Few moments are more frustrating for a leader than the moment you realize you do not know what to do. Should you reduce the budget for next year, or is it more faithful to expect giving to increase? Is now the right time to hire, or do you wait a while longer? The questions never stop.
This is a strange season for making plans, and even the most hopeful among us does not have all the answers. We would like to think that the economy, politics and church attendance will get better soon. We just don’t know when that will happen or what it’s going to take to get there.
Given that there is so much we do not know, the way we make plans matters. Church leaders would do well to remember that there is more to planning than figuring out what we are going to do next. Nearly everyone on our leadership team has an idea about what to do, but pursuing our good ideas is not enough. Our primary job as Christian leaders is discernment, which is discovering what God is doing so we can participate.
Dorothy Bass names discernment as one of the 12 practices in her framework for how Christians live abundantly in Christ. In this framework, Bass defines discernment as seeking, recognizing and taking part in God’s activity. Discernment is a practice that integrates other practices. First, we seek to discover God’s activity in and around us. With the help of our community, we learn to recognize God’s activity. Finally, we organize and strategize to do what God has called us to do. Discernment begins with prayer and guides us into faithful action.
The guidance on discernment that Bass shares through “Practicing Our Faith” is theologically robust and delightfully practical. Bass reminds us that discernment is not an obscure idea for the spiritually elite. Thankfully, discernment is a gift from God for all the people of God.
By L. Roger Owens
By Elisabeth Koenig
Before you go…
What plans are you making these days? Do you long to know what God wants you to do? Do you have questions about how you can sift through the conflicting voices and avoid self-deception? Should you stay in your current leadership role or should you serve somewhere else?
These questions require us to do the crucial work of discernment. It is tempting to reduce every decision to personal preference, popularity and convenience. When we choose discernment, we prioritize doing the will of God for the glory of God.
Feel free to reach me and the Alban Weekly team at firstname.lastname@example.org. Blessings upon you and your people during this Advent season. Until next week, keep leading!
Editor, Alban at Duke Divinity