Last week’s church planter assessment center was great. As always, I was so blessed being with some great church planting candidates and am excited to see what God does with everyone from this point forward. (Also, I managed to eat BBQ three out of my five days in Kansas City. And found a Crossfit gym just 10 minutes from the hotel where I could burn off said BBQ. Life is good.)
But one thing that consistently amazes me at these events is the way God works through group discernment. As I read church history I find Christians in other times and places where a group discernment process is at least somewhat normative. But for those of us culturally steeped in individualism, seeking God’s will through others seems foreign. For most it is an afterthought, if it is even a thought at all.
But each time I come away from an assessment center I have a renewed desire to trust the Holy Spirit to lead us collectively in our local church. There is a confidence that comes when a group of godly women and men have earnestly sought God together, seen events through prayerful, intentional eyes, and find themselves led by the Spirit to the same conclusions. Part of what amazes me at assessment centers is that we don’t all see the same things – everyone brings different insights, the fruit of different conversations, different interactions, different first impressions and opinions, etc. – some rather disparate. But rather than conflicting, different observations and streams of information come together to form a composite picture that makes more sense than any one person’s particular picture.
I don’t feel this confident about decisions when I seek God on my own. On our church’s vision team we’ve toyed a bit with a process of group discernment (ala Ruth Haley Barton), and each time we’ve used it we come away with a sure sense that God is in the mix. We end up saying as the church did in Acts 15, “It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us . . .”
I sense there is much more to learn in this regard, whether we are seeking the next step in our calling as individuals or as churches.