I’m currently reading “The Sacred Echo” by Margaret Feinberg. She was one of the speakers at the National Pastor’s Convention last year and I mentioned her in old Trinity blog. As I result, I was offered a copy of her newest book and asked to read it and share my thoughts about it. I’m sure they have regretted giving me a copy! I’ve been so overwhelmed lately that I’ve taken my sweet time to read the book. The premise of the book is that when God wants to get our attention, God doesn’t just whisper once, but God’s voice will echo again and again in our daily lives.
Some believe God repeats things because we often don’t hear God the first time. Others think God repeats because we are easily distracted. But Margaret Feinberg believes the reason for God’s echoes is that God so wants a relationship with us that God’s voice emanates out of God’s desire to connect with us. Personally, I wonder if God’s echo is the result of all three reasons. I do believe God is constantly at work trying to get our attention and trying to draw us into a close personal relationship. But I also know that I am so hard headed that I ignore some of God’s more subtle calls on my life. And still other times, I am so distracted that God finds it absolutely necessary to remind me again and again of what God has called me to do. Whatever the reason, God does whisper over and over to us in the midst of our daily routines. And when God really wants to get our attention those echoes seem to come fast and furious.
So yesterday, I was scanning the blogs I follow and found this article about transitional leadership. In this article, he refers to an article that discusses Saul’s son, Jonathon, and the difficulty he had as a leader with one foot in the old world of Saul and one foot in the new world being offered by David. The result, according to that author, was Jonathon’s death because of Jonathon’s inability to transition between one world and the next. But Len Hjalmarson pointed out that there was another model for transitional leadership. John the Baptist also lead during a time of transition. He too didn’t survive to see the new day but he knew that his ministry was one of preparing people to make the change from old to new and in so doing he honored both worlds.
Then a bit later yesterday morning, I was sitting in the waiting room at the Surgery Center and I opened up to the second chapter of “The Sacred Echo, “ entitled “how long?” In that chapter, she talks about the times that we pray to God and then we have to wait . . . and wait . . . and wait. Then she mentioned that when she thinks of waiting, she thinks of . . . John the Baptist, who found himself waiting in a prison cell. There the seemingly always confident John found himself questioning the very thing he had been called to proclaim. “Are You the Expected One, or shall we look for someone else?” Gone was the certainty of the day he baptized Jesus when he declared, “He must increase. I must decrease.” Then Jesus responds that they should report what they have seen and heard that “the blind receive sight and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed and the death hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them.” Then she points out something very interesting—Jesus omits one particular sign of the kingdom “the prisoners will be set free.” So John waits and knows that he won’t see the dawning of the new day but that it is coming!
The times they are a’changin’! In a few weeks, we will elect a new President and, for good or ill, our government will change. In fact, both candidates are running on the claim that they will affect the most change. The current economic crisis is going to force us all to change how we buy, how we save, where we live, and how we look at money. Our conference is changing. We are looking at new ways of doing church, new ways of evaluating the effectiveness of pastors and churches, and new ways of reaching out to the next generation, which appears to be unimpressed with the way things have always been done. And my church is changing. The congregation is not as strong and as vibrant as they were a few years ago. They’ve accepted not only a new pastor but a woman pastor. Committees that haven’t met in years are now meeting again. We are about to approve a ministry budget—the first one in a couple of years. Change is all around us, but nothing seems to be getting any better yet. And those committed to the way things were are not happy. Those wanting things to be new—immediately—are not happy. And in the waiting room, comforting those who don’t want change and settling down those in a hurry to rush change at any cost stand John and Jonathon.
Sitting in the waiting room yesterday, I realize that God was trying to get my attention. For several years now I have felt betwixt and between. I’m a late boomer who thinks more like a post-modern. I’m a pastor over 35 but I’m new to the ministry. I value the wisdom of experienced pastors and I love the passion and energy of the younger pastors. I value the beauty of traditional worship but I see the need to adapt to reach a new generation. I hate meetings like a postmodern but I don’t know any other way to work as a team. I feel that I too have feet in the old world and the new.
But am I to be a Jonathon or a John the Baptist—die protecting the old or die proclaiming the new?
Or is there another model?
In Len Hjalmarson’s article, he maintained that he didn’t think of Joshua as a transitional leader because he completely left the old world to enter the new one. I’m not sure I agree. Even after he entered the Promised Land the first time and found himself wandering in the wilderness with a hardheaded group of folks who refused to enter the new and better world to stay, he didn’t grumble. He didn’t stomp his feet and complain about how they needed to change and do things his way. Instead, he waited. He waited actively—supporting Moses and working with the people—so that when the time came to enter the new world, the people were willing to be led by him. And even as they crossed into the new world, they built monuments honoring the old.
So today, I’ve decided to be a Joshua—honoring the old, awaiting the new, and ready and willing to lead God’s people into a new future.