Discerning the Spirit in communities
The communal practice of discernment places group decisions within the context of God's transforming activity. How can groups get beyond party interests, personality clashes, and power strategies that crowd out genuine dialogue and respect? In what ways can we prepare the soil for fruitful group discernment?
Consensus is a distinctive model for a group that is reaching decisions. When have you seen this model in action? How did it function? How does consensus compare with a "majority rules" model for making decisions? In what ways does each model make space for dissent to be voiced and respected? When a final decision is made, how does the community treat those who disagree with the proposed course of action?
Seeking wisdom as a group requires a lot from participants and can be an exhausting process. What do you find most challenging about communal discernment personally? For your faith community? What changes in polity would your community have to make in order to adopt a model of communal discernment?
When discernment deceives and when it doesn't
How can we know for sure when self-deception and personal power are at play in our discernment? When someone maintains that "God told me to do this," by what criteria can we evaluate such a claim? How did the Israelites distinguish between true and false prophets (Jeremiah 28:1-16)? What advice did the early church give for discernment (1 John 4:1, 1 Thessalonians 5:19-21)?
The promise in the practice
What promise does the practice of discernment bear for you? For your faith community? How might this practice provide opportunities to imagine solutions we did not anticipate and help us to find better paths toward the future?