My wife and youngest son and I had the joy of living in Scotland for two years while I pursued doctoral studies. One of favorite haunts where we often spend several hours on any given weekend was Balmeadie Beach, twenty minutes north of Aberdeen. This was vast stretch of sandy beach along the north east coast of Scotland that was marked by huge sand dunes. Much like the waves of the North Sea, these dunes changed constantly. Pathways that used to direct us to the water would disappear as the sands shifted. In many ways the world in which we find ourselves as the church is in what appears to be similar perpetual transition. As a result we as churches and leaders find ourselves in a state of what Len Hjalmarson refers to as liminality. The instability that accompanies this space in between, proves to be more distressing than many of us prefer. Yet liminality was the space in which God did some of his most profound work. “Liminality is Israel in the desert, Jesus in the tomb.” (Hjalmarson, 2018, p.28). Richard Rohr describes this as “the ultimate teaching space … maybe the only one.” (Rohr, 2002, p.9).
Historically, church leaders have been trained to be good map readers, and that worked since the topography of the cultural landscape remained relatively stable and unchanged. Such is not the case anymore, and as a result leaders within the church need to be less and less map readers and more and more navigators. The old maps no longer reflect or relate to the current landscapes of a world that has shifted away from the stability of a Christendom culture. But Christ continues to build his church. Perhaps one of the greatest challenges facing church leaders and their parishes or congregations is to resist the tendency toward increased frenetic effort and activity when the ground beneath our feet seems to vibrate with instability. The answer is not a return to an idealized past. Rather, and herein lies the greatest challenge for many, it is to rest, to be still, to cease striving, and know that He is God.
Broken Futures: Leaders & Churches lost in Transition.
This is a book that has climbed toward the top of my “must read” list. Hjalmarson identifies and defines what it means for churches and their leaders to be “lost” in the face of “broken futures.” He does so by masterfully blending insights from secular authors, (Peter Senge), and Biblical scholars, (Walter Brueggemann), teasing out profound insights of immense value to any leader and/or congregations in the throes of transition.
He does not leave us groping in the stark reality of what it means to be lost in the cultural landscape that continues to change at unprecedented speed, but directs us to practical and deeply hopeful ways to navigate through what appear to be broken futures. I cannot recommend this book enough.