The Practice of Discernment
Beyond the Ordinary: Spirituality for Church Leaders, Ben C Johnson & Andrew Dreitcer
By: Linnea Nilsen Capshaw
“We must continually remind ourselves that discernment has more to do with deepening our relationship with Christ than it does with making right decisions. It is a lifelong process of developing a relationship with God marked by touch-points along the way. No single decision along the way guarantees either “success” or “failure” in our life with Christ. In fact, as Christians we may take many paths to our full expression of human life in Christ. Each decision provides a new opportunity to notice the results of our choices, to attend to how our path matches the way of Christ. And as we make this journey, even our mistakes can prove useful. Nothing is ever wasted! Each time of discernment, whether it has positive or negative results, offers us further practice in hearing and responding to God’s invitation. From this perspective, life is a school of discernment in which we study and practice the art every single day.

In general, moments of discernment require judging whether a certain word, action, decision, or conclusion moves us further along God’s path than do alternatives. Throughout history, Christians have described this criterion in a variety of ways, each tradition using its own language and images. Some have spoken of discerning between demonic spirits and divine spirits. Others have spoken of choosing between the human spirit and the Holy Spirit. Still others have described judging between the will of God and self-will, as we have already indicated. Whatever language is used, Christian discernment requires judging whether a certain word, action, decision, or conclusion is an appropriate response to God’s call at a particular time in our life.”