“A key aspect where missional leadership is concerned, is “the discernment of (the) missional vocation” (Van Kooten & Barrett 2004:139) of the congregation. The church’s function can thus be described as participation in God’s mission to the world and the whole of creation (Cordier 2014:82). It is for this reason that the first and most fundamental function of missional leadership is to constantly refocus the congregation’s attention towards God, to discern in faith whether God is present, where He is already at work in the congregation’s context through his Spirit, in order to determine where the congregation can become an active part of God’s already existing mission (Cordier 2014:82). “Listening attentively to the Word, to one another, and to the world is central to participating in God’s mission. The listening must be accompanied by discernment – the Christian practice of attending to God’s call for Christian communities corporately, and for each of us personally” (Van Gelder & Zscheile 2011:151).
“Therefore the missional congregation can most strongly be associated with believers and a church that are constantly moving, with a spirituality of pilgrims on their journey (Cordier 2014:83; Niemandt 2013:78). So a missional spirituality steers clear of the idea that God is distant and uninvolved in daily life – a missional theology builds upon the foundation that God is present and involved, and that His desire is for the transformation of individuals, groups and institutions (Niemandt 2013:78). It is for this reason that discernment is such an important and decisive first step in the process of joining God in his mission; and one of the key aspects of missional leadership, along with creativity and innovation (Niemandt 2013:79). To help clarify this even more, we will now look at the differences between faithful discernment and strategic leadership (SAVGG Konsultantehandleiding 2008:55):
• God wants to be known, that is why He still keeps revealing Himself to his congregations. Discerning leadership lives with the expectation that we are constantly able to learn new things about God.
• Faithful discernment is not a skill, but a gift from God; found when we humbly search for God’s will because we know we do not have the wisdom.
• In the process of faithful discernment my insights become our insights; since God does not lead us in isolation, but for the edification of the congregation.
• All of the above implies that the start of faithful discernment is the deliberate leaving behind of power and the suspension of all our preconceived ideas and beliefs, so that we can become beggars before God.
• If, with this process, a consensus is reached, all involved rest in the knowledge that God has answered.
Faithful discernment is thus about living with the expectation that God will answer; that we will not stare blindly at our own rational understanding and our own solutions, but that we wait expectantly for those from the living God (Cordier 2014:84).
“The skill of discerning is the door to transformation, to renewal of our personal lives, and to the beginning of the renewal of faith communities and the world. As such, discernment is the biggest single challenge facing spiritual leaders in this world of changing contexts; for it involves both divine disclosure and the human shaping of God’s word (Osmer 2008:134), and entails listening to this Word and interpreting it in ways that address particular social conditions, events, and decisions before congregations (Osmer 2008:135). “Discernment is the activity of seeking God’s guidance amid the circumstances, events, and decisions of life” (Osmer 2008:137), “that cultivates within the community the discernment of missional vocation” (Van Kooten & Barrett 2004:139).
Listening attentively to the Word, to one another, and to the world is central to participating in God’s mission; (but only) if the listening is accompanied by discernment – the Christian practice of attending to God’s call for Christian communities corporately and for each of us personally. (Van Gelder & Zscheile 2011:151).
“In doing so, the church affirms that the purpose of God’s mission is fullness of life (John 10:10), and that this is the criterion for discernment in mission (WCC – Together towards Life 2013:73). Jesus calls us out of the narrow concerns of our own kingdom, our own liberation and our own independence (Acts 1:6) by unveiling to us a larger vision and empowering us by the Holy Spirit to go “to the ends of the earth” as witnesses in each context of time and space to God’s justice, freedom and peace. Our calling is to point all to Jesus, rather than to ourselves or our institutions, looking out for the interests of others rather than our own (cf. Philippians 2:3-4).”