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Leaders Who Are Discerning

If you don’t know how God is leading you, you won’t know how to lead others
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The first is that spiritual discernment, by definition, is a process that takes place in and through the Trinity. The Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity, "comprehends what is truly God's" and interprets the deep things of God to us (1 Corinthians 2:11-12). The Holy Spirit has been given to us by God, at Jesus' request, to lead us into truth (John 16:7-15). Commitment to discernment as a personal and communal way of life presupposes commitment to Christ and the real presence of the Holy Spirit, who has been given to lead and guide us on Christ's behalf. The Spirit is an immediate presence who can be heard and responded to through disciplines and practices that help us to listen.

Paul Anderson, professor of biblical and Quaker studies at George Fox University, makes this bold statement:

There is no individual discernment outside a communal setting and no communal discernment without individual discernment. Each individual profits from the communal activity of discernment and the community profits from each individual's discernment.

One great need of the church today is to experience the dynamic leadership of Christ as its Head. . . . The Scriptures promise us that Christ's Spirit will be with us, will guide us, and will lead us into all truth. This is the most striking implication of one's belief in the resurrected Lord. If Christ is alive he desires to lead his church. If Christ desires to lead his church, his will should be sought. If his will can be sought, it can be discerned; and if it can be discerned, it deserves to be obeyed. This is nothing more than the basic Christian life.

The second building block is to realize that the impulse to discern—to want to respond to Christ in this fashion—is in itself a "good spirit" that needs to be cultivated. When individuals in a leadership group have a deepening desire to move beyond intellectual prowess and self-effort to spiritual discernment and all that it requires, this is evidence of the Holy Spirit's work among them. And this is pretty remarkable, because, as David Benner points out, even though we may desire to become more discerning, egocentricity and self-control are fundamental dynamics of the human condition. We know we are supposed to surrender to God's will and may genuinely want to, but most of us continue to face the almost irresistible tendency to assert our own will. We overhear Jesus' prayer in the garden of Gethsemane—"Not my will but thine be done"—but have trouble making it our own.

September17, 2012 at 8:00 AM

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