Interview with Prof. Dr. Jack Barentsen and Drs. Oeds Blok, project leaders of “A New Way in God’s Mission”

One of our research projects is the project “A New Way in God’s Mission”. Recently, I spoke with Prof. Dr. Jack Barentsen and Drs. Oeds Blok, who are carrying out this project, and asked them some questions about this project.

 

As project leaders of the project “A New Way in Gods Mission”, could you tell us what this project is about?

This project was born from a desire to help pastors and other religious leaders navigate their church or organization in a rapidly changing world. Many leaders sense that change is needed. For some religious leaders, such change is driven predominantly by a desire to maintain their own existence with some degree of vitality, for others this involves a reorientation on their mission as church in their social and civic location. Indeed, many pioneering initiatives experiment with new ways of societal involvement – new, that is, by comparison with a few generations ago. Such leaders desire to have a broader public impact for their leadership and their church than to simply maintain church or religious/spiritual functions for a select group of members.

Who do you aim to reach with the project and the book that will result from it?

The project aims to provide tools for these pastors and religious leaders to guide their church or organization through change, or rather to thrive in the midst of continual change. Hence, this book aims to enable religious leaders to navigate between the real and the ideal and discern Gods presence in het real and the ideal, to build trust and openness in their community so that it can be transformed into an ongoing learning environment. What are the sources of this learning? (1) the particular time and place of the community, (2) the gospel in all its breadth and depth (discovering perhaps ‘silent’ dimensions that may speak afresh in their current context, (3) and the many gifts that God has given in people and talents to the community. Such learning shapes the practices of the communities, not only as they engage with one another and with God, but also as they engage with their social and civic context. We aim to make ‘authoritative voices’ in practical theology and missiology of the last ten years available for a broader audience.

This project is about religious leadership, and the church. How will this have public impact?

The focus on religious leadership is not on particular ‘clergy skills’ that are for the most part exercised ‘inside’ their congregations, but on leadership skills that involve leading people in navigating their current social context, responding to it proactively as they mobilize their religious sources (revelation, tradition, experience) for doing so. The project envisions that religious leaders have a public impact, sometimes directly by their civic engagement, but often indirectly by the way they lead their membership in their many civic engagements.

How does this project fit the mission of ILSE?

This project is of benefit to ILSE since it contributes to the leadership side of our institute with a combination of research and valorization. It also broadens the leadership exposure of ILSE by including religious leaders and their public impact as a subset of the broader umbrella of leadership studies that we have engaged with.

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