Brief Review of Alan Roxburgh’s “The Sky is Falling: Leaders Lost in Transition”

Book Review

Title of Book: The Sky is Falling: Leaders Lost in Transition, Alan Roxburgh, (Eagle, Iowa: ACI Publishing, 2005.)

Overview: Roxburgh’s thesis is that gate-keeper leaders are being lost in the transition to a new era in the church and culture. They, what he calls, ‘the Liminals’, have a growing sense that the world as they knew it is coming to and end or perhaps has already gone over the precipice. The magnitude of the changes taking place in the culture and the church make it increasingly difficult for leaders to get in front of change and are leading many into either a depressed overwhelmed-ness or a defensive bunker mentality.

On the other hand, emergent leaders are deconstructing the church and culture in ways that seem to either abandon or cherry pick the past for a paradigm that looks, feels, and tastes like a relativistic and inconsistent hodgepodge of theological porridge. To rescue us from either of these unsatisfactory futures, Roxburgh suggests leaders come together in communities that celebrate the diversity of perspectives in each tribe (liminals and emergents) under the guidance of spiritual directors or abbots/abysses that can help both to value and learn from one another.

Critique: Generally, I don’t appreciate the creation of obtuse terms as descriptors of generations. “Liminal” not only falls into that category, it sounds pejorative as the counter-point to “emergent.”  This is unfortunate, because there is much to admire and chew on in the book. His discussions of what it means to be missional were helpful. His passion for communitas among leaders and churches was challenging. For me however, one of the disturbing things about the book was its treatment of Scripture. There were times (see for example the discussion on p. 147-150) where I felt the Scripture was treated as a mere human product rather than the divinely inspired word of God. The approach to the God’s word at times seemed Hegelian and evolutionary.

Applications:

  1. Know who you are: “… the apostle tends not to manifest pastoral gifts. The heart to care pastorally is present, but the drive toward missio dei is primary.” (p. 174)
  2. Know what you need to do: “… the real challenge facing his generation was determining which changes to pay attention to.” (p. 25)

Best Quotes: “Liminals feel this uncertainty as loss—increasing numbers of them are turning to home schooling, gated communities, or ‘traditional values’ in efforts to fend off the uncertainty and deal with a world that feels increasingly scary. They seem to want to retreat, build walls, and defend at all costs. At the same time, many Emergents deal with the uncertainty and alienation by deconstruction our foundational institutions, including the church, hoping they can construct something more relevant to life around them from the rubble.” (p. 40)


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