Just got done at a great lunch event, where Ruth Haley Barton shared with ministry leaders about the whole process of discerning God’s will within the context of leadership groups. Her book, “Pursuing God’s Will Together” is a manual for developing that process. I was challenged and encouraged by her presentation.

She defined spiritual discernment as “the capacity to recognize and respond to the presence of the Holy Spirit.” She identified this kind of discernment as:

1) a mark of spiritual maturity.

2) a spiritual gift.

3) a habit.

4) a spiritual practice.

And if that is spiritual discernment, then corporate spiritual discernment is learning how to do that together! What a novel idea for church leadership?  In fact, there doesn’t seem to be anything more important than that.

Ms. Barton spoke of what has to happen if a group is going to discern God’s will together…

1) each leader around the table has to be involved in spiritual transformation for themselves. If leaders aren’t being changed by the Spirit of God, then they will stifle the move of the Spirit in the group.

2) we have to prepare the community for the process of discernment. It has to be a value above all other values.

3) we have to develop practices for discernment. It can’t be business as usual. There has to be a process we can count on that will lead us together to the will of God under the leading of the Holy Spirit.

As I walk away, I know I need to dig into her book. I’m going to do so with excitement but also a little melancholy. After all, I’ve been pastoring for a long time. And it’s been a long time since I’ve thought about the process this way.  All of the books on leadership, all the workshops, etc. have helped me be a more effective leader. But this holds the promise of making me a more spiritual leader.

What could be better than learning to discover God’s will for His Body and doing it together?

Thanks to the Aspen Group for this great experience of being challenged to lead more spiritually.

If you’ve read the book, or when you do, I would love to read  your comments.  What do you think is the most vital role of spiritual leadership?