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Knowing and Living

By Dr. Terri Martinson Elton, Director of the Center for First Third Ministry at Luther Seminary  I must admit, I can live in my head. I love ideas, theories, and understanding why. But sometimes I need to be reminded that knowing about ideas is different than living out ideas. In other words, knowing is one thing, living is another. The
by Faith+Lead | February 5, 2013

By Dr. Terri Martinson Elton, Director of the Center for First Third Ministry at Luther Seminary

 I must admit, I can live in my head. I love ideas, theories, and understanding why. But sometimes I need to be reminded that knowing about ideas is different than living out ideas. In other words, knowing is one thing, living is another. The two must go together.

Usually daily living is what sets me off exploring new ideas. And more specifically, wrestling with big ideas most often comes from being frustrated with some lived reality. For example, I had an injury which kept me from running, so I gathered information, tried various exercises and searched for a way forward. And as a young adult I dated someone who had an alcoholic father and that experience drove me to learn more about family systems and addiction. Once I’ve explore ideas, I play with ways to bring them to life. Sometimes that’s helpful, and other times it’s annoying, but for me living must connect with knowing, and knowing must connect with living.

Recently, the connection between knowing and living has been challenged. It’s been challenged when it comes to teaching about (or knowing about) change and leading (or living) in the midst of change. I regularly teach a class on leading change, and I start each class saying change is always personal. Yet am I willing to give myself room for dealing with the personal side of change while in the midst of it? Part of our class is developing a theology of change, and while I have a theology of change, I like many leaders, want to go directly to problem-solving my way through change, rather than inviting God’s voice and perspective into the situation. Change is complex, at least that’s what I teach, and discerning the type of change a community is facing is important and takes time. But am I open to the group doing this work of discernment? Knowing about change and living in the midst of change are two different things. Bringing the two together is critical, and something I must remind myself needs attending.

How are you are connecting what you know and how you live? Maybe your disconnect is not around change, but around prayer or worship or forgiveness or embracing diversity. As leaders, be it in the church or elsewhere, connecting our knowing and our living is part of our ongoing work. Leaders must continue to learn and grow, just as they must also live what they know. And the more we know, the more we are challenged to refine our living. Both stretch us, and at times we forget and need to be reminded.

So today, identify something you know and ask yourself, Am I living out those ideas in my life? And then identify some aspect of your living and ask yourself, How am I integrating what I know into my actions?

– Terri

Join the conversation on Facebook.com/FirstThird!

Terri Elton is passionate about young people and their families, and loves the church. No really! She’s our Associate Professor and teaches with an eye toward developing leaders and leading change.

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