We use this word in the church often, but how well do we know what we mean?
Cambridge English Dictionary defines discerning as showing good judgment, especially about style and quality. According to Merriam-Webster, it is showing insight and understanding.
While both of these definitions start to scratch at the surface, they do not come near the depths of what we mean or what we do when we seek to discern God’s direction for our lives. While we hope to do so with style, that is not our main focus.
We know that when God created our world, it was declared good. As humanity turned away from God, God has consistently sought to bring us back into right relationship with God and with each other. We are called to be part of this restoration of the world and of relationships with each other. Against this background, when we discuss discerning our direction, we are seeking to find what God is already doing in our world and how we are called to join in.
In the Bible, we hear about casting lots to determine God’s will. While that might be easier, we need to have some ideas about where God is calling us. This is one reason why we are embarking on this research trip to discover what is happening at other churches. We hope to gather some ideas of what others are doing as they gather to worship, how they welcome the community and how they join God in restoring the world. Most of what we see will not be immediately transferable to Risen Lord, but this is a way to gather ideas to talk and to pray about.
Another way we way for us to gather information is to talk to the people around us. We often assume what people outside the church are looking for, but since we often associate with other members of our congregation or other church-people, we don’t actually know. By listening intently as our neighbors speak, we may hear what God is saying to us. As we gather for our Tuesday Nights Together in the church’s backyard, I invite you to come and be a purposeful participant. When those outside our congregation come, be intentional in welcoming them, but also about getting to know them. You can ask questions like “What brought you to Center Grove?” or “What do you think our community needs?” or “How can we support your family?” And, the next step is very important - be quiet and listen.
Our discernment is also aided by what we learn about what our community needs. From Cara Ruble’s work with United Way of Johnson County, we were able to share some of the county’s needs with our church’s leadership at our retreat in January. Last week, I attended a meeting of ASPIRE Johnson County, where I learned that of 12,000 children from birth to age five in Johnson County, about 7700 need childcare of some sort. Only 2300 are currently enrolled in programs in the county and less than 900 of those are in “high quality” programs. This tells me that our school ministry is vitally important to our community. We recently began the process to become a registered childcare ministry, which will allow RLMS to begin working through the Pathways to Quality program and provide our high-quality Montessori pre-school to more children.
All of this information gathering is an important step. And then we pray, asking for God’s guidance. Please keep your ears open and be in prayer as we seek to discern how God is calling us to join in the restoration of the world around us.
I look forward to gathering around dinner and worship on June 2 at 5 pm as we gather to share what we learned in our church visits and discern how God would have us respond.
In the abiding hope of the Risen Lord,