The pattern of the mission discernment forms
First, a word about “discernment” in the title. Webster’s (1) defines it in a charming way: “to detect with the eyes a figure approaching through the fog.” Discerning what God wants is never a fully error-free perception. Test what you discern: do you sense love or justice present or needed; does what you sense accord with biblical insights into how God works; and does it accord with your own experience. Therefore, you might pray “God adopt what I discern where it is right and correct what I discern where it is wrong.” Do avoid claiming absolute accuracy for what you discern.
The forms are the same for each mission field. The first question is foundational for the rest of the questions. In what sense or way is God already at work in this area of your life? It reads:
- What has God been doing in or telling me about my life in this mission field of . . . ?
What message am I getting about it? I will try beginning with: I believe God is . . .
A clue for sensing what God is doing is looking for wherever you see love or justice at work, the distinctive signs of God, of God’s Spirit, at work. Another clue is the opposite; where are love or justice needed. God is already at work, somehow, wherever love or justice are needed. You may see or sense a sign of God, the Holy Spirit, already working to bring or to increase love or justice there. By the way, the Holy Spirit is often understood as God at work in the people and in the world around us. That is how it is used in this book.
This first question keeps you focused on discerning what God wants. Seek to connect what you will do with what you sense God is already doing. Beware starting with what you want or need. You will, probably, end up telling God what you will do rather than discerning how you will join God’s mission in that part of your life.
Questions 2, 3, and 4 help you to discern various options for ways to join what God is already doing.
- As I think about God’s message, what is my vision or goal for how I want life to be in this mission field.
- What am I doing right now to make this vision or goal a reality?
- What do I still need to do? I begin: with thinking of where I need to bring or to increase caring or love, fairness or justice; and with working with my skills, talents, gifts, limitations, and convictions.
In Question 5, you choose how you will actually join what you sense God is already doing; and when you will do it.
- What specifically will I do or continue to do to make my vision or goal a reality, and when will I do it? You will limit yourself to just one action. This is or will be your mission in your home and with your friends. Note the parenthesis that follows the name of each mission field, “(a current mission or one I will begin).” We have tended to call loving and just actions in our Monday to Saturday living “good deeds.” They are really missions out from under the “church roof.” The mission you choose in Question 5 may well be a mission you are already living such as some form of being a responsible parent at home, a competent worker at work, or an engaged citizen in the wider world. We underlined early that we are already living many missions in daily life. We now recognize “good deeds” as the missions they already are.
Questions 6, 7, and 8 help you to find and work with a teammate who can help you to reflect on your words and actions and to plan your next steps.
- Who can work with me to carry out this mission? How will I describe the mission to interest him or her? My answer with the person’s name and words I might actually use:
- When the time is right and with permission, how can I explain how what we are doing is or can be part of God’s mission? My answer with words I might actually use:
- When the time is right and with permission, how can I encourage my teammate to turn to the church for help and support? I will begin with how the church helps me; that may give me an idea of what to suggest for how it might help him or her. My answer with words I might actually use: