In this series of 4 devotions, Liz shares lessons from her journey as a visionary leader called to create a Spirit-led movement that encourages, equips, and empowers women of all backgrounds to live into their God-given gifts and callings, and helps faith communities create healthy ministry environments where sisters and brothers can serve together, freely and fully.
When God Wants to do a New Thing
by Rev. Liz Testa
- Women’s Transformation and Leadership
- Equity-Based Hospitality
- Reformed Church in America
Without counsel, plans go wrong, but with many advisers they succeed. Proverbs 15:22 NRSV
I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. Isaiah 43:19-21 NRSV
The last three leadership lessons help shift culture and foster transformation, innovation, and creativity – of both people and organizational systems. They help open up the possibility to perceive the new thing(s) God is doing and to trust the process. But we can’t do it alone, we need intentional teamwork.
The breakthrough came when I was tasked with forming a guiding coalition, defined as “a powerful, enthusiastic team of volunteers from across an organization” who join “a leader looking to put new strategies into effect and transform their organization” (John Kotter, Harvard Business School). This isn’t a task force or committee, it is an empowered organizational entity that is a gracious agent for change and helps bring vision to life. Being innovative in the institutional church can be challenging to say the least. Gathering a cross-sector group of voices (especially those historically marginalized) fosters a healthy mix of perspectives and tills the soil for perceiving what new things are ready to spring forth. Finding the right people to join can be time consuming and working collaboratively can be messy; there may be pushback from “the establishment”, but this is all part of the creative process and trusting God in the midst.
What are the possible fruits?
Exponential, relevant growth is a big one. As our coalition’s women and men delved deeper into our own work and community, the Spirit nudged us to pivot outward – drawing the circle wide to encourage and inspire others. This is a powerfully unifying sense of purpose. Even more so, it taps into holy imagination and provides an innovative, trusted place in which to share their passions and ideas.
During the 2020 season of heightened racial injustices, coalition member Rev. Dr. Denise Kingdom Grier named it was time to address systemic racism in the church. We invited like-minded people to gather for prayer and discussion in a safe space and Dr. Kingdom Grier shared her 1 Cor. 13 Project. Mutual encouragement was in full effect as a discipleship process for true heart transformation was developed and put into practice. In turn, Rev. Nancy Boote’s heart was stirred, bringing forth a prayer movement to end the sin of racism because “apart from God we can do nothing”. This was exactly the intentional, hospitable next step needed to welcome in those whom God was calling to engage. The Dismantling Racism prayer movement just celebrated it’s one-year anniversary and now encompasses monthly themes, other racial/ethnic groups, and ecumenical partners; all in God’s time as several racial justice-focused recommendations were approved at our recent General Synod.
I pray these lessons learned might spark hope and possibility as you lead in these times of change and uncertainty, and that you will find space to discern what God is calling you to and will find willing partners to dream and innovate with. Take time to listen well and allow ideas to sift and settle. Don’t rush, but stay attentive to what is needed to move forward nimbly. Don’t let old models or naysayers thwart your efforts! Be graciously clear that this is a Spirit-led endeavor, and lean into the godly power of group consensus. Above all, trust in and praise God as new thing(s) start to spring forth that will build and bless the body of Christ for mission in the world.