Note: This is the third part in a series on becoming a community for discernment. You can read part one here, and part two here.

“Your Teacher will not hide himself any more…and when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left, your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This Is the way, walk in it.”
Isaiah 30:20, 21

So, how are you feeling as we explore the process of becoming a community for discernment? Are you inspired by the idea that your leadership group could actually practice discernment together utilizing concrete, practical steps? Are you overwhelmed at what seems to be such a long process to get there? Are you wondering how you might find the time for all that is involved in corporate leadership discernment and still get through your meeting agendas?

Chances are, you are experiencing all these feelings at once; this is understandable because leaders today are tired. Tired from within because their ministry leadership is often carried out in the context of schedules that are too full and barely sustainable. Tired from without because of the continual burden of responsibility and expectation others place on them, and which they accept. Tired from beyond because current models for ministry get them ramped up to do and be more than they can realistically be, and yet they are still trying.

Beyond the Exhaustion

Corporate leadership discernment is not meant to add to the exhaustion. Instead, it provides hope that there is a way of doing life in leadership that is not so complicated and heavy. A way of making decisions that does not have to rely on our own brilliance and ability to think hard. A way of being involved in God’s work that ends up being more about God’s work than our own. Discerning and doing the will of God together is that way.

You might also be grappling with the fact that this sort of discernment will require more of you spiritually. More time for silence and prayer in your personal lives. Increased commitment to self-knowledge and self-examination. A willingness to die to what is false within you. And it’s true; it will require all this and more.

Something Before Everything

If it feels like too much, here is a simple suggestion: do something before you do everything. Choose the one thing you can do and do it with all your heart.

If members of your leadership group don’t already have spiritual rhythms in place, start there. Work on establishing rhythms of work and rest, solitude and silence, engagement and retreat, prayer and Scripture reading, self-examination and confession–alone and together. At the beginning of your meetings, take time to share how your rhythms are going and how God is meeting you in the context of these spiritual practices.

Read Pursuing God’s Will Together and take your time working through the group exercises and practices. Don’t hurry. Just do what you can. Then, identify one or two elements of the discernment process you can realistically incorporate into your leadership process and try them in the context of a real decision you are facing.

  • Introduce a little bit of silence for listening to God after the information about a decision had been fully shared.  (watch video)
  • Begin your meeting with Scripture reading using the lectio divina method and then share the word God gave each of you.
  • Add the fixed-hour prayer that fits best with your meeting time.  (watch video)
  • At least talk about the idea of indifference and whether you are indifferent to anything but the will of God as you enter into the discernment process.
  • Invite a spiritual director to teach your group about discernment or even facilitate your group in a discernment process relative to a decision you are facing.

The Incredible Lightness of Being

Yes, there will be some new steps to learn, some new things to practice. But the point is this: do something before you do everything. Do what you can do and be assured that God is faithful to come in to any amount of space we create for him. Pretty soon that one thing will lead to another thing… and another…and another… until you find that leadership is not the burden it once was.

It is a dance in which God leads and you follow.  It is a wave God sends and you ride it. It is the breath of God, and you are the feather that floats upon it. It is the wind of the Spirit that blows, and you lift your sail to catch it. It is a powerful current that is already flowing, and you are in that flow.

©Ruth Haley Barton, 2012. Adapted from Pursuing God’s Will Together: A Discernment Practice for Leadership Groups (InterVarsity Press).

Ruth Haley Barton (Doctor of Divinity, Northern Seminary) is founder of the Transforming Center. A teacher, spiritual director and retreat leader, she is the author of numerous books and resources on the spiritual life including Pursuing God’s Will Together, Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership, Sacred Rhythms, and Invitation to Solitude and Silence.

What is the “something before everything” that God is inviting you to implement in your leadership setting?

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