The following is a simple guide to discerning God’s voice when seeking God’s call in a particular situation. It is most valuable when a church board or committee is stuck on an issue.
- Identify the issue to be discussed.
- Offer a Bible study and a time of prayerful reflection as preparation for discussion:
- Choose a Bible passage or a passage from a book or article that pertains to the issue being discussed.
- Have the members identify specific aspects of the Scripture that seem to speak to the issue.
- Spend a short time in prayer seeking God’s guidance.
- Have a time for open discussion and clarification.
- Before voting on an issue, take time for centering prayer.
- Invite participants to spend time in quiet prayer, specifically asking then to put aside their egos to gain a sense of what God wants.
- Re-engage in brief discussion, asking people to share what they sense God may want.
- Vote on the issue. Have the presiding officer call for the vote using these words: “All who sense this may be God’s will, say aye. All who don’t, say no.” These words invite members to seek God’s will rather than their own.
- Afterward, if the members have not come to a sense of agreement over what God is calling them to do and they remain divided, invite them to lay aside the vote willingly and to postpone the matter. The point of this action is to emphasize seeking unity (a willingness to act as one body, even if not all have sensed the same directives from God), even if unanimity is not possible. A lack of unanimity suggests that various members may have sensed conflicting guidance from God. Postponing for prayer allows more time to be devoted to discernment. When members are willing to lay aside a decision to better seek God’s will, they create an environment for discernment.
- When necessary, because a matter has been postponed for prayer, return the following month and prayerfully revisit the issue. If unanimity is not possible, then the board should seek to go forward in unity—meaning that all members, even dissenting members, prayerfully agree that it is God’s will that the board move forward together despite disagreements.
Note: This process does not have to become lengthy. For instance, if the division is not great, the Bible study may be unnecessary, and the group can move directly to the short prayer. If the process gets bogged down, then postpone the decision and take time for prayer. On occasion the leadership board must move forward even though it is divided. Moving forward in disunity should be done only when absolutely critical—a rare occurrence.
Excerpted from Becoming a Blessed Church: Forming a Church of Spiritual Purpose, Presence, and Power, copyright © 2005 by the Alban Institute. All rights reserved. For permission to reproduce, go toour permissions form.
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