Over the years, I have had the opportunity to sit in on many sermons, given by many pastors.  Perhaps this can be attributed to the nature of my job over the last 5 years, to work with campus ministers of every denomination, ethnic orientation, and church structure.  Over the last couple of semesters especially, I have heard sermons aplenty over missional communities, their nature, and how they should be led.  Something often sits wrong about these speeches though, and it is only recently that I have begun to understand just what that is.

“Those who can’t, teach…”

I’ve always hated this phrase.  After all, some of the world’s greatest leaders are teachers of somesort.  Perhaps not of the classroom variety, but as sharers of wisdom, simplifiers of complexity, or simply inspiring others to action.  Religious leaders are among the most influential individuals in a community, and in the church, it is often the vocational leaders…the ones on the payroll that are expected to teach the rest.  No hard feelings of course, I am one of them after all.

As I sit in a pew, or chair, or even sofa as it were, I listen to these leaders attempt sermons on missional community and missional principles.  That the principles are biblical and true…of that there is usually no doubt.  Emotionally stirring and thought provoking are the sermons, rife with jokes and quotes and anecdotes that keep an audience rapt with attention.

Yet over time I have noticed a missing element.  Most of these pastors and ministers, for all of their great charisma and speaking talents, are often unable to speak into college students from the personal experience of living a “missional” lifestyle.  In other words, though they value living missionaly, they have never truly embedded themselves in the world around them…they have over time become isolated from non-Christian community.  As a result, they have significant difficulty relating stories and encouraging students that need practical advice in building relationships, praying, and sharing the Gospel with the campus around them.

So the saying: “Those who can’t teach…” rings with some truth even in missional community circles.

Big Fan of Teachers

All of that being said, I am not trying to rip on vocational leaders in the church.  Instead, I hope that missional students, the leaders who have navigated the tough lines between church and non-church social communities, will begin to step forward a bit.   It is the doers that need to begin filling some of these gaps for our generation…whether they become informal coaches of others or eventually go on staff with a ministry themselves.  Speakers, bloggers, and tweeters as leaders in the church today are a dime a dozen…what we really need now is practitioners who aren’t afraid to help occupy their space.