“Transforming” with Glen Guyton

~ing podcast Season 2 Episode 4
Full Episode Transcript

Season 2 Episode 4: “Transforming” with Glen Guyton was released on February 1, 2022. The audio recording is available on all major podcasting platforms. More information is available here.

Episode Description:

As we begin Black History Month, ~ing Podcast host Rev. Dr. Dennis Edwards sits down with Glen Guyton, Executive Director of Mennonite Church USA in this week’s episode. They will be talking leading in today’s world, navigating church dynamics, and transforming faith spaces through church leadership. They will also discuss themes from Glen’s new book, Reawakened: How Your Congregation Can Spark Lasting Change, available now from Herald Press! This is the second half of a conversation from the first season of ~ing Podcast. You can go back and listen to the first part in episode #41 – “Reawakening.”

Glen Guyton, Regina Shands Stoltzfus, Dennis Edwards, Ben Wideman

Ben Wideman  00:00
Welcome to Season Two of ~ing Podcast, a production of MennoMedia’s Leader Magazine.  What does it mean to authentically follow Jesus? Each week ~ing Podcast invites you to join us on a journey. Join us as we talk with people of faith who are creatively thinking, growing, and being people who are reimagining and exploring what it means to enrich faith in a complex world.

Glen Guyton  00:27
Even when I do diversity training, it all boils down to back to who are you? You know, who do you say you are? And then how do you get to that, that place? How do you live that out? You know, organizations have mission statements… vision statements, but is that really what you’re living into? Are your actions aligned with, with who you say you are? I think that’s our biggest, biggest challenge.

Ben Wideman  00:49
Our conversation begins now. Join us as we journey together.

Dennis Edwards  00:57
Thanks for checking out ~ing Podcast. We’re happy to have you joining us. I’m Dennis Edwards, Associate Professor of New Testament at North Park Theological Seminary. And I’m thrilled to be talking with Glen Guyton, he’s, well, one of the hats that he wears is the is being the Executive Director of Mennonite Church, USA. So Glen, thanks for being here. And how are you doing?

Glen Guyton  01:19
Hey, I’m doing great, Dennis, thank you for allowing me to join the “ing” podcast. It’s a pleasure to be here today.

Dennis Edwards  01:26
Yeah, we were we’re leaning into the participles with “ing.” So there’s a lot of “ing” going on. We’re growing, learning, and all that kind of stuff. So yeah, I’m glad you’re with us. You know, I used to get asked a lot, you know, how did I become a Mennonite? So I’m asking you that how did you become a Mennonite? And are people ever surprised to learn that you are a Mennonite?

Glen Guyton  01:48
Yeah, people are always surprised to hear that, and the looks that I get, and the silence that happens after people find out who I am, or find out my role in the Mennonite Church. But I say I became a Mennonite because God has a sense of humor. That’s what I… that’s what I say. Actually, it was, you know, I was in a military. I don’t know if you know that, that.

Dennis Edwards  02:12
I saw that in your bio. That’s interesting. To end up in Mennonite Church.

Glen Guyton  02:18
Yeah. So I knew nothing about the Mennonites. So the Anabaptists… I grew up up in the Presbyterian Church.

Dennis Edwards  02:24

Glen Guyton 02:25
And so, you know, I was always, you know, I was raised in a Christian household and really given a good foundation, my mother was instrumental in, in my faith formation, and growing up, so I was always active in church, went to college, kind of straight away a little bit, I would say, trying to figure out, you know, what’s next for my life in college, which the Air Force Academy actually, so was an officer in Air Force, and got stationed in Virginia, at Langley Air Force Base in Virginia. Okay, and I used to go out go and work out every morning in the gym at five o’clock in the morning. And I ran into this young woman asked her if she would like to go out on a date. And she said, “well, I go to church.” Okay. She took me to the she took me to this African American Mennonite Church in Virginia, Calvary Community Church. Yeah. And I liked the church you know, I liked the message that they, that they shared and rededicated my life to the Lord at that time, and really launched me into a more mature relationship in my faith walk you know more mature relationship with God beyond what I had been doing as a as a teenager, right? And so became active in the in that congregation and started learning about their peace stance as Anabaptists and started connecting the dots between the teachings of Martin Luther King and what what it meant to be a pacifist.  I learned more about the Anabaptist theology and the rejection of of some of the the violence that’s a part of our society, a part of some of our governmental structures and I said, okay, hey, I never really knew about this, but this is kind of this kind of fits who I am. Yeah, and that’s kind of that started my journey in the Mennonite Church.

Dennis Edwards 04:17
Oh, God bless you. I appreciate that. I I can relate to what it’s like to be an African American in a in a larger white denomination. You’ve persevered in the Mennonite Church, and now Executive Director, but but but your theological passions fit well in there and, and then you are navigating the cultural issues that come along with it, but I appreciate  that you saw the theological truth there… something about peace,

Glen Guyton  04:50

Dennis Edwards  04:50
The way of Jesus that that really resonates with me. And I want to talk a little bit about the book that you have out as a as I continue on here. You have a book called “Ideal Me.” Right? 

Glen Guyton  05:04

Dennis Edwards  05:04
“:Discovering Your Call in a Cluttered World.” And I’m wondering if you could share with us a little bit like, who did you have in mind as you were putting that together? And and what are you hoping to communicate through the book?

Glen Guyton 05:16
Well, you know, now, that’s my first… that’s my first book that I wrote. And, you know, it’s targeted in young people. I was a youth pastor for a number of years. So young adults, I think, would be a great audience for this book. But I do find that many adults, more mature adults are still trying to figure out like, what is their ideal path in life? So yeah, what is the call that you need to respond to in your life, you have so many different things going on. So many different people and things, giving us messages, this is what you should do. This is how your life should be. Especially now in the era of social, social media, you know, we have so many conflicting messages, and we have so many false images of what it means to be successful. So I decided to write a book to help people have some clarity about that. So understanding your call, how do you figure out where God is leading you… What you should be doing with your life.

Dennis Edwards 06:20
Amen. That sounds powerful, like you said, for any age, but I appreciate that you had you had young folks in mind, but and now I look at the millennials, and then and then the generation coming up after them. This notion that, okay, it’s, it’s different than saying how watch my dad stay at the same job for 30… 40 years, or whatever was, and how they’ve been moving around and trying to figure out, I’ve actually appreciated that they seem to have more free, more freedom, a sense of freedom to say, this doesn’t this doesn’t fit. So I’m going to go over here, where some of us has stayed and you know, maybe even banging our head against the wall and said, I’m going to stay here. So I like this notion of people finding out what what God’s will might be or where they might fit in. Have you found just I don’t know, anecdotally, have people responded? Well, to you to that message.


I think they have I mean, that’s actually the the message that I, I preach. Anytime I preach it pretty much is even when I do diversity training, it all boils down to back to who are you? You know, who do you say you are? And then how do you get to that, that place? How do you live that out? You know, organizations have mission statement vision statements, but is that really what you’re living living into? Are you… are your actions aligned with, with who you say you are? I think that’s our biggest, biggest challenge, you know, what are you called to be as an organization and then if you don’t feel like you’re called to be something, don’t be that don’t do that. You aren’t willing to pay to pay to pay the price, right? There’s a cost to some of these things, whether there’s a cost to, to live in our dreams, to, to live in this life. You know, there’s, there’s almost always some type of, I think of a trade off. And sometimes we pay the price because, you know, we, we ask for things, but we’re really not willing to do everything that it takes to get there. Right. You know, we have these big dreams, but we don’t want to pay the cost to, to see the those dreams to the end. And sometimes we take on other things, we get distracted. We’re paying the cost for other people, right? And God has called us somewhere else. But we’re, we’re so busy trying to be like somebody else or, or to another person’s ideal that we don’t know what our ideal life is.


Oh, man, now you preaching to me. Okay. I tell you, I’m, I mean, in this in the past oral world and in the academic world. I don’t I don’t know if it’s just me, but I feel like there’s always a sense of looking over and comparing so you should not be doing this. Should I be doing that? And then you want to get in getting distracted. I like what you’re saying there. I mean, I think that’s true for everybody. Um, along the way so thank you for that. I’m curious now is there is there another book in you or another book that’s coming?


Yeah, I have another book through through MennoMedia so this book, “Ideal Me” you can order it on Amazon or go to my website, GlennGuyton.com To order that but you know, one of the things that has been a big challenge during the pandemic was the feeding programs. And often churches will have a food pantry. Now we need to do a food pantry. Well maybe you do. Maybe you don’t. You know maybe you need to go and volunteer at the food pantry in your you know, in your community to help them out. Why are you going to start a little food pantry that doesn’t really have good access or You’re not in a community where people can get to you. So those are things you need to think through as them as a ministry to say, How can I be effective? How can I engage to give the community that God has called me to


So much wisdom there. Thank you, I, I have been in that place as a young pastor thinking we had to do everything that popped into people’s heads as an idea or our turn to do this. I chose to do that. And I’m trying to get him to say, Wait, you know, let’s focus because we can we can fill a niche that somebody else isn’t filling, but ever, right? So they were like, No, we got to do the food pantry, we have to do this, we have to the food pantry triggered that for me, because that was one of the things we said, people are doing a much better job of feeding hungry people and and we were not able to, we could we would have been better off supporting that work. So there’s was a lot of them, right? Well, as I think about that, I mean, you’re you’re you have this role, where I’m sure you’re hearing from clergy are hearing about clergy are hearing about churches. So you’re in a good place to, to have written that book, because you have a big a large view, you have the experience, but also a big view, right? So is there like any particular word or a encouragement, and maybe it’s coming out of the book, or just just anecdotally, that could be a word of what I say encouragement and challenge for clergy or for churches in general? Like, right at this moment?


Yeah, man, it could be so many things. Part of it is, is discipleship and relationships are so important. During this time, I think we are moving from an understanding that church means meeting in a building. And you know, and going to this one location with a whole bunch of overhead, but ministry needs to be we need to be a little bit more creative in how we do ministry, and we need to really fill up, figure out how to connect with people. Even if we aren’t able to gather like we did previously, I do think some of the expectations of how we meet physically are going to go into change. But that doesn’t mean that we can’t be be relevant as churches, and some churches have really done a good job of I would say pivotal. During this time, they’ve increased their online engagement, they’ve increased their community engagement, they’ve realized the importance of partners, and in being able to facilitate, you know, meeting the needs of people, even if they couldn’t do it all themselves. And so that that role is going to be more important that facilitator role in the community is going to be so much more important. I think, moving forward. Versus I don’t know, I’m using this very specific way versus the kingdom that we had in ministries before. Right? Everybody’s trying to grow their own.

Dennis Edwards  12:52

Yep. Yes, yeah.

Glen Guyton  12:56

Now we’re going to have to be mobile, and we’re going to have to connect with people in different ways. And I think that can happen in a number of ways. I think some churches will be able to expand, you know, using this digital platform, and, and, you know, reach a whole lot of a lot of people in a very specific way. But some churches may find, hey, I need to be a resource in this community, that now instead of trying to be all things, all people, I need to start filling a very specific niche in this community. And I think both of those models can be successful, you just have to figure out what you’re called, right? I have a 20 year old son soon to be 20 year old son, who watches you know, ministry online, you know, stream, sermons and stuff on on Facebook and all that stuff, or YouTube or whatever. And, you know, so so there’s a role for that type of ministry, that type of connection, the ability to reach a lot of people educate a lot of people, but you still need churches in the community that can kind of put their hands on on somebody that can respond mmediately if there are some challenges that are going on,


Well said, yeah, right. There’s no excuse. I mean, no substitute for good community. And, and I think that people are feeling that in the pandemic. And your, uh, your, I think what you’re saying is really scratching the itch for a lot of people. I and I would go so far as to say even folks who are outside the church, they may what we may have used to call seekers or people who are watching Christians, they want to see genuine community, I think they’re tired of the polarization and churches trying to do more than to do. So. I feel like what you’re saying is a good word. That’s also a missional word in that people when they’re looking at the church and see, hey, that church cares about my community. They’re not worried about being 10,000… They’re worried about what’s going on right here how God is using them. I think that speaks to people. Yeah. Wow. I you know, sometimes I can’t believe I’m as old as I am. But By God’s grace, I’ve seen it endured quite a bit, you know, even a marginalization from other Christians. I remember when when you were saying earlier about the Obama era, and people thought we were in this post racial era and all that. So now I even have grandkids and stuff. And I’m hoping that Well, I mean, I know the world’s not going to solve all its problems, but I’m hoping I’m hoping that when they get older, that this work of justice won’t be that they’ll find more allies, and it’ll be like a growing movement. So I’m curious to what might be your hopes you mentioned a 20 year old son, I’m just like, what’s your hope to that generation in the next generation?


Yeah, you know, my daughter, and I were talking about that. She’s, she’s 23. And I was like, I didn’t expect all this stuff. in your lifetime, I thought we were past that, you know, I thought we were getting ready to go to the next level. But, but some things have have improved, I think some things have improved dramatically, and you know, even the socio economic status of some people of color, you know, there are some additional opportunities out there, I just hope that we can, you know, move out of some of this polarization, that we’re able to communicate with one another. And really just, you know, appreciate who we are, you know, the differences, that we don’t become so entrenched in our own identities that we can’t appreciate other people. And so what is that going to take? I think some of its going to take more people of color, and people from different backgrounds, moving into positions of power, that that’s one of the things that I hope that there are more, more, there’s more diversity and inclusion in places of power, I think that will help. I do think that as you know, our communities change. As people interact more that some of these things will happen. Naturally, you know, there will be more people from, you know, multi ethnic and multi racial backgrounds, who are forming families and who are living in community together. So I’m hoping that that will be, you know, have a positive impact on our in our community. And I do have faith that you know, that God is in control. You know, at the end of the day, we can’t worry about any of these things. You know, we want to speak out when we have an opportunity to speak out. We want to set examples when we can set examples, but at the end of the day, we have to trust God, we have to live a life of faith. That’s what I want for my, my children. One of my prayers is that God, you know, I believe you for your peace. Yeah. And so, you know, I want that that peace to, to rest on me. And for those that I come in contact with.

Dennis Edwards  17:54

Amen. You said earlier, you reference the apostle Paul, that we walk by faith and not by sight. So I, I’m really encouraged by what you’re saying. I mean, it’s a challenge in some ways, because people want to see everything change right away, or, but it is a it is a journey of faith. And so speaking of this journey, like maybe on a personal note, I could ask you what, what helps you to find a sense of, I’ll say balance, or what encourages your face as you you know, just on the day to day, or even if it’s recreational, like, What habits do you have that help you to stay focused?


Yeah, I have probably have really bad habits because I really enjoy working and I would probably work all the time if my wife didn’t stop me. But I’ll tell you tell you what, so So in my book that I wrote the ideal meaning, one of the taglines in that book is, is to live your life and love the life that you live. And that’s my encouragement for people. You know, wherever you are, wherever you are created, live your life because nobody else can live that life and live the life that you live, Don’t be envious of what’s going on that person, that person, but be thankful for the life that God has given you. And so that’s, that’s part of my philosophy is just being thankful, Hey, God, you know, with all my flaws, all the things that I wish were different about me, I’m thankful for the life that you’ve given me. And I know that I’m blessed, whether that evidence is always there. I know that I’m blessed. And the other thing is I made a decision a few years back to say, you know, I’m gonna step out on faith and and say, “God, I’m gonna believe you.” First one is one thing, I’m gonna believe you for your peace. And I would pray that routinely and say, God, I believe you for your peace. And that piece has found his way into my life and my heart and I enjoy it. You know, I enjoy it. I believe that I have received that piece and so I you know, I understand that everyday may not be a great day, and we will have a ups and downs at but I know that the peace of God rests upon my life and the life of my family. And, you know, if there’s some trouble that may be happening in the moment that peace will be on the other side of that.


Well, wow, my brother Glen, that that’s powerful. Peace and thankfulness. I mean, what a what a good word for us to, to dwell on. As we come to the close of our conversation, that’s just, that’s just worthy of some some reflection on there. So thank you for that. That’s powerful.


One thing I will say though, as we think about polarizations, in our in our society and what’s going on, you know, you know, there is if, if you get something in your life, if God blesses you, I should not feel in any way that that detracts from, from who I who I am, amen, or my ability to live my life. And so, if you are blessed, if you get some, I’m thankful for that. Because I believe that, you know, the Bible says that, you know, God, you know, owns the cattle on 1000 hills, you know, there’s, there’s enough to go around, and so I don’t have to get threatened or anxious because someone else gets ahead in life. I know my blessing is right around the corner.

Dennis Edwards  21:20

Yeah. Amen. Amen. That’s a good word. So many folks got this myth of scarcity. They think there’s no limit with God. But thank you for that. Well, let me let me ask you before we’re done here, anything that you want to share about any other projects you’re working on, maybe something that’s happened in some initiatives in the Mennonite church, or something that you’d like to share anything you’re excited about?


Well, I always have a number of projects going on, getting ready to launch a new leadership training called Leadership Diversify, and that’ll be coming out to help organizations so whether it’s ministry organizations, or whether it’s a corporation, if you want to help your leadership, team, navigate, communicate and collaborate with an ever increasingly diverse workforce. I provide some tools and techniques to help people get there. I think leadership is is really important. Leaders have the ability to really, you know, create anxiety or or tap anxiety down. And so it’s really important. We take our roles as leaders seriously that we get knowledge and we try to operate from a culturally competent point of view.

Dennis Edwards  22:41

Yes, I can. I can appreciate that. Well, God bless you, my brother. I thank you so much for being with us. Could you remind us how people can find you if you’re on social media or how they can? How they can see what you’re up to?


Yeah, it’s GlenGuyton.com is my website. All my social media is Glenn Guyton, I try to make it really simple for people to find

Dennis Edwards  23:06

very good.

Ben Wideman  23:10

Next week, our ~ing Podcast journey continues with Dr. Regina Shands Stoltzfus. Regina is co founder of the Roots of Justice Anti-Oppression Program, has worked widely in peace education, as well as being a professor at Goshen College.

Regina Shands Stoltzfus  23:26

Even with the problems that we have today, the world in 2022. It’s very different than the world in 1957. Right? That is because of the people during that time, that held their ground, that built community together and had a vision that they were collectively working towards, and they had successes in that successes that led to where we are today.

Ben Wideman  23:59

As always, we’d like to thank our guests, and all who support ~ing Podcast. Thank you for joining us on the journey. If you enjoyed the show, please leave us a review on your favorite podcasting app. And if you have something to share, send us a message at [email protected] or by leaving us a voicemail. ~ing Podcast is hosted by Reverend Allison Maus, Reverend Dr. Dennis Edwards, and produced by me Ben Wideman. Views and opinions expressed on ~ing Podcast are those of our hosts and guests and may not represent that of Leader Magazine or MennoMedia. ~ing Podcast is a production of MennoMedia, a nonprofit publisher that creates thoughtful Anabaptist resources to enrich faith in a complex world. To find out more, visit us online at MennoMedia.org.