Monday, January 12, 2009

Discernment


Most Baptists of my age grew up in churches that were very program-driven. As a church and denominational worker, I was captive to this model: “Whatever your need, we have a program for you!” I know see how diverse and complex churches are and realize that “one size does not fit all.” Each church can and must make choices about what is appropriate to their unique gifts and needs. We are also seeing churches move beyond programs to processes to accomplish their mission.

I still struggle with the program/process dichotomy. Over the weekend, I met with a team that is considering the most effective way to do Christian formation in our context. I must admit that I tend to fall back into the program mentality when I get in such groups—What resources are available? What classes can we offer? What are our desired outcomes and what are the steps to getting there?

An idea came out of that discussion. Instead of offering new things, what if we attempted to assess the spiritual implications of what we are already doing? For example, how does my participation in a community mission project help me to grow spiritually? I suggest that we think in terms of some debriefing or discernment questions that a person might use after involvement in some activity. Here are some that came to me. You may have others.

1. Did participation in this activity cause me to think about a particular biblical narrative or theme? Did it bring to mind a biblical character or specific scripture passage? If so, what was it?

2. Did participating in this activity add to my appreciation of God as Creator or of God’s Creation?

3. What did this activity model of Christ’s earthly ministry—loving, caring, serving, sacrificing?

4. Did I perceive the Spirit speaking to me in this activity?

5. As a result of reflecting on this activity, will I do anything differently in the future?

6. As a result of this activity, will I treat people differently?

Rather than imposing another layer of activity on what we are already doing, perhaps we can gain deeper spiritual insight from those actions in which we are already involved. In fact, if we cannot discern spiritual growth from those activities we are presently pursuing, perhaps those activities should be discontinued!




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