Five unsettling trends: A need for depth and discernment

Nov. 17, 2022

By Rev. Rick King

Five unsettling trends in the culture and how the church can meet them:
V. A need for depth and discernment in congregations

(Efforts to unite people amid a divisive atmosphere, meaning-making instead of confusion, and a willingness to find a way forward in the presence of temptation to return to what was.)

I once had a colleague who was naturally gifted for ministry, but for them, their capacity for ministry was limited by those same gifts. This person didn’t consider what God could do, or might already be doing—and didn’t go deep enough to discern those things.

My former colleague is no longer in ministry, having left a year ago, done in by COVID and likely asking, “Is this all there is?”

The five unsettling trends we’ve been looking at the past several weeks are already challenging our old assumptions and models of how to do and be church in the years ahead. Carey Nieuwhof has said that right now, most leaders are perfectly prepared for a world that no longer exists.

The same is true of most of our churches. The past few years have been a crash course in how to be agile, how to pivot, how to respond creatively to the surprising occurrences and trends that reality has thrown in our paths.

If the Crossroads experience in 2019 showed us anything, it was that the world had changed and we needed to question all our old assumptions about what works in this new reality.
And that was before the pandemic completely destabilized things. The world was already changing; COVID simply increased the pace of change, to instantaneous. Nothing was gradual any more.

Now, we need to come together amid divisions in the world, find and make meaning out of what’s happening, and grope our way toward a “new normal,” even though the path is often unclear. But we make the path by walking it. And where the path is unclear and there’s no reliable map to help us find our way, we need depth and discernment where before talent and resources may have been enough.

We don’t want to be like my colleague and find ourselves limited by our own resources.
But how do we seek at a deeper level? It can help to read the mystics, the philosophers, the quantum physicists, and the Desert Fathers and Mothers. It can also help to explore outside our current realm of knowledge or field of expertise.

Yet, it can also come by placing ourselves deliberately into relationships, situations, and experiences that are outside our comfort zones. Outside what’s comfortable and familiar, we encounter the world in a different way. And it changes how we experience and view all of life.

Yes, this is difficult. At age 60, I’m realizing that the way to live with excitement, depth, and wisdom is not by staying with what’s familiar or comfortable, but with what challenges me and keeps me open to the new.

What about you? What’s keeping you full of energy and enthusiasm?