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  • Pastor Nancy Switzler

Thoughts on "How To Lead When You Don't Know Where You Are Going"

Dear Friends,


When was the last time you changed your mind? I don’t mean “change mind” in the sense of “I decided I want pizza instead of a salad.” But rather when did you, through some deep thought, and maybe helpful discussion, discern that your previously held belief was not working? Or not helpful? Or not accurate? I can come up with just a few examples, which makes sense as changing our minds on the big things is not a regular activity. Here is one of my stories (in a very condensed form):


While I was baptized in the Roman Catholic Church as an infant, I did not grow up as a “churched” person. Our family life was a bit chaotic and participation in a faith community did not fit. Every once in a while, my mom would make an effort to “go to church” and we’d go to a church two or three times and then return to regular Sunday activity.


Maybe it was some of these visits, combined with encounters with other professed Christians, that gave me a negative view of Christians. I felt like our family was looked down upon. With these experiences I was someone who believed in God but explicitly disliked most Christians.

Eventually my mom (with her 6th husband) joined a Lutheran Church (LCMS) in Long Beach. I would go with them occasionally and can say that their pastor did not meet my stereotype of a judgmental Christian. He preached grace and interacted with me with grace. He encouraged us to join a Lutheran Church in Simi Valley when we moved there with our very young children. We did join, but we didn’t go… But I slowly had enough interactions with Lutheran Christians that my dislike turned to admiration, and I eventually began to participate in activities. This was a major shift for me, and I still remember that it took some time for me to “admit” to my friends and co-workers that I was now involved in a Christian community. As I look back, I am amazed and thankful at how God works!


As I look back on this story, I think that my initial reluctance to share my newfound faith life with my friends and co-workers was due to the vulnerability that comes with admitting a change of mind. Sometimes it is hard to admit that we now see things differently. This is true for individuals as well as groups, including faith communities. But learning to see the world differently is certainly needed in our world. We know that churches are declining, yet we have often responded by trying to do what we’ve always done…just with more emphasis. When this doesn’t work, we become exhausted in the trying.


Last week I shared the concepts of:


Open Mind: what habitual judgment can we suspend?

Open Heart: what viewpoints do others have?

Open Will: what preconceived outcome can we let go of?


I hope that you’ve had some opportunity to reflect on these. To go a bit deeper, and maybe to be a bit more vulnerable, I invite you to think about three spiritual shifts.


The first is to shift from knowing to unknowing. This can be scary, but when we can admit that we do not have all the answers we are better able to listen to what God might be saying.


Second is to shift from advocating to attending. In times of uncertainty and operating out of fear, we are invited to pay close attention to what is happening around us. What might we notice? What are different possibilities for the future?


The third shift is from striving to surrender. This shift initially sounds like giving up, but that is not the shift. Rather it is a recognition of those times we push through, relying on force alone to resolve an issue. Sometimes pushing is helpful, but it can also be harmful. To surrender in this sense is to “submit to the powerful reality of what is.” In surrendering to what is, allows us to evaluate history, recognize the present for what it is, and to “yield to the mystery of the future.”


These shifts are helpful to us in our personal faith lives. They allow us to loosen our grip and to live each day as it is presented to us. For a faith community, especially a faith community in transition, these spiritual shifts can help us to honor our past, be thankful in the present, and to look to the future with open hands and hearts. I think these shifts allow us to see differently, possibly change our minds, and find ways to experiment.


When have you experienced changing your mind? I would love to hear your stories.


Peace in Christ,

Pastor Nancy

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