There is a lot of talk about discernment these days. Many have come to realize that the traditional filters by which we perceive things have not worked all that well for us. Congregational leadership is not the same as corporate leadership or business leadership and so how we go about looking at things needs to differ from that considerably.
One of the misunderstandings people have about discernment is that discernment and decision making are synonyms. Discernment is the ability to perceive things as they are. Discernment is about perception and judgment. You can perceive and judge things without making any decision. You can also make a decision without spending time discerning the appropriateness, effectiveness, or God-pleasingness of your options.
As Christians we need to be a discerning people. Like the sheep in John 10, we need to be able to discern or distinguish the difference between the shepherd and the thief. They know his voice and will not follow another. Why? Because they discern the difference. They make a judgment of what reality is based on their perceptions.
This world is full of distraction. It is full of competing voices. It is easy to lose our discernment by buying into so many other voices that we lose our ability to tell everything else from the Lord.
Yes, “As Christians we need to be a discerning people.” But practically like all that is good, there are those in whom “discernment” is a gift, who are able to peer deeply into situations and recognize what is taking place. And there are the gifted in “decisiveness”, those who are able to know when it is time to act. They need each other…
What I find is that there is often a gap between discernment and sermons. Discernment is reading the scriptures and seeing what it says, but often times sermons are correlating data and then deriving from the scriptures a point that we want others to see. It is filtering and reorganizing of facts to reach a predetermined conclusion so that others can make a decision that looks like our decision.
In fact most, if they actually read the scriptures, could discern for themselves what they read and then they could decide.