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Godly leaders and Christ-centered congregations always want to move towards a God’s-preferred future. Unfortunately moving from “here” to “there” can appear complex and feel daunting. The journey can, however, be relatively uncomplicated if a congregation asks and answers two questions:

Question 1: “What are we hearing?”

In Scripture God’s people move towards a God’s preferred future through the gift of revelation. The simple prophetic formula is, “The word of the Lord came to…”. God’s preferred future is captured more than created. Capturing God’s vision demands listening.

In the Church Renewal Lab at Calvin Theological Seminary churches sit at the intersection of four-directional listening. 4-directional listening includes the following listening activities:

  • Listening from above…what is God saying in his Word about his will and his way? 
  • Listening from among…what is the congregation saying about their gifts and passions?
  • Listening from outside…what is the community saying about their needs and opportunities?
  • Listening from within…what is the Holy Spirit calling us uniquely to do?

This full orbed listening is essential to avoid knee-jerk responses to the latest email sent by a congregational member or the last inspirational thought from a contemporary leadership book. Listening is the disciplined process of weighing voices through Spirit-directed discernment.

Question 2: “What are we compelled to do?”

Based on things heard several action-oriented convictions will naturally arise. Those convictions must be tested and prioritized. They must be tested with leadership and the congregation to make sure they have been vetted by those with spiritual discernment. In the discernment process good leaders look for affirmation and for energy created by community buy-in. Leaders should never go-it-alone on big missional investments.

Additionally, priorities need to be established. Not every good idea can be invested in simultaneously. Depending on the size of the commitment and the size of the community, no more than one to three fresh investments can be made at any given moment. As existing investments are completed, new investments can be added.

A Final Exercise

To make this process concrete, write across the top of a legal pad: “Our Goal: Making More and Better Disciples.” Then divide the paper into two columns with the above questions headlining each column. This sheet should now become a working document for you and the entire community. Regularly reference and refine the document at leadership gatherings. As you implement the action items under the second column, you will be leading a faith community into God’s preferred future.

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