Becoming Communities of Discernment

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The CRCNA is getting ready for its second Prayer Summit April 15-17. 

As those preparations are made, each classis is being requested to actively participate -- encouraging and publicizing the role of the Classis Prayer Coordinator, encouraging and assisting congregations to plan and coordinate representatives, naming a coordinator if they don’t have one already.  Prayer leaders at the congregational level are also being mobilized, as the Summit is only one step in the effort to build a more vibrant network of praying people in the CRC. 

It’s a good time for classis leadership to ask about the prayer climate in the classis.  I’ve been reading Growing the Church in the Power of the Holy Spirit, by Long, Stokes, and Strickler.  This book is being promoted in preparation for the conference by the same title at Camp Geneva in Holland, MI in mid-March.  It’s a practical and pastoral discussion of why and how to form your church in a process of active dialog with the Spirit.   

Another book that may be even more apt for classis leaders is Ruth Haley Barton’s  Pursuing God’s Will Together.   This book helps us think about corporate discernment,  and how to build the kind of leadership community in which this can happen.  Both of these books are very helpful for motivating us to think together about the importance of a denominational discernment process at this moment in our history.  This is a time of significant questioning in the CRC – why are we shrinking so fast?  What should we do?  What structures do we need?  What kind of leadership?   What vision?   Are there resources for a sustainable and robust future?  Are we at risk of paralysis of polarization?  We need to do some heavy discernment together. 

Rebuilding a denomination of trust, of true community, cohesion, and exciting obedience – that’s the challenge.   What do we need to do to form that kind of discerning and obedient community?  As I’ve said before, I believe that the renewal of classis is an essential part of the answer.   Here’s a place to rise above individualism and congregationalism, and not rise so far we are lost in the clouds of bureaucracy and grandiosity.  It could even happen that healthy communities of discernment at the classis level could contribute to a denominational renewal. 

I believe that classis leadership teams will grow in trust, creativity, competence, and relevance as they take steps to become communities of discernment.  What could be more supportive and refreshing for a classis and its leaders?  When would be a better time?   What has YOUR classis learned about communal discernment that you can share with others?

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Would love to be kept in this conversation. Will be looking for those books mentioned. 

Blessings,
GW

I am looking forward to hearing more about the discernment processes. May the Lord help us to listen and to discern what he is saying. May our hearts bow before him in humble expectation. Great article and looking forward to reading both books.

Thanks for your thoughts & encouragement, Karl.  Let me add a couple additional and very helpful readings on communal discernment: Discerning God's WIll Together: a Spiritual Practice for the Church IMorris & Olsen, Alban Inst] & Transforming Church Boards into Communities of Spiritual Leaders [Chuck Olsen, Alban Inst].  I have not practiced communal discernment processes at the classis level, but we have built it into the fabric of our congregational annual ministry planning.  I/we are still learning.  It is such a paradigm shift, but I am convinced a necessary one and one worth the effort.  Starting with more modest practices may be the way to whet the appetite.