My focus as a pastor is to develop, with and within the church family, a discerning community of disciples. I want our people to become familiar with the biblical word "discern," and understand how it is different from the word "decide."
First, discern. Then, plan. Do not reverse this order!
This is an anti-Enlightenment approach to leadership. It only works with God. What are God's ideas about us? Discern this. What is our next step? Discern this. What is God saying to us? Discern this.
Enlightenment thinking exalts human reason as our only hope. A biblical approach inquires into the wisdom of an All-knowing Being. A discerning community places human reason on the back burner. Yes, we love God with all our minds, but they are to be discerning minds. (For more development on this, see my book Leading the Presence-Driven Church.)
Instead of our feeble brains trying to figure things out, God figures us out. Instead of us exegeting the texts, the Holy Spirit exegetes us. This is more impressive, more exhilarating, then human brainstorming.
Ruth Haley Barton writes:
"When leadership community is at its best, we are moving forward in our work on the basis of discernment. One of the defining characteristics of any spiritual community is a shared desire and willingness to act on the basis of discernment rather than human planning and strategic maneuvering. We are not opposed to planning; in fact, that is an important second step. But we understand that discernment—listening deeply for God’s direction—must precede any planning we do. Even though we are accustomed to the strategic planning process and are in some cases quite drawn to it, the truth is that every time we have made decisions purely from strategic thinking without providing some space for discernment, we have gotten out ahead of ourselves and made mistakes."
(Ruth Haley Barton, Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership: Seeking God in the Crucible of Ministry, p. 182.)