DMin, Leadership and Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

When Not Knowing and Not Doing are Not Options

Written by: on November 30, 2020

A hacker got on to the Zoom call of an all-church meeting we had last Sunday.

We were running the meeting from our church building, with about twenty-five people physically present and the rest on the call. My immediate supervisor was also on hand to preside. Our Associate Pastor was handling technical support from his laptop, while I sat ten feet away with my laptop. Just I was making some introductory remarks, asking our Associate to share his screen so that all could see the agenda, pornographic images of naked women began scrolling uncontrollably in front of us. It was shocking.

It only took a second to figure out what was happening and just a few more seconds for my Associate and me to solve the problem and tighten the security protocols, but it was easily the worst half-minute I have had in a long time. Certainly one of the most “2020” things that has happened to me this year. I was embarrassed and angry for not having done more to prevent the hack in the first place. Thankfully, our people were understanding and gracious and the rest of the meeting was fine.

In fact, the overall response from people was very positive. People shared words of affirmation at how calm and composed my Associate and I seemed to be in the moment, though I did not feel calm and composed. They were grateful we were able to act so quickly to avoid any more exposure than absolutely necessary, though to me our response seemed to take a lifetime.

D’Souza and Renner’s titles, “Not Knowing” and “Not Doing,” might sound a bit misleading. The books are not invitations to ignorance or idleness or inaction, they are instead a call to intentionality. To take a posture of “not knowing” is to be open to new possibilities and insights, what a Christian might call the leading of the Holy Spirit. To adopt a position of “not doing” is to remain free to adapt and go where the moment and circumstances take you. These books are about “the art of turning uncertainty into opportunity”[1] and “the art of effortless action.”[2]

I am not writing this to brag. Trust me, I am still kicking myself for not having thought ahead more deeply about potential breaches in security. And I will be happy for that never to happen again. But as I reflect on this experience in light of what we have been learning and trying to practice during this highly unconventional year, I can see how being more intentional about not knowing and not doing in my daily practice might have prepared me for a time when not knowing and not doing were not options. Perhaps what my Associate and I found in those chaotic and confusing moments were effortless action and an opportunity born from uncertainty.

And if that is so, then perhaps we are more ready than we think to tackle whatever comes next. It is exhausting trying to know everything and do everything all the time. Whether we are trying to navigate an organization or a nation through a pandemic, or thrive in relationships, or respond faithfully to evil, injustice, and oppression in all the forms in which they present themselves, we can do this work better when we are more thoughtful about when to add our knowledge to the conversation or our action to the activity.

Then, instead of always trying to know everything and do everything, we can be better prepared when our knowledge and our action are absolutely the right things at just the right times.

[1] Diana Renner and Steven D’Souza, “Not Knowing: The Art Turning Uncertainty into Opportunity,” (New York: LID Publishing, 2016.)

[2] Steven D’Souza and Diana Renner, “Not Doing: The Art of Effortless Action,” (New York: LID Publishing, 2018.)

About the Author


John McLarty

Husband. Dad. Pastor. Play a little golf.

One response to “When Not Knowing and Not Doing are Not Options”

  1. mm Jason Clark says:

    How awful. How we respond is often always more important than what happened. Well done.

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