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

The Really Big Transformation as Life Happens

Written by: on March 3, 2022

In less than 2 hours I will tell the church I have been serving for five years I am resigning and moving to North Carolina to serve a new church.  It would be nice if “The Great Transformation” referred to my mental and emotional clarity this week, but alas it does not.  Instead, it is the book lying beside me that was written by economic historian, Karl Polanyi.   The Great Transformation: The Political and Economic Origins of Our Time outlines the emergence of Self Regulating Markets by way of a thorough study of societal behaviors amidst economic history. Polanyi tethers his book to his argument that SRM’s really require governments to intervene due primarily to the inadequate ability for the market to maintain stability.

I was struck by Dr Clark’s comment, “Whilst economists are prone to ignore economic history, theology and economics are even more likely to ignore and suffer avulsions with each other.”[1] Is this not the case for theology and science, or sexuality, or philosophy, or…fill in the blank?  It seems that anxiety[2] and biases[3] frequently create challenging spaces for transformative dialogue.  Gregory Baum says this about Polayni:

In the past, Polanyi argues, economic activity was embedded in the social relations that made up the community as a whole. What was new and startling with the self-regulating market was that it ‘disembedded’ the economy from its social base, created widespread cultural alienation among workers and owners, and left society and the natural environment without protection. This ‘disembedding’ of economic activity from people’s social relations remains a key concept in Polanyi’s analysis.[4]

It seems the truth of Baum’s statement is that the very nature of “disembedding” actions from social engagement has the effect of disembodying the natural connection between humans and God.  I see it in the unhealthy relationship the church and members have with money.  The relationship is so warpped we cannot talk about money. Actually, we do not know how to talk about, talk about stewardship of it, or talk about those who do not have it.  How different would it be if the church had ways to weave together an embodiment of social connectedness and money?

Admittedly my brain does not currently have the band width to process economic theories or how politics and markets were affected by WW2 and the industrial revolution.  This really was supposed to be a “life is happening again” reflection.  As I write, I am having to work hard to come back from the mental space of fretting over the approaching time tonight where I tell the session I am resigning.  I do not know how honest I ought to be with them.  Do I reflect back to them that their resistance to considering alternate revenue streams will likely be the death nail?  Do I admit that one reason I am leaving is because I am excited to be doubling my salary with this new call (yes I realize the irony of that claim in the shadow of these past books)? Do I share with them that their lack of passion to embody the social nature of our Trinitarian God is a reflection of the capitalistic, individualistic, consumeristic that lacks the joy and love of the discipleship we are called to live?

I am realizing to be self-differentiated as I say goodbye to a community that has provided space for me to heal and grow is difficult.  This community has an emotional identity tied to rejection from the revolving door of pastors that came before me.  I feel bad.  I don’t want to compound their brokenness. But I must not allow myself to become emmeshed with the emotions of the system.  To say I have grown in this place is profound.  To recognize I have grown beyond them is possibly selfish. However I am sure Friedman would challenge me on how I use that word.  The great transformation may be an overstatement, but it is pretty large.

[1]  Clark, Jason Paul. n.d. “Evangelism and Capitalism: A Reparative Account and Diagnosis of Pathogeneses in the Relationship,” 287.Page 123.

[2] Friedman, Edwin H., and Peter Steinke. 2017. A Failure of Nerve, Revised Edition: Leadership in the Age of the Quick Fix. 10th Anniversary edition. New York: Church Publishing.Anxious systems are not easily swayed by information presented due to the lack of self-differentiation within it.

[3] Kahneman, Daniel. 2013. Thinking, Fast and Slow. 1st edition. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.Kahneman shows how difficult it can be to break down biases that get in the way of having  non-anxious and objective dialogue.

[4]  Gregory Baum, Karl Polanyi on Ethics and Economics (Montreal: McGill-Queen University

Press, 1996), 4, quoted in Clark, Jason Paul. n.d. “Evangelism and Capitalism: A Reparative Account and Diagnosis of Pathogeneses in the Relationship,” 287.Page 124.

About the Author


Nicole Richardson

PC(USA) pastor serving a church in Kansas City. In my spare time I teach yoga and scuba diving

14 responses to “The Really Big Transformation as Life Happens”

  1. mm Jonathan Lee says:

    Transitions are always tough, but I am sure God is leading you one step at a time. What are some ways God has grown you through your pastoring at Kansas City?

    • mm Nicole Richardson says:

      Jonathan God has nudged me back to believe in my strength and to honor the me God has created me to be. I am learning how to improve my self-regulation of my emotions and my mouth. I am finding my voice again, voice of passion, theology, and conviction. AND I am learning how to see when things are mine to own and where the boundaries are to those things that are for others to own.

  2. mm Roy Gruber says:

    Nicole, I am amazed you were able to create a post at all this week much less one so good. I trust your time with the session went well and I’m guessing you will share your transition with the church on Sunday. I will be praying for that as people will react in many ways. May God give you strength for that day the days after! In your post you ask, “Do I share with them that their lack of passion to embody the social nature of our Trinitarian God is a reflection of the capitalistic, individualistic, consumeristic that lacks the joy and love of the discipleship we are called to live?” I am intrigued by your thoughts of the “social nature of our Trinitarian God.” How do you understand that and in what ways has that been resisted by a lack of passion in your present context?

    • mm Nicole Richardson says:

      Roy thank you for your prayers!! I have made it through the first Sunday with the congregation knowing I am leaving. It was a strange day.
      I see the Trinity being in a social dance. The relationship between the Father, Son and Holy Spirit is one of equality and surrender, one of love. The perichoresis of the Trinity models for us the ways we are called to be in relationship with each other as we “dance” with God. It is intimate…founded on a covenantal trust. It is a challenge to inspire the community to make this kind of commitment to this kind of relationship a priority.

  3. mm Troy Rappold says:

    Nice take on this book with your personal stage of professional development. Transition is a worthy theme to pull out of Clark’s thesis and Polanyi’s book. You are acting on faith and following where God is leading you…He will take care of the flock and He will provide the next shepherd for their care and growth. Friedman would be proud. What role in your new position are you most nervous about?

    • mm Nicole Richardson says:

      Thank you Troy!
      Wow your question is more personal than perhaps you intended. Honestly I am most nervous about if I can actually do it. My other calls I had fires to put out and didn’t have time to engage in a “honeymoon” period. I think I am afraid of having that honeymoon.

  4. mm Andy Hale says:


    Good work and outstanding leadership should be rewarded. Do not be ashamed for pursuing something that will provide more sustainability for you and your family.

    I have found that most ministers can only be so gracious and pastoral for too long under horrid pay conditions before their spirit and passion falters. It’s hard to work in a place that doesn’t validate your work with what they pay you.

    I pastored a new church start for eight years, taking a nearly $30k pay cut from my previous ministry setting. While meeting a need, I was leaving my family in a financial hole, not saving money for my kids to go to college, and not providing the opportunities they needed to grow.

    • mm Nicole Richardson says:

      Andy thank you so much for kicking me in the butt! Sometimes I easily fall back into what I call “the martyr syndrome”. I am doing God’s work so I should not expect to be paid my value. I have been in that frame of mind for the vast majority of my almost 21 years of ordination. I think I need you around to kick me in the ass whenever I decide to pretend to be a martyr 🙂

  5. Kayli Hillebrand says:

    Nicole: Given all you wrote about and reflected on with your life transition and it’s connections to money, what are some ways you are hoping to address some of those challenges in this new pastoral context? During your interview process, did you get a sense that this new congregation is more open to new ideas, honest conversation about hard topics, and eager for the Lord to lead in perhaps a new way?

    • mm Nicole Richardson says:

      Kayli I know that one of the drama’s I am walking into is the tension they have over an endowment they have had for about 10 years. They received a 2 million dollar bequest that has grown to over 3 million. They never put good structure around the endowment so now they are wrangling over what part of the money can be used and for what. Grounding them in discipleship will be important. I also believe that addressing the anxiety some have over security of the future that is tied to money will be paramount. So I think we will have the opportunity to talk about identity, money, faith and how this all ties into our capitalistic, consumeristic culture.

  6. mm Eric Basye says:

    Nicole, thinking of you now as you will be (or already have) shared with your church. As I think of God’s leading in your life, know also that He will care for and provide for your current church as well. I always have to remind myself of that reality. I pray His blessings on you and both churches!

    And great post. Well communicated. I am excited for this new season and the self-differentiated leader you have (and are) becoming. It is quite exciting to watch!

    • mm Nicole Richardson says:

      Eric, thank you so much! One of your profound gifts is being an encourager. I am so thankful for you! BUT I hope you will call me out when I exhibit undifferentiated leadership :0

  7. mm Denise Johnson says:

    Nicole, Firstly, congratulations on your new church and surviving telling your current church. Good for you for having the courage to take that step. I would be interested to hear how you have applied what we have been learning to your communication with your current church.

    • mm Nicole Richardson says:

      Thank you Denise!

      I think the most impact on my being and how I have been communicating really has been Freidman. I have been more mindful/intentional about my self-differentiation in conversation. I have been intently listening for the anxiety that is present. In all this it is helping me recognize how my own non-anxious presence is impacting those I am in conversation with.

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