Skip to main content

Intuitive Leadership: Embracing A Paradigm of Narrative, Metaphor & Chaos

Tim Keel
Published by Baker Academic in 2007

Alan Roxburgh begins the “Forward” to this text with an interesting and concise message regarding why and for whom the book was written and the intended story of the book. While Roxburgh suggests that the book is intended to be a guide for leaders, it appears as though the book may be aimed at pastors or preachers. At the same time, however, it addresses the attributes of leaders in order to incorporate people of many areas of calling. The“Forward” suggests the book’s intent: “It doesn’t provide a program or even a set of simple principles that, if properly applied, lead to all the answers. In these pages you will engage with the story of one leader’s journey as he engages those questions I keep hearing leaders asking all over North America” (11).

The premise of this book appears to construct a rational argument in favor of the paramount considerations of narrative inquiry in our daily life. An essential precursor to this book suggests the importance of fundamental narrative inquiry among people who are often facing similar incidents in their Christian journey. The reader following this journey through the book will find it organized into three sections: entering the story, engaging the context, and embracing possibility. Entering the story begins with the realization that this book concerns the emerging church movement. These “nascent communities see themselves emerging from and into a world that is in transition (and will be for a very long time)” (20).

As the book progresses, Keel writes about the importance of entering the story related to his own life, and how faith plays a profound function during this journey. He describes a narrative crisis which calls for a resolution at the beginning by relating the state of western faith:

Thus, our faith became domesticated, made in our own image, deprived of its wildness. In our pursuit of the systematic, rational, objective, and universal, we lost the particular, intuitive, imaginative, poetic, and creative. I am afraid that we lost the ability to discern and follow the Spirit of God, especially as he leads us in places unfamiliar and unknown to our domesticated faith (43).

Keel discusses how he began to listen to his own life in what appeared to be a type of self-narrative. He suggests that often, the language associated with these self-narrative inquiries required some “interpretation.” He points to the need for “…prophetic leaders who are able to read the sin of the times, who listen carefully, thoughtfully, and theologically, who respond in faithful and creative ways based on an imagination baptized and engaged in a missional reading of Scripture… “ (77). He suggests also that

[i]n light of that uncertainty and the opportunity we sensed before us, the language of experimentation seemed the most appropriate way of understanding what we were about to do. And in order to experiment and move forward well, we needed to look backward into our story and do some interpretation (68).

Keel concedes that faith is a way of life in community. He continued by suggesting: “the first thing I began to discern during that critical time was that the life of faith I lived was just that :a life” (69). Keel cautions several times that living a life of faith requires creativity and imagination that withstands the temptation to recreate superstitiously what once brought a blessing or increased our faith into an idol or totem.

The book encourages the reader to engage the context of daily living. At this point Keel surveys the salient aspects of post-enlightenment, modernity, and post-modernity briefly by providing his view in a reverse chronological order. Keel builds upon these previous philosophical paradigms to reveal a future of “…a new revolution with emerging ways of knowing and economies and structures of support that are birthing a new world” (131). The church as a relevant and meaningful community embraces the world and those on the margins within it with a living faith.

In the third and last section of the narrative, embracing possibility, Keel gives some viable assertions about living and faith that are highly pragmatic and understood easily

My experience tells me that when you try to reach someone or some group or some thing, you end up chasing not just a nonexistent caricature but the wrong thing altogether. Yet, postures of engagement and possibility are listed and described, which refer to a person’s bearing or attitude (225).

The book concludes with a chapter titled “Reckoning with Intuition.” Here Keel uses “the word intuition to describe an inner way of knowing, believing, and living” (260). He calls the attention of the reader to listen and trust one’s intuition as one goes about one’s life and calling.

In conclusion, this book is read and understood easily, offering some highly pragmatic illustrations of just how important narrative inquiry is to our understanding of this journey we call life. Imaginative thinking with new adaptive routines enables an engaging emerging church to impact and embrace the world. Keel makes some interesting perceptions available to us that may enhance our lives through some readily adopted positions that can be integrated into thought and action. This book highlights a theme of emergence in organizations which may provide insight for leaders in creating narratives to foster self-efficacy within individuals and organizations. These newly creative narratives might become important parables of our time to give direction in an uncertain and chaotic world.

Cite this article
James Coe, “Intuitive Leadership: Embracing a Paradigm of Narrative, Metaphor & Chaos”, Christian Scholar’s Review, 38:1 , 164-166

James Coe

Regent University
James Coe, Business, Spring Arbor University and Paul Carr,Organizational Leadership, Regent University