These three words, at least for me, capture strong feelings I experience as I work with congregations and pastoral leaders at this time.
We have entered a time when we are not where we were and not yet where we are going. We may not even know what the postal code is yet of where we are going. A shorthand way a number of people have used to describe this space is with the use of the word “liminal.” We are on the edge.
Susan Beaumont has a book that is worth its cost simply for its title: How to Lead When You Don’t Know Where You’re Going. I want to recommend the Alban Institute title for you to read. It has many helpful insights for this journey at this time in the life of congregations, no matter what your circumstance. You will find in it helpful guidance and encouragement on liminality and the skill of discernment.
Discernment most often is not akin to a memo from God. Rather, Beaumont writes: “With patience and attention, the discernment process ultimately elicits clarity, energy and commitment among participants.”
I find these ideas inspiring and clarifying when surrounded with the challenges of this pandemic timeframe. There are particular differences between approaching our challenges with discernment versus decision. For example, discernment purposefully invites us to set aside our biases and ego.
To me, the principal difference is the role we give ourselves and the role God has. People who know me recognize that I am fond of reminding myself, and others, that “God is God and I am not,” a phrase I first heard from my friend and colleague Jack Suderman. How will we hear, respond and follow God?
A final consideration to my friends on the journey
I am mindful of the challenge uniquely experienced during this time when social-media platforms are more “echo chambers” than communities of ideas and dialogue. In our tiredness, opinions and frustration with changing dynamics, who is God calling us to be? Where the Spirit of God is present, the Apostle Paul says there will be “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Galatians 5:22).
While we trust God for guidance along the way, let us remember who we are and whose we are.
Al Rempel is Mennonite Church Eastern Canada’s regional minister working with congregations and pastors as part of the church leadership team. He assists congregations in the area of church governance and helps them to discover God’s leading through thoughtful questions and resources.
Read more From Our Leaders columns:
Passing on what we have received
‘What is it that endures?’
The heart of evangelism
Inspired by ‘this ground’
Add new comment
Canadian Mennonite invites comments and encourages constructive discussion about our content. Actual full names (first and last) are required. Comments are moderated and may be edited. They will not appear online until approved and will be posted during business hours. Some comments may be reproduced in print.