What frame are you holding?

by Peggy Hahn, Executive Director – LEAD

I am a leader carrying an ancient frame into a fast-changing world. The people I serve are beautiful, faithful, stuck, and stubborn. Many of them love a God who is part of a worldview from the industrial age. They cannot envision a God who is on the loose in a networked world.

God is bigger than our frame. No box fits, but every generation, every society, from the beginning of time has had to name and claim a box. It is their only way to make sense out of this omnipotent God. Rightly so. As open and interested as we might be, we have limited vision and real blind spots.

It is my call to engage this conversation. By looking at the lines on my face, you know I am from the past box. I confess that “Lift High the Cross” is one of my favorite songs even as I cringe at the “battle lyrics.” But my heart-songs are not the whole story.

What you can’t see when you look at me is my bleeding heart. My true, inner heart that is breaking for the smallness of people’s God-view. I am sick about this to the point of not being able to do anything else with my life except engage this conversation.

My life would be a lot easier if I could set all of this aside and enjoy my beautiful family, our home in the country, and being Dewayne’s wife. Trust me, I have often asked, why can’t I be a normal person in my age group? Why don’t I spend all of my time reveling in the graciousness of God instead of wrestling with God’s church?

I look at the faces of my six grandchildren, or at my five adult children and their partners, and I know that I will never be able to let go of this call, not in spite of them, but because of them.

I do believe that leadership makes a difference. I know that God uses people to do God’s work in the world and I am a small part of this movement. The frame I choose to hold is about love. It is a frame that opens up a God-view to engage every diversity, every story, everyone. I don’t really mind if you feel different because, in the end, that fits in my frame too, even if it doesn’t fit in yours.

What does a person do with this way of being when it is your job to help stalled and out of breath leaders? I am talking about leaders who may care more about the cemetery on their property than the people walking on the same ground.

I can’t stand this kind of small thinking about who belongs in the Christian community. It is outside of my frame. It is unthinkable that some people might be more important or better, or somehow more worthy.

I am convinced of this because, to be honest, I know church people. Friends, they just aren’t that great. They are just like everyone else. Not worse. Not better. This us and them BS is wrong and I want to scream that from the rooftops but no one is signing up for that seminar. 

So, we incrementally walk people towards a wider view. We teach about the frame, about blind spots and about the art of listening. We empower people to be their best self. We believe that God can work in anyone, even us.

Yet the process feels so darn slow. My grandchildren will be parents at this rate.

This is why we are experimenting with different technologies. We are calling the church to better, more faithful metrics. We are saying that Christian leadership really is about loving God with our all – all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. Loving all of our neighbors as our self. It is about this three-letter word: ALL.

Our strategy has been to take people on a three-year journey. It is a walk from where we are right now to a new version of ourselves, transformed by personal growth, by listening to people outside of our frame, and by growing others. But it is a s-l-o-w walk.

For four weeks, I participated in the altMBA. This is a crash course on leadership by Seth Godin, one of the world’s most interesting marketers. It has opened my eyes to a fast-track for forming leaders. I am a convert. I want to engage this technology for others who are willing to do the work. I know this is not for everyone, but we still have the slow plan for that crowd. I am excited to explore this with others because I believe the system worked on me, why not on others?

Stay tuned as we dig into this as a possible future for LEAD. For leaders who want to follow Christ and lead the church into a bigger God-view. If you want in on this vision, beware. We need funding partners. We need people willing to do the work.

It is a relief to me that someone has figured this out and is inviting us to do the same. Check out altMBA. Be ready to grow, to work and to lead. THIS is what all of us are called to do.

6 replies
  1. Heidi Hagstrom
    Heidi Hagstrom says:

    Peggy, you are inside my heart and mind with your writing. I am on my way to my Approval Interview, the final step in a journey toward Word and Sacrament ministry in the ELCA. While most of my friends are retiring, I am starting anew. I share your sense of call that means I can do nothing else. I am serving in the midst of people who are terrified to loosen their grip on what was, mostly not willing to look through a different frame. I want them to know the God who is on the lose as you say. I have long been a fan of Seth. I pledge to join you in prayer.

  2. Ron Unger
    Ron Unger says:

    Someone reminded me this week of Reinhold Niebuhr’s “Serenity Prayer,” which continues with this: “taking, as He did, this sinful world” (and church?) “as it is, not as I would have it.”

    The church drives most of us crazy. Hard to believe Jesus loves it so.

  3. Eric Johnson
    Eric Johnson says:

    Peggy-You are saying things here that I have been thinking and holding within, and your affirmation that I am not wrong is an amazing Eureka! for me. Thank you. Throughout my working life I have managed to survive and succeed in spite of huge mistakes and misdirection, without adequate or sincere mentoring. Friends and peers even admire what I have done, while I know how much I have underachieved and under served and under utilized the gifts God gave to me. I believe that I still have time to be redeemed! I will investigate altMBA.
    Thank you.


Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *