Church & Minister Relations
"Basic premise of discernment: God has a will for the life of the (association) and wants to make that will known." Seeking & Doing God's Will: Discernment for the Community of Faith
"The goal of a corporate discernment experience is to faithfully participate with the Spirit of God in the life of God's people." Seeking & Doing God's Will: Discernment for the Community of Faith.
► Gathering – Prior to a time of discernment, it would be helpful for groups to enter a sacred period of seeking. This period is referred to as the "Gathering."
– "Participants in a discernment experience gather in the power of the Spirit, conscious of their status as God's people. Gathering the group in this way is fundamental for discernment, for it ‘marks’ them, or sets them aside, as God's people, created by God for God's will, rather than as a group of people inclined to follow their own desires."
► Presentation – The beginning of discernment is a statement of the facts regarding the need/opportunity.
► Scripture – "Scripture is the founding story of the Christian faith. Here the group begins to make connections between the congregation's story and the story of God's people in Scripture."
- This allows the group to discern God's leading through story - both the stories that make up the tradition of the congregation and stories drawn from the tradition of the Christian church through the ages.
- Types of stories congregations have to tell:
- Founding stories
- Hero stories
- Unfolding stories
- Sad stories
► Reason – The Reason Movement is a constructive process that builds upon the ideas of all the participants in the group instead of playing off the merits of the various contributions against one another. In discernment, reasoning means gathering together the wisdom contained in the whole group. Each person should speak only once.
► Experience – Discernment must inevitably lead to hearts listening in quiet prayer. The Experience Movement of the discernment process provides the time for the group to focus on their experience of God's presence in their midst.
► Direction – Discernment should result in a consensus of the group of a peace from God about what direction He would have the group to move. The whole discernment experience takes place in the context of the grace of God. The work of discernment accomplishes nothing by itself; it is only effective when we offer it to God for God's blessing.
- Desire for certainty
- Human time frames
► The Scripture Test -
(Points to discuss) - Is this issue Scriptural?
- The more Scripture you know, the easier this will be.
- Check the Scripture context and implications.
- Reading between the lines sometimes is needed.
► The Test of Time –
(Points to discuss) - How has God worked throughout the history of the Church, especially up to 325 AD, before the Church was institutionalized?
- How does this stack up against church doctrine, established in the 1st three centuries or so?
- Scriptures acknowledges differences within the Body on nonessentials (Romans 14:1) and tells us not to quarrel about them. (II Tim. 2:23-24).
► The Fruit Test –
(Points to discuss) - Look at the messenger/source bringing this thought.
- Look at probable outcomes.
- Seek answers to the when and how questions, as well as the what question.
► Confirmation by Circumstances or Other Persons –
(Points to discuss) - Look at natural and supernatural circumstances.
- Possible to "fleece", See Judges 6, Gideon's example
- Involve praying friends.
► The Order and Priority Test
(Points to discuss) - Determine ranking of priorities.
- Is That Your, Lord: Practical Methods for Learning Spiritual Discernment, p. 78-100.
► Is fear lurking somewhere in this decision?
- “The most repeated command from the lips of Jesus was, ‘Fear not.’ The command from heaven not to be afraid appears in every book of the Bible.” - In the Grip of' Grace, p. 102.
► Am I confused about any aspect of this?
- I Cor. 14:33 - God is not a God of confusion, but of peace.
► Is this a 'have-to' or a 'get-to'?
- Have-to speaks of legalism. Get-to speaks of freedom in Christ.
► Does it build up or divide the Body of Christ?
- Look at the many "one another" passages in Scripture.
► Will I feel guilty if I don't do it?
- True conviction leads to confession, forgiveness, and change.
- Vague guilt keeps us in bondage and is not of God.
► Does it make sense?
► Am I being tempted or encouraged?
God encourages, Satan tempts.
► Will it pass the `love' test?
- Assess the effect this decision will have on the lives of others.
- "Often the will of God for our lives becomes clear when we look at the needs of those around us."
- Assess your attitude, not just the decision.
- When discernment is accurate, peace replaces tension, kindness banishes anger. Love wins.
► Is the peace of Christ present?
- "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives."
- "The wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure, then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere."
* Remember - Is it our heart and willing obedience that the Lord wants, not our always being right.