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

Test Drive

As we navigate through two discernment processes at our church, I am a bit overwhelmed with the potential change. While the prospective shifts seem promising and life-giving to our congregation, there are some among us who are resistant to any level of change. Imagine that.

Many would agree that constant change is necessary these days. Eddie Gibbs in his book ChurchNext : Quantum Changes in How We Do Ministry, highlights the role of pastor as change agent. Gibbs suggests,

Pastors must be equally skilled in exegeting both Scripture and culture, bringing the understanding derived from this interplay to the task of applying biblically grounded insights to the issues of postmodernity. They are challenged not just to be able to think clearly but to have the nerve and faith to act decisively in navigating through stormy and uncharted waters. p. 32

On the one hand, a change-catalyst pastor is celebrated. His/Her willingness to take risks is courageous and daring. At the same time, a pastor who haphazardly initiates modifications without properly discerning can often create chaos. How do church leaders balance the tension? How can they properly adapt without destroying churches? While some would argue for the necessity of extreme reshaping, I would lean toward a process of testing and reevaluating. Perhaps changes should be made in trail periods.

Sometimes proponents of the status quo are open to revision if they do not have to fully commit. Perhaps six months or a year of a realignment can bring clarity to God’s calling in a congregation. At the same time, missteps can become apparent when changes hit the real world. What looked good on paper may not be as glamorous in reality. What worked for a church in California may not have the same impact in the Midwest. Trail periods give congregations a chance to test, to experiment, to probe. A few pages later, Gibbs asserts,

In a culture of chaos, experimentation and risk taking are the order of the day. p. 34

May we learn that it is okay to take an idea for a test drive in our discerning.