Discerning Church Learning to discern the movement of God's Spirit


Our leadership team is facing a fair amount of turnover this year. Our church constitution requires three-year terms; each leader must sit out for a year between terms. The nominating team often complains that few are willing to serve in leadership roles. I wonder why this is the case.

As I think about the typical meetings, I understand that few want to simply go through the motions of conducting church business. When it comes to signing up for another meeting, takers are in short supply. But what if leaders experienced a drastically different environment? How might the experience of church leadership be different from conventional routines?

When we consider Jesus’s choosing his disciples, we find a different tone from most nominating teams. In Matthew 8, we are able to peer into the conversation between Jesus and prospective disciples. In verse 18, a teacher of the law considers following Jesus.

(Matthew 8:19 NIV) Then a teacher of the law came to him and said, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.”

We might think that Jesus would be thrilled to have a new disciple. We might predict Jesus’s response as, “Great! Get your stuff; let’s go.” But Jesus questions the man’s intentions; he seems to dissuade him from going.

Jesus replied, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”

Jesus wonders if the teacher is ready to pay the price of discipleship. In the next verse, another man comes to Jesus tentatively agreeing to join him.

(Matthew 8:21 NIV) Another disciple said to him, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.”

Jesus’s response was equally diverting. He calls the would-be disciple to a comprehensive commitment.

(Matthew 8:22 NIV) But Jesus told him, “Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead.”

Jesus does not plead with potential followers. He clearly describes discipleship as high commitment. He demands total allegiance; his disciples would need to consider the expense before agreeing to follow him. There seemed to be little room for casual followers.

On the other hand, the experience of the disciples would be tremendous. In the next few verses, Matthew describes Jesus calming a storm. The men on the boat were able to participate in substantial work. Look at how Matthew describes their response.

(Matthew 8:27 NIV) The men were amazed and asked, “What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!”

As we consider the calling of leaders in the church, we should be unapologetic about the required level of commitment. It is a high calling; it should not be regarded as unsubstantial. Yet when leaders agree to participate, the experience should be more than pushing papers or sitting through tedious meetings. It should be an adventure like no other.

May God grant church leaders adventure in their work. May Kingdom work involve a following of the Holy Spirit in which our encounter with God is new and fresh. May the substantial commitment of the leaders be rewarded with considerable awe. I do not intend to outline every adjustment necessary in church meetings (and church leadership training); they are considerable in many churches. However, the purpose of this post is to encourage churches to engage the Holy Spirit in leadership endeavors. We must step out and learn to follow the leading of the Spirit. We must move away from insignificant, monotonous tasks of leadership. As we learn to discern the movement of the Spirit, we will experience jaw-dropping and edge-of-our-seat endeavors. It will be anything but boring.