The New Testament encourages us to examine everything and work out whether it is good (from God) or bad (and therefore something to avoid): 1 Thess 5:21-22.
The same can be said when trying to work out your vocation (or calling): some roles are right for us and some are not.
Discernment can be worked out just between you and God for some things, but often it is easier to work with individuals or a process to help you discover what God might be saying.
If you are considering ordained ministry the Discernment Process is a reasonably formal sequence of events, interviews, direction, prayer and assessments.
In their book Reader Ministry Explained, Cathy Rowling and Paula Gooder list these questions as an initial guide to discernment:
- What do I feel God drawing me towards in my life?
- Of all the ways of serving God that I can identify in my situation and context, which of them seems to be the most life-giving for myself and those around me?
- What particular gifts have I been given and how can these best be used in the service of others, of Christ and of the Church?
- What needs do I perceive both in the Church and outside it, and in what way can I respond to these needs?
- What do I enjoy doing and what gives me the most energy?
- What do other people most often ask me to do; does this tell me something about where they think my gifts lie?
(Gooder, P & Rowling C, Reader Ministry Explained (SPCK, London: 2009), p 42.)
You could also take a looks at Ten Steps to Discovering God's Call
Please know that the discernment process is deliberately long and confronting. In addition, the final result is not the product of boxes-ticked or hoops jumped through - it is an act of prayer that leads to corporate intuition. For this reason it is helpful to reflect on John leaping in Elizabeth's womb.
Ten Steps to Discovering God’s Call
- Examine how God has worked in your life (history, experience).
- Examine your past ministry experiences – what did/did not give you a sense of fulfilment? Why?
- Examine your interests – what do you have a passion for?
- Examine your talents.
- Discover your spiritual gifts – what special empowerment has God consistently provided for you to use in ministry?
- Evaluate what sacrifices (ie, time, money, investment in commitment) God seems to be calling you to make.
- Pray and keep on praying for discernment by LISTENING.
- Note what the community of faith seems to call you to.
- Talk about your sense of call with mature Christians who know you well and whose judgement you trust.
- When you have a sense of call, test it by the ‘Six E’s’ –
- ELIMINATE whatever does not meet the test of Scripture;
- EXAMINE your motives and desires in this area;
- EXPERIMENT in that area in various ways;
- EVALUATE your ‘success’ with the aid of the congregation (Does it bring peace? Joy? Is good fruit born of it?)
- EXCHANGE your role for another one if it does not fit you;
- EMBRACE the right ministry wholeheartedly.
What if I'm not in a worshiping community right now or don't know who to talk to?
You may find your self in between churches, or on the fringes trying to explore new ministry areas? Or perhaps you find it hard to talk to the leadership of your current spiritual home? You are not alone.
We are always happy to make time to listen to your story and help you discover where God might be leading you. Please contact the Vocations Officer - Rev Paul Weeding - (email@example.com) to see what we can do.
Ultimately we all need to be in a worshipping community to worship God, to enrich and be enriched by one another.
Bishop's Ministry Advisors (also known as BMAs and Examining Chaplains) are people with the gift of discernment who interview candidates for ordination and offer the Bishop advice. BMAs can be lay or ordained people, and are not always selected from inside the church. Their role is explore the sense of call that our candidates have through prayer and questioning.
Discernment is not straight forward. We are not tied to check boxes or psychological evaluations; though both have a part to play. Ultimately, discernment carries with it a sense of knowing that is not always easy to articulate or define, but which is nevertheless authentic and valid. We often refer to the pregnant encounter between Mary and her cousin: "When Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, the baby leapt in her womb." (Luke 1: 39-45) This reminds us that the Spirit communicates at a deep level - and it is that level that we are seeking.
The next BMA Training will take place at Charlotte Brown House on Saturday May 1, 2021, commencing at 10am. A zoomlink will be made available to those who cannot be there in person.
For more information please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
- The art of asking questions and the challenge to follow your gut (workshop)
- An update on the need to enhance the discernment process in the light of the Royal Commission