This is the fourth in the series, “Who Will Name Reality?” This week Tim continues exploring one of the three barriers to naming our current reality: empathy.

How did we get here?

It is becoming a cliché, but the world was different when I was in seminary. That does not mean that empathy or our memories are not important. It does mean we need leaders with a different focus. Let me illustrate this way.

From the very beginning, in regard to its mission, the church has been challenged to understand itself and the world. In the very early days, it struggled with identity. Was the church to be identical or different from its Jewish roots? At the same time, the church was trying to relate and yet be different from the world in which it existed.

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This is the third in the series, “Who Will Name Reality?” This week Tim continues exploring one of the three barriers to naming our current reality: empathy.


When I was a student in seminary, I was trained to be sensitive to the feelings, thoughts, and experiences of the others. It was part of being a good pastor. I still hold to part of that training. Identifying with another person’s feelings and experiences is a blessing. As a pastor, understanding how others feel is good.

I still consider empathy a gift; a God given gift. But I discovered over my years of ministry, and most particularly as a district superintendent, that empathy can easily become a barrier to the future. Empathy can hold us back from prophetic leadership –  the leadership we need to hold our purpose, our mission, above all other concerns.

Said another way, when we get stuck in a routine of being nice, make decisions so as to not offend a friend, or mask our niceness as grace, we over process empathy.

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Last week, Tim began a series, “Who Will Name Reality?” This week Sara continues exploring one of the three barriers to naming our current reality: nostalgia. 


Let’s take a little walk. You may know this place well. But you haven’t experienced it like this before. From the corner of your eye, you catch the street name, Memory Lane. It’s a beautiful place. Everything is just like you remember it. The people – oh the people – they are happy, joy-filled, and most importantly focused on you.

You keep walking…


Until someone or something attempts to hijack your memory.

It happened to me earlier this week. It’s likely happened to you, too.

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This is the first article in the series, “Who Will Name Reality?”

The Voldemort Effect

Most of the characters in the J.K. Rowling Harry Potter novels refer to the evil character, Voldemort, as “He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named.” But there is one character, Harry Potter, who has the courage to say “the name” aloud.

Over and over again, Harry is quieted, scolded, and “shhh’d” for saying Voldemort’s name. It is in saying his name that Harry claims power over “He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named.” Harry names the reality that others were afraid to name.

Perhaps the avoidance of naming reality should be called the “Voldemort Effect.” It has more to do with the current reality of leadership in the local church than you might first realize.

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Where is God sending you today?

If you’re thinking, “That’s a silly question.”

Think again.

We are sent people. We are always “going” in the name of Jesus. Sometimes we forget to claim that understanding. Other times we are simply unaware that God sends us into the ordinary moments of life. Those moments become God moments when we claim the power of God to use us…just as we are.

Ordinary as being a parent, co-worker, or guest in a store. Routine as stopping for your morning coffee, going for a run (or walk), and eating out at your favorite dinner location. Ordinary as sitting on the sidelines for a ballgame cheering for your grandkids. And, yes, even as ordinary as picking up the daily mail delivered by the postal carrier.

Ordinary Moments are Gospel Moments

What do ordinary moments have to do with being “sent” people? Ordinary moments are the very way Jesus sends the first disciples.

Look at Matthew 28:16-20, Luke 10, or Luke 24. All three are passages about the incarnate God sending his disciples on mission. Jesus meets them in an ordinary moment. Then he invites his followers to help embody his love and point people to God’s reign.

That means missional leadership is about sending people into the world. Remember, our mission isn’t to create a crowd. Our mission is to help people become followers of Jesus so they can become more like Jesus. The process of becoming like Jesus leads us to share the love Jesus first offered to each of us.

And so the “sending cycle” continues.

Jesus sends people to participate in his reign and rule. There are places Jesus sends us. In particular places, with particular people, we learn “as we go” (Matt 28:16) we always encounter a place to be in mission.

So let me ask again, where is God sending you today? Who is God sending you to today? Then, let’s measure our sending success. Doing so will guide us to continue the journey of being and becoming followers of Jesus.

May it be so,

-Sara Thomas