The Rev. Dr. David Loleng is the final guest for 2023
by Mike Ferguson | Presbyterian News Service
LOUISVILLE — During the most recent edition of the Presbyterian Foundation’s livestream “Leading Theologically,” the Rev. Dr. David Loleng told host the Rev. Dr. Lee Hinson-Hasty he loves it when pastoral leaders, congregations and worshiping communities come around in three ways:
- On our ideas about God, a God “who is on a mission,” Loleng said.
- That we are sent to participate in the work of Christ and God with a focus on justice, service, love and witness.
- That we are also sent “to love and care for and be a witness to be about the common good, seeing the Imago Dei,” the image of God, in people.
Listen to the half-hour conversation between the Presbyterian Foundation’s Hinson-Hasty, senior director for Theological Education Funds Development for the Committee on Theological Education, and Loleng, the Foundation’s director of Church Financial Literacy and Leadership, by going here or here.
Those three qualities “aren’t things we just tell about,” Hinson-Hasty said. “We live into them.” While many people see the glass as half-full or even empty, “Why do you believe that God provides enough?” he asked Loleng.
Loleng turned to Lynne Twist, who wrote “The Soul of Money: Transforming Your Relationship with Money and Life,” for three “toxic scarcity mindsets”:
- There’s not enough for everyone, with the illustration being musical chairs, a game in which there’s one less chair than there are people. “Sometimes we buy into that in our lives and our ministry,” Loleng said.
- The notion that more is always better. Many of us have so much that we struggle to find the space to store it all.
- The idea that we’re stuck, that things will never change.
Many in faith communities feel trapped in a cycle of scarcity, and so they try to balance a scarcity mindset with one of abundance, Loleng said. “There is an abundance with God, but the two can morph into a prosperity gospel. I think we have swung too far to an abundance mindset,” Loleng said. What’s emerged especially among “younger folks” is the idea of sufficiency, that God provides enough. Loleng cited the Exodus account of God’s daily provision of quails and manna, the latter of which the Israelites measured with an omer to prevent spoilage the next day. For Loleng, the question becomes, “How can I live with an omer principle rather than an accumulation principle?”
Loleng touched on Presbyterian Foundation tools that “help churches think about giving and stewardship year-round,” including Stewardship Navigator and the Church Financial Leadership Academy, short-form videos for pastoral leaders currently being used in about 600 locations. The Presbyterian Foundation also provides year-round coaching in the field of church financial leadership and awards “very competitive” technology grants designed for under-resourced pastoral leaders and funded by a grant from the Lilly Endowment.
What else, Hinson-Hasty wondered, is Loleng thinking about?
Spiritual practices, Loleng replied, including simplicity. Loleng once searched the internet for “simple living” and found “something like 50,000 things you can buy to help you live a simple life.” One source Loleng appreciates is the 1001 New Worshiping Communities’ 2020 book of essays, “Sustaining Grace: Innovative Ecosystems for New Faith Communities.”
The other spiritual practice Loleng mentioned is margin, allowing for “extra space in our lives.” The visual for that practice is the blank space on a page of written material.
“It’s the space for us to be generous with our time and with our relationships,” Loleng said. “It helps us deal with our inordinate attachment to busyness.”
Hinson-Hasty recalled a year when he allotted a few minutes between each appointment, but “that’s hard to do sometimes, and for pastors — there’s a lot on your plate,” he said.
“I am daily thankful for the ability to serve the church, to serve you that are there as church leaders. We are here to do that — to be of service in any way that we can,” Loleng said. “I have been blessed to do ministry in the congregational setting, with the Presbyterian Mission Agency and now with the Presbyterian Foundation.”
Hinson-Hasty thanked Loleng for “this witness of sharing the word about God providing enough.” He then asked Loleng to offer listeners a benediction. “May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship and in-dwelling of the Holy Spirit be with you today in this Advent season,” Loleng said. “May God continue to encourage you and be very present with you.”
The Rev. Shannon Johnson Kershner, senior pastor and head of staff at Central Presbyterian Church in Atlanta, will be the next guest on Leading Theologically. That livestream, which will focus on ministry transitions, is scheduled for Jan. 17, 2024.
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