Other Updates:

Reflections on Leading a GRIP Team Process

Introducing Discerning Direction Together

5 Reasons to Attend Set in Motion

Dissecting the Dotted Diamond

Resilience in Ministry

The Allure of Structure

Cooperative Discernment

Individual Value:  Personal Calling        

Shared Value:  Ongoing Discernment Together

Team Skills:  Spirit-Led Listening

Biblical References:  Philippians 1:9-10​, Romans 12:1-2​, Eph 5:15-17​, 1 Thes 5:21​, Acts 15

Body Life Result: Driving Together In Unity

I have heard accounts of how church teams have prayerfully gathered and asked each other “How is God speaking to you?”, “Is the Holy Spirit putting a burden on your heart?” or “What passion has God given you?”  In these stories, women and men, young and old, from varied walks of life have shared their burdens to move in new and innovative ways. Out of these discussions direction is developed, and teams formed to launch significant impact on ministries and communities.

I would assert that this is not the usual experience. Typically, conversations get clouded with positional power, preconceived ideas and ego. Cooperatively discerning God’s will for a team is vital because we exist on this planet to steward the time, relationships, Spiritual Gifts, and talents He has provided for us for His glory (1 Peter 4:10-11). Our shared stewardship is meant to amplify the impact of what we have been given.

If we believe that God brings groups together, why don’t we have more of the candid conversations focusing on how He is leading us? Cognitively we know that if we all operated independently it would be about as effective as each member of an orchestra playing in a different key. Experience tells us that those who take part in establishing a vision will be more likely to buy-into and commit to the shared vision. In order to make the most of the teams we assemble, it is imperative that we learn how to cooperatively discern His will.  Understanding Our Calling is the “We” skill necessary to set course together in ministry.

Impact of Cooperative Discernment

Think about how teams’ experiences might change if we are successful in engaging our teams in a shared discernment process.

CREATIVITY: If we were successful, imagine the type of creativity that can come when a wide variety of knowledge and perspectives inquire together of God for direction. Truly, the sum would be greater than the parts.

RESPONSIBILITY: What kind of shift of responsibility would individuals embrace if they knew their team was depending on them (along with everyone else) to inquire of God for guidance in their part of the greater ministry (instead of browbeating them to sign up for the dusty job for which there is no vision or passion)? Truly, we have a role to play that no one else can play, and when this is owned in cooperative discernment, a greater “We” emerges.

IMPACT: This is two-fold results:  Internal to our teams, and Kingdom results.  Internally for team members, how would the joy of participation be bolstered if leaders created a space for and listened to individual’s’ responses? Might there be a broader sense of excitement for- and commitment to- the work?  In Kingdom impact to those we are reaching, where would we see greater responses to our ministries if we shared the discernment process, actively listening to the Holy Spirit’s leading rather than our seemingly wise strategies?

How would the experience change if we had the courage to stop doing the business-as-usual ministries to make room for the leading of the Holy Spirit to breath into innovative and relevant new ministries, while wisely and corporately pruning other ministries?

Why is discernment difficult?

Our calling should impact how we are living and moving in this world, but it shouldn’t mean that we are doing whatever we want in isolation. When we work together as a team, two truths about submission are at play together: It is imperative that we submit ourselves to Christ and secondly, we submit ourselves to one another. Both actions go against our natural tendencies and require spirit-led living to achieve. In order to make group discernment work, we each must be active in our communion with God.

We need to be vigilant in guarding against self-centeredness which can appear in varying forms (including but not limited to) ego or misplaced humility. Two ends of the spectrum can cause challenges:  One, fear of sharing (coached in embarrassment or exposure). This behavior can appear as meekness, but really represents a refusal to speak up from a fear that exposing your true heart will cost too much and is just a version of self-centeredness. And secondly, pride derails team discernment.  Focus on, or promotion of, the ministry I lead, and its relevance in our vision takes the glory away from God, and places it on man.  God will not stand for this.

Areas for reflection:

As individuals: We have an amazing position within Christ. He has promised us that if we ask for wisdom, He will provide it.

  1. Before you show up to your team meetings, are you first looking at your own spiritual house? Where are there cobwebs that need cleaning? Where are there old thought patterns that need to be refreshed?
  2. Are you prayerfully discerning what God has place inside of you? Are you considering how it impacts others in your ministry?
  3. Are you open handed with the wisdom God does provide in response to your team?
  4. How do you self-monitor to be sure that you are taking time to hear the perspectives and wisdom of others?
  5. How are you leaning into God’s cooperative calling of your team or ministry? How are responding with new behaviors as a result of a new direction?

As leaders: If we are in a position of shepherding a team, we have additional responsibilities.

  1. Are you routinely monitoring your own walk; ensuring that your own spiritual house is in order? (see above)
  2. If our goal is for radical impact, how do you make room for participants to raise ideas that challenge and interrupt your concept of ‘business-as-usual’?
  3. Who are you engaging in cooperative discernment? Do you gather a select few leaders to sequester away for strategic planning retreats, or do you solicit input of the workers in the Body?
  4. How do you acknowledge and support those who don’t have the vision; allowing them to not feel pressure to “conjure up” a leading from God?
  5. When the vision challenges the culture, how do you reinforce those who disrupt the expectations of the group with a new or challenging thought?

Consistently reflecting on these questions will allow us to discern Our Calling in a powerful and Spirit-responsive way.

Watch the GB Coaches Cafe on Discerning Direction Together: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cTV2ZdLvnK8
or listen to the podcast on your favorite provider: https://www.buzzsprout.com/1885604/share

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