As church leaders, we would do well to study Paul's prayer for the church leaders in Philippians. "This is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ" (Phil. 1:9,10).
The ability to discern good and evil is a gift from God. Ellen G. White says, "The power of discerning good and evil is an attribute from God, and unless the human agents are in vital connection with God, they cannot discern spiritual things" (Manuscript Releases, No. 926:26.2). It is good to know that each one of us can have good discernment as a result of a close communion with God.
Let me share with you some ideas a discerning elder sees in the church that others may not:
Discerning church leaders notice details. Such leaders see fine details in the church that can make a huge difference. For example, they are able to ascertain why some worship services are attractive and meaningful, while others are boring and weak.
Discerning church leaders know how to differentiate. For instance, such leaders see the difference between positive and negative, important and trivial, spiritual and secular, urgent and patient.
Discerning church leaders see connections. Such leaders notice the links between how the church is doing today and how it was doing last year. These leaders help church members retain their hope in the Second Coming of Jesus, remembering that the world is not our eternal home. Their feet are on this earth, but their minds are in heaven.
Discerning church leaders see what is happening beneath the surface. Such leaders see behind the facade of a member's smile to understand how that person is really feeling. Discerning leaders feel the pain that may lie behind such external indicators as a snide remark. These leaders know that behind an unloving action is a heart in need of spiritual support.
Discerning leaders see what many people in the same circumstance cannot see. This spiritual ability provides a deep perception to promote excellence in the church. Church leaders with this gift have a good sense of what is really happening. Such leaders see little things that can make a big difference. They sense what people around them are feeling. They perceive how one thing is related to, different from, or important than another.
Are You A Discerning Elder?
This article was first published in the October/December 2008 Elder's Digest and is reprinted with permission.