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

In the lectionary readings from last Sunday and next Sunday, we are reminded about God’s call – to Jeremiah and Isaiah, and to the fishermen who are among Jesus’ earliest disciples. I’ve always loved Jesus’ calling of Simon Peter and James and John telling them to leave their nets and follow him – so that instead of catching fish, they will now be catching people.

Perhaps you too remember the song that I was taught in Sunday School that said, “I will make you fishers of men if you follow me.” In my child’s mind, I probably envisioned that they would be pulling people out of the surf like so many coastal lifeguards; but as I got older, I came to a very different realization – that God will use the gifts and graces that we have been given and even skills that we have acquired to accomplish God’s purpose in the world.

He didn’t take the fishermen and make them accountants; he taught them to fish for people. Use their patience, their ability to learn when and where they might be found. Not new skills entirely, but skills built on the ones they already possessed.

I think that God still calls us, both individually and as a community, to use our gifts and graces and skills and experiences for the work of ministry. Before I entered ministry I studied psychology, I was a public-school teacher, I was an actress (strictly amateur), and I have always been a writer – all skills that have come in handy for the various forms of ministry that I have been called to. Everything we do, all our experiences, can and will be used by God for the building up of God’s realm, and accomplishing God’s work in the world.

Similarly, I’m wondering as a congregation what are the gifts, graces, skills, and experiences we have that God is going to use as we move into the next phase of our life together. The JCPC Session is reading the book, How to Lead When You Don’t Know Where You are Going: Leading in a Liminal Season by Susan Beaumont. In this book she talks at length about liminal seasons – in between times – when we are no longer where we were, and we have not yet arrived to where we are going. While I think this is a good description of JCPC, it’s not a comfortable one. Everyone likes a bit more certainty than that.

But the first disciples didn’t get any more than that. They were asked to leave everything behind and follow Jesus – not knowing what that might entail or where it might take them. And they went. Unbelievably enough, they went. And the rest, as they say, is history.

Are we ready to go where God might be calling us next? I wish I could tell you that I knew what that was going to look like, but I don’t. I do trust that God is not finished using this congregation to accomplish God’s mission of love and justice in this community – using all that we have and all that we are toward that end.

It’s exciting. It ‘s scary. But because I trust that God has not brought me, or you, this far to leave us now, I know that despite what comes we will never have to go through it alone. God is with us in the midst of everything right here – even when we don’t know where here is.

Thanks be to God!

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