A Theology of Discernment

The word theology means how to we talk about or how we study God. In this article I want to talk about how we understand and live out the will of God.

When Jesus stated the family of God was made of those people who did the will of God (Mark 3:35) and then in Gethsemane, before his crucifixion, he asked that God's will be done (Mark 14:35); we gain insight or understanding about how Jesus understood the will of God. These two verses of scripture show Jesus' desire to do God's will. This desire to do God's will is what I am calling discernment or spiritual discernment.

What Discernment Is Not

Discernment is not to be confused with consensus decision making. Consensus beats the win-lose approach that may polarize and divide people. Please remember this, Jesus was crucified at the end of a consensus decision.

Discernment is not a political process.

Discernment is not a rational, logical, ordered discipline which leads to inescapable conclusions.

What Discernment Is

Discernment is to see the movement of God.

It is to see the world from God's perspective and to be able to uncover the decision he has made.

No one person knows fully the will of God. Our sin prevents us from comprehending the will of God. What we do know is because of Christ's death on the cross we are reconciled with God and led by the Holy Spirit. However, each of us may catch a glimpse what God desires. By sharing these understandings in the community of faith, we may enable the wisdom and way of God to emerge among us. Then through prayerful reflection and sharing we can let the Spirit move within us and among us to build a consensus about what is the will of God? 1

Pastoral Thoughts on Discernment

This focus on discerning the will of God is one way to plan for our church's future. However, a second resource needs to be used, prayer. Simply put, it is impossible to do spiritual discernment without prayer. What follows is one model about how to linkup prayer, God and the corporate discernment process:

The Process of Discernment for the Worship Committee

In the last eighteen months, from July 2015 to December 2016, the focus has been on worship. We have targeted three 9 week segments in each calendar year where we focused our resources with the goal of increasing our worship attendance.

We have been successful in raising our overall annual attendance average from 76 to 80. However, in the future the worship committee will need to begin a discernment process about increasing the spiritual depth and available resources of what has already been a success.

The next 18 months from January 2017 to June 2018, will be challenging for the worship committee. Therefore, I encourage this committee to begin a process of reflective prayer. Ask God to help and guide us to increase the spiritual depth and resources for our worship experiences. What is God's will for our worship services?

The Process of Discernment for the Christian Education Committee

In this next 18 month period, from January 2017 to June 2018, my primary focus will be to help grow our Christian education programs. This process has already started with the purchase of monitors for two of our classrooms. We will also be using the "Chrome Books" the children were given at school during our Sunday school classroom time.

Over the last four months there has been discussion about offering a scholarship to our graduating High school seniors. We have concluded these discussions and more information will be available in the next several newsletters about the scholarship.

I have asked the adult Bible study classes to begin developing a prospect list. This prospect list should focus on those individuals who might be interested in attending a particular adult Bible study class. Every two to three month each class should set aside time to talk about who might be a "prospect" for attending their class. If a class can not come up with any names they are to prepare a brochure to send out in a saturation mailing of the Paoli zip code. I would also like to suggest a fellowship time outside of the Sunday school hour where "prospects" might be more willing to come because it is an informal setting.

As we begin this new year, I encourage this committee and the Adult Bible study classes to begin a process of reflective prayer. Ask God to help and guide us in the steps we should take to teach people about Jesus. What is God's will for our Christian education committee? Or what is God's will for our Adult Bible study class? What are the steps we should begin with and what resources will be needed?

Discernment Thoughts for the Congregation

Growth is not concerned with numbers but with meeting the needs of people.2  Find a need and fill it. There is a correlation between meeting the needs of people, increased participation in the life of the church, spiritual growth and strong financial support of the church.

I would like to challenge the congregation to begin praying about the spiritual needs we are currently meeting. Are the spiritual needs we are meeting reaching the most people possible? Begin discussing these insights the Holy Spirit gives you with your Adult Bible study classes.

Now we must prepare for the work God has called us to do. Amen.

1 Discerning your Congregation's Future, p. xi., by Roy Oswald and Robert E. Friedrich.

2 The Church Growth Handbook p. 25, by William M. Easum.