IVP - Online Pulpit - The Power of "I Don't Know"

September 9, 2013

The Power of "I Don't Know"

by Laura Truax

“Just where do you suppose the new funding will come from?” the man tersely asked. “And you do realize that by changing the model you may be dooming the ministry?”

I swallowed hard. Our annual church meeting was getting tense. And likely everyone in the room realized I had led us to this place. We had a longstanding ministry that despite our best efforts continued to lose volunteers, hemorrhage money and (though debatable) made little difference in the people we were serving.

It seemed clear to me that something had to be done. Or, as I asked the congregation that day, “What’s the definition of insanity? Doing the same things you’ve always done and expecting a different outcome.”

But the questioner had a fair point. I didn’t have a lock-step plan for what to do next. The man’s question implied that whatever changes I proposed might end the ministry. The way I saw it, making changes of some sort offered the only possibility of life.

“I don’t know where the new funding will come from. There are some possibilities, but there is nothing for sure.”

The man looked around in triumph. Repeating my words to make sure everyone heard clearly that “I don’t know.”

Fast forward several years. The ministry in question has tried a number of different models. None of which brought a new future into place. Two years ago we decided to end it. And with that ending some fresh ideas and new ministry opportunities have burst forth. Tutoring in our local elementary school, a fresh market food program for the elderly, and greater involvement in our neighborhood’s violence prevention initiatives.

But the bigger lesson for me came from the power that “I don’t know” released. Since then I haven’t known lots of things. In fact, as I noted at a more recent annual meeting, “I don’t even know what I don’t know.”

Most times the direction of the Lord is a persistent nudge, a simmering of discontent, a groaning “too deep for words” as Paul understood it. And that’s what I have to offer the people. I try to articulate the nudge and ask them to pray along with me as we seek the way of Christ together.

So go ahead, practice the power of “I don’t know.” It’s honest. It’s real. It’s human. And somewhere in the acceptance of that humble limitation, the voice of the Lord becomes clear.

TruaxOP.jpgLaura Truax is the author of Undone: When Coming Apart Puts You Back Together and senior pastor of LaSalle Street Church in Chicago, Illinois. She holds degrees in divinity, pastoral studies and spirituality from Loyola University Divinity School and serves as a teaching pastor for World Vision and for the University of Chicago Divinity School. She and her family live in Chicago.

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