Ministry Musings: What Discernment is Not (5)

Today, we explore one final thing in relation to what discernment is not.  It is not always what other think you should do, or worse, what they expect you to do.

Discernment surely involves a submission of ourselves to the wisdom and counsel of the community.  That community will almost always include family members and friends, as well as others in the larger church.  We are wise to listen to them, lest we get lost in the maze of our own isolated thinking.

But we must not forget that there are times when other people project their will and desire upon us.  Parents can do it with their children.  Colleagues can do it with each other.

In my years of teaching in the seminary I have had to deal with people who were there because someone else thought they should be.  Sometimes, the other person was a “spiritual hero” or mentor, who got caught up in the excitement of the moment, and just assumed, “You ought to go to seminary!”

But eventually, all secondary guidance evaporates, and we must differentiate between the will of other people and the will of God.  This does not mean that we ignore or reject the contributions others make in the discernment process, but it does mean that (in some cases) we must have the courage to separate the expectations of others from the will of God.

It’s a very encouraging thing to hear someone you love and trust say, “I think you should…..”  But when we feel that someone else may be trying to live their life through us, we must not accept their advice.  The expectations of others are not the same as the will of God.

About jstevenharper

Retired seminary professor, who taught for 32 years in the disciplines of Spiritual Formation and Wesley Studies. Author and co-author of 31 books. Also a retired Elder in The Florida Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church
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One Response to Ministry Musings: What Discernment is Not (5)

  1. Scouse mouse says:

    Agreed. Heb 12:1-2 Happy All Saints day

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