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Emery Nester tells a story about a lost hiker stranded in the wilderness. Hopelessly lost, the hiker worried about finding a way out of the dense forest, until, by chance, the hiker encountered another wilderness wanderer. “I am lost,” said the hiker. “Will you please show me the way out of the wilderness?” “No,” replied the stranger, “I cannot show you the way out of the wilderness, but maybe if I walk with you, we can find it together.”

The tale of two hikers journeying through the wilderness together gives me hope. More than once during the past year I have heard mission partners connect Salem’s experiences during the last few years to the biblical account of the Israelites wandering through the wilderness, hoping beyond hope that the Promised Land would soon be within their reach.

Though many may want the pastor to take the lead and say, “This is the way forward. Follow me!”, the reality is that I am a wilderness wanderer too. I cannot show you the way out of the wilderness, but maybe if I walk with you, we can follow the Holy Spirit’s lead together.

The truth is that the challenge before us as a community of faith is an adaptive one. Adaptive challenges, like discerning how God is calling the people of Salem to be the church together even without a worship space of our own, defy easy solutions. They are messy and often require multiple approaches.

The most pressing challenges cannot be solved only by people in positions of authority. Adaptive challenges require a lot of people to make progress through unchartered territory. Because we are all in this together it is important for all of us, especially your pastor, elected leaders, and staff, to listen for understanding without getting defensive or shutting down the ideas of others, especially those whose voices have not yet been heard.

Making our way out of the wilderness begins with two questions:

  1. What are your concerns regarding Salem?
  2. What are your greatest hopes and dreams for Salem?

By listening to one another and gathering as much feedback as possible, we will identify the gap between where we currently find ourselves and the place where God is calling us to go.

Fellow wilderness wanderers, please know how much your input, your leadership, and your faithfulness to the ministry and mission of Salem Lutheran Church means. “Alone, we can do so little,” wrote Helen Keller, “together we can do so much.”

In Christ,
Pastor Jon

Tags: Weekly Word