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


I am the pastor of a 150 year old congregation in Muncie, Indiana. The church in Muncie has experienced extreme change over the years.

In recent years, the church has entered a season of discernment. What we are discovering is that discerning is an ongoing process.

My desire is to share thoughts, video, quotes, and other bits as it relates to our discerning as a congregation.

Hopefully, this will be helpful to other churches who are experiencing the same sort of dynamics.

A Process

In the context of a 150+ year old congregation, we have found a better way to make decisions. In contrast to models of power and persuasion, we have developed a process that helps us discern and follow God’s leading in all areas of the church.

The discernment process is a four-stage process that guides ministry teams through a process that is slow enough to allow God’s Spirit to work. At the same time, the process continues to press the team forward in the active work of discerning.

The four stages are 1) Explore, 2) Listen, 3) Examine and 4) Communicate.

Prayer is an important part of the discerning process. As the team moves from stage to stage, they pray for God’s empowerment and direction. The process aids the team as they discern God’s movement in their context.


The first stage of the process is designed to help clarify the issue and define options. The team works to create a clear statement that spells out the decision as well as feasible options to explore.


The team works, during the second stage, to develop a listening stategy. The plan should include practices that include listening to God, to the church body and to outside sources.


The third stage involves bringing the learnings of the listening stage to the table. The team examines the findings to discern God’s leading. Usually, the team is able to come to a conclusion during this stage. However, there may be times when the team needs to extend the listening stage and later return to the examine stage.


The fourth and final state involves communicating the story of discernment. The work is not over at the decision. Rather, the team works out the details of implementation and relating the decision to the wider church body.