We are entering a season of prayer and discernment at FBC about our purpose and mission, what a new building might look like, what are the needs in Wakefield that we might be able to address, what kind of pastoral leadership we will need to get us there and many other questions. Discernment is not simply praying for guidance from the Holy Spirit; it is actively seeking it. God can’t steer a parked car so we must both work and pray.
What then is discernment? Discernment is seeking the deepest yearnings of God’s heart for us and for our church. It is the gift of the Spirit. It must be noticed, accepted, treasured, and surrendered to if it is to be received. Communal discernment is an experience of group prayer and reflection on God’s word. There are several criteria for discernment to be effective.
Our community must want to do the work of discernment. This has got to be a heartfelt effort on the part of everyone. We need each other. No one person has a corner on the truth or more than a piece of the wisdom. We must be willing to set aside our personal preferences and think of the greater good and the benefits for future generations. The piece of wisdom each person has comes out of who he or she is, their lived experience and their walk with God. This is a journey to be taken together.
Community discernment involves the whole person and is a multi-dimensional process. God has gifted us with both intellect and emotions. In order to pray intelligently for guidance, we need to gather data, analyze it, synthesize it, make choices and evaluate our options. Currently, Rev. Norm and members of the Council are interviewing leaders in Wakefield to explore the needs and wants of our town as we think about the kind of building that will support ministry. Rev. Norm is also doing some demographic studies to see what the trends are in our community. The study also looks at what kinds of worship and ministries people groups in Wakefield might be attracted to. We also have Spirit-led intuition that allows subjective feelings to merge with objective truth. The Spirit lives and speaks in all human reality.
Discernment is hard work. It requires:
Deep personal faith and a willingness to give up the need to control or shape the outcome.
Faith to allow the Spirit to reach and touch me and then trust in my own insight to speak it.
Faith in the wisdom of others so that I can hear and respect and treasure it.
Belief that other members are working to the same end.
Faith that the wisdom of God is indeed being shared in the gathering.
James gives us a wonderful definition of what wisdom means. “But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.” (James 3:17) May we seek this kind of divine wisdom as we start down the road of discernment.