I'm sharing my thinking about corporate discernment at classis. I feel like I'm a bit far out on the limb, because this is not something that is very familiar to me. No classis I've ever been to has acted like this when faced with a tough decision. So, what do you think? I'm on a learning curve here.
Last week I said that classis is a natural place for us to pray together, especially asking for the Spirit’s leading for our congregations and for the CRC. It’s also a natural vehicle for our corporate obedience! One of the things we need to say about this process of communal discernment is that it assumes leaders who are themselves steeped in prayer, and who have practiced the discipline of communal discernment.
Yes, we have generations of practice in asking God to bless our solemn assemblies. I grew up with meetings of every kind that book-ended the meeting with opening prayer and closing prayer. But models for communal discernment were scare in my growing up.
The church needs leaders with many different gifts, and God knows that discerning the right leader for the denomination is testing our patience and trust right now. How do we embed corporate discernment into our life together? Leadership with gifts and experience in group discernment is needed in our classes. Are classical leadership teams alert to spot the prayer leaders who can nurture the prayer life of the classis? (As we planned for the Prayer Summit, we kept adding classical prayer coordinators until we had a list of all but six classes. Is your classis working well with your prayer leader?)
How can we shape our agendas so that prayers of discernment are a natural part of our decision making? How can we develop our individual and corporate awareness so that we are always more open to the whispers of the Spirit? How can we tone down the noise of solemn assemblies so that there is more silence for listening together?
Could we break into small groups when a particularly difficult decision is before us, so that together we can hear each other’s wisdom, pray together for wisdom, and in silence listen together for the Spirit’s cues? Then we re-convene for plenary session and a different kind of dialog and decision.
I even wonder about a community that is so safe and so mature and so knitted together that there is room for inexperienced folks to participate too, to get things wrong sometimes, to stumble in discernment as they learn, to make mistakes and be gently guided to greater maturity rather than being embarrassed or discounted. Do we sometimes get our own agendas mixed up into what we think the Spirit is saying to the church? Surely. That’s why the whole body is necessary to correct or confirm. A Word- saturated community, led by Spirit filled prayer leaders, need not fear. Robert’s Rules or democratic process will not always be the best way. The church has more resources to ensure Spirit-led decision making. Let’s try some new things at classis.
Got a story to tell? Got an experience to share? Does this blog make you squirm? Share your responses. The body will be nourished by your words.