Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

The Power to Abandon the Outcome

Written by: on April 18, 2024

Shane Parrish’s book, Clear Thinking, was a great book to end the semester on. This simple but helpful text has reminded me of many of the things we’ve been pondering over this term together, as well as other leadership learnings I’ve experienced along the way. Parrish mentions the importance in his introduction of being in a good position, because “our position determines our future. A good position allows you to think clearly, rather than be forced by circumstances into a decision.”[1]

Parrish organizes his text into five different parts that build on clear thinking including the enemies of clear thinking, building strength, managing weakness, decisions, and wanting what matters. I want to focus today on a concept that I’ve learned over the past few years; the abandoning of outcomes.

I first came across this concept of “abandoning the outcome” in a book called, Your Best Life in Jesus’ Easy Yoke by Bill Gaultiere. While the book title is one of the cheesiest ever, the book was transformative for me in an important moment of my leadership journey. Gaultiere, however, learned this concept from Dallas Willard.

It is in Renovation of the Heart where Willard lays out the awareness of our limited ego and wisdom when we try to force outcomes as leaders. Instead, the abandoning of the outcome allows us to, “accept that we do not have in ourselves — in our own ‘heart, soul, mind, and strength’ — the wherewithal to make this come out right, whatever ‘this’ is.”[2]

As leaders, we are often driven by results. Our emotional, ego, social and inertia defaults can lead us to make mistakes and not think clearly. Parish mentions his conversation with Daniel Kahneman and improving our judgment and decision making through the “replacing of decision with rules.”[3]

What if a rule to safeguard leadership was the abandoning of an outcome to God?

For the last few years our church has been wrestling with whether or not to keep the word, “Evangelical” in our church name. In a university town in the Pacific Northwest, there are a lot of different connotations that are generated when people hear that word. Even though Evangelical has been in our name for 150 years, we began t0 discuss as to whether or not this word was an unnecessary barrier in reaching people we are called to reach in our city and community. Initially, as one of the main leaders in our church, I had a strong opinion about this question. I thought that my role as a leader was to persuade people to see my perspective and agree with me. But while this probably would’ve worked in the end, the process shifted significantly, for me and our church, when a year or so ago God invited me to abandon the outcome of this conversation to him. Because I let go of the need to get my way, I’ve been able to be a less-anxious anxious leader in discussions and decisions regarding this issue and have been able to use this as an exercise for our church and our leadership in practicing healthy discernment and decision making together, something that is way more important in the long run then the name of our church.

Ironically, it does appear that we are close as a church leadership to moving forward with a name change, but the joy I feel is not in the decision we are arriving at, but the process that we’ve followed and the health we’ve modeled for our community in this important part of refining the mission of our church.

In his book, “The Emotionally Healthy Leader” Pete Scazzero talks about the awareness that leaders need to have on the power in a context that they possess and to make decisions about how they are going to exercising that power. “We must learn what it means to use our power and then how to establish wise and healthy boundaries in our relationships with others.”[4]

One of the boundaries that I’d suggest we consider is to abandon the outcome to God. This safeguard frees us from the danger of using our power or position to ultimately protect our own ego. When I release the outcome to God, or to a group of leaders, my position as a differentiated leader can then be to bring health and wisdom to the discernment process. It doesn’t mean that I don’t share my opinion and thoughts, but my role has shifted. I learn to ask questions more than provide answers, to listen instead of to speak. This differentiated leadership helps us give the primary role of decision making to the Holy Spirit and enables us to wonder and search, together with the group of people leading with us, the best possible outcome for everyone involved.

I’m reminded of Paul’s invitation to the Church of Philippi in regard to this leadership rule I’m seeking to live by: “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.”[5]

This safeguard rule has made a tremendous difference in my own leadership journey. What are some leadership rules you’ve developed?




[1] Parrish, Shane. Clear Thinking. Xiv.

[2] Willard, Dallas. Renovation of the Heart. 205

[3] Shane, Parrish, “Daniel Kahneman: putting Your Intuition On Ice,” The Knowledge Project, podcast, episode 68.

[4] Scazzero, Pete. The Emotionally Healthy Leader. 247.

[5] Philippians 2:3-4 NIV

About the Author


Ryan Thorson

Follower of Jesus. Husband. Father. Pastor. Coach. I am passionate about helping people discover the gift of Sabbath and slow down spirituality in the context of our busy world.

8 responses to “The Power to Abandon the Outcome”

  1. Julie O'Hara says:

    Hi Ryan,
    Thank you for your post, I enjoy the connection to our city. Your insight about abandoning outcomes to God is helpful and healthful. Can you say more about staying true to this leadership rule? In what ways is it easy or difficult?

  2. Nancy Blackman says:

    I have thoroughly appreciated your writing throughout this semester. Thank you.

    Your headline on this blog post grabbed my attention right away!

    And kudos to you for abandoning the outcome for the removal of the word “evangelical” in your church name, although I think it’s wise — just my 2 cents.

    You mention a valuable point that leaders are often driven by results. What would be a better alternative? What would help a leader know they are on track without having to always check in with whatever results are needed given their context?

    And, what’s the worst thing that can happen if the leadership of your church decide to keep the word “evangelical” in your name?

  3. mm Chris Blackman says:

    Hey Ryan,
    I see the Blackmans are ganging up on you!.
    I love your post. I love that your church wanted to remove the “evangelical” label, and I love that people were open to it.
    I also fully appreciate your “abandon the outcome to God.” I see the changes that it brought in how you handled being a leader – what a healthy (and scary!) way to come about a decision to change.
    As we are discussing and wrestling where God wants us to go next, I keep wanting to abandon it to God, but then my fears get in the way. I am certainly a work in progress.
    Do you see that any of your leaders or people from your church saw God’s hand in all of this and will start to practice that methodology themselves?
    I told Nancy the other day that if we ever moved back to Portland again, I would want to attend your church! (just don’t make me do anything” 🙂

  4. Diane Tuttle says:

    Hi Ryan, Reading your posts this semester has been thought provoking. Your pondering if we need to abandon the outcome to God is remarkably simply yet profound. You also have pinpointed the need to be well differentiated, yourself to lead through this time. If the name of the church changes, does the mission of the church change too? Or, was the name change initiated to not scare people off? If that latter, has part of the discussion been about what is wanted rather than what is not wanted?

  5. Debbie Owen says:

    Ryan, I knew there was a good reason I liked you. 😉 I also love Dallas Willard (though I don’t have much memorized! I would have to thumb through all my Willard books to find such a great quote). And I also love Pete Scazzero. Oh, and I LOVE the “let God handle the outcome” part. I am grateful for that reminder; I actually need it every day. lol!

    I’m eager to hear what your church name will be and any additional stories you can share about the learnings from the process. God bless!

  6. Daren Jaime says:

    Hey Ryan! I enjoyed your post. Using Parrish as a backdrop, what ways can we implement better to bring that outcome back to God?

  7. Akwese says:

    Ryan, thanks for this post. It was a powerful reflection on something vital for us all if we’re to be like Jesus and live our faith in practice. Imagine how different the world would be if we all had a rule around abandoning all outcomes to God. I paused when you posed the question because this would be a game-changer on so many levels.

    You provided an example of when this rule served you well and spoke to how it can serve us all well, but how might you nurture more people on your team to do the same, moving it from a personal safeguard to an organisational one?

  8. mm Kari says:

    Ryan, I loved your fantastic example of your real-life application. Well done on trusting the process and the Holy Spirit. One of my safeguards is to ask myself questions before committing to something:
    Am I the one who could do this best?
    Who else could or should do it?
    Is this something I am passionate about?
    Do I feel complete peace about this?

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