth.

Today’s movements are no different, argues Jim Henderson.

It was only a little over 500 years ago that the most popular maps showed an earth that ended at the Equator. The Equator was a boundary no one crossed and lived to tell about. We know that isn’t true now and wasn’t true then but it “felt” true to them.

Here’s the lesson: Maps make people feel and if we want people to change we need to give them alternate feelings – a new map. Only then will they walk out the door and see that the world is much bigger, more interesting and more receptive than they had come to believe.

As Brian McLaren says “If you have a new world you need a new map – you have a new world”

Henderson suggests that one of the new maps creating a new evangelical world is the church’s discovery that getting people to heaven and serving the community are not mutually exclusive. He argues:

The Missional movement is calling the church to serve the culture, to bring the kingdom of heaven to earth. This movement was forced in part by the increased awareness people have of suffering all around them. Not just “over there” but right next door. What used to be derisively called the Social Gospel has become business as usual for even the most conservative evangelical churches…Today, due to a general disillusionment with much of the traditional church, more young people are voting with their feet and saying if you aren’t serving your community you aren’t going to see me in church.

In this regard, Henderson argues that missional movements should look to the Black Church because it has what we need. The Black Church, being marginalized for so long, discovered this new map long ago. Here Henderson breaks out his thinking:

The White church is slowly being pushed toward the margins of a culture it once dominated.

  • Cell phone towers are replacing church steeples as key geographic (and cultural) markers
  • For all its political effort, the religious right has come up largely empty handed
  • The fastest growing faith segment in America is the “nones” those who claim no religion

The Good News: The Black church has been operating from the margins from its inception

  • They’ve never had power or influence over the majority culture
  • They’ve always had to do more with less
  • They have experience with being ignored
  • They’ve developed practical gospel that brings heaven to humans (as well as humans to heaven)
  • They produced the most significant Christian leader of the 20th Century Martin Luther King Jr.

The Bad News: We’ve rarely asked them for help

  • We have largely ignored their accomplishments
  • We have been suspicious of their version of the gospel

The Best News: If we ask, they’re willing to help us

  • Create a more practical gospel
  • Become more about others and less about ourselves

— jay


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