Virginia asked me to speak to the issue of “Discerning God’s Will”.

This could take pages and pages – actually books have been written on the topic.  So here is my brief take on discerning the Lord’s will.  First and foremost, the discerning process is rooted in a deep and committed relationship with Jesus.  By deep I mean a relationship that is devoted to spending time in the Word, Prayer, and Relationship with other believers.   The process of deep is not just showing up on a Sunday morning and listening to a sermon or going to a Bible Study and briefly talking about some narrative that has been shared since Sunday School through College through adulthood.  A deep process is one in which I am continually learning and unlearning much of what I hold near and dear.  It is a deep process of self reflection – am I living a life that would resemble the life that Christ lived….loving neighbor, loving enemy, living a life that is counter to culture while still being in the culture.

By committed, I mean that I am sold out as a disciple of Jesus.  Everything is looked at through the lens of what and how would Jesus react, respond, or lead.  That means understanding the context and the words recorded in Scripture.  A simple example – the Old Testament records that it is wrong to eat pork,  Peter has an encounter in the New Testament that says it’s permissible to eat meat [pork],  and I would think as you read this you might have had sausage or bacon for breakfast in the past week or so.  So how do you discern it’s permissible for “gentiles or us” to eat bacon and sausage.  It comes from knowing the context and the words of scripture.

But I don’t think that is what Virginia was getting at in her question.

She can correct me, but I think the question that is being asked is how we discern God’s will as we move forward.  The Holy Spirit speaks to all of us.  I have to admit that sometimes I have not listened or I was focused on my desires, so I misconstrued what the Holy Spirit was saying.  That’s when I got myself in trouble.

So, listening to the Holy Spirt is a process.  The Holy Spirit will not contradict the intent of the words recorded in scripture.  The Holy Spirit will be speaking into other peoples lives about the same thing the Holy Spirit is saying to a specific individual – meaning someone will affirm what the individual may be hearing.  The same goes for the community of faith.  The Holy Spirit speaks into the life of its leader and the leadership team.  This is the hard part of discernment.

When discerning the Lord’s will – or as I and others refer, GOD’S PREFERRED FUTURE – we have to make sure we remove our preferences and biases out of the process.  This is about Jesus and the Holy Spirit, not about “me”.  This is also a long process.  The leader may and should be hearing and discerning.  They share what they are hearing and discerning.  Prayer and reflection take place in community with other leaders.  Confirmation and affirmation happen as the Holy Spirt speaks into the leaders.  This is not a voting process.  It is a consensus process.  Example:  if the leadership is hearing the Holy Spirit saying don’t do discipleship, we should immediately recognize that is contradictory to Jesus and Scripture.  However, if we are hearing multiple views of discipleship, we must do the hard work of removing our biases /preferences, spending time in prayer, reading Scripture, and developing a consensus on what discipleship looks like in our cultural context.

Short answer to the question:  Listening for the Holy Spirit, prayer, reading Scripture in its context, discerning what Scripture says in our cultural context, Holy Spirit speaks to the leader and those in leadership, discussion, consensus.So pray for personal discernment and pray for Pastor as he listens for the Lord’s leading, and pray for the Leadership Team as they discern in community what the Lord is saying.