Leading in liminality

13 02 2009

canyouheargodnowWhat is needed from spiritual leaders during this time of uncertainty?  I keep bumping into what I think are a few keys to answering that question.  One of those keys is spiritual discernment – finding out what God is doing in our church and community.

I thought Ruth Haley Barton did an excellent job of articulating this critical leadership role in her article titled “Can You Hear God Now” that was published in the Summer 2008 issue of Leadership Journal.

Following are a few highlights from her article:

  • “At the heart of spiritual leadership is discernment-the capacity to recognize and respond to the presence and activity of God both personally and in community.
  • …discernment does not take place in a vacuum, nor by accident. Spiritual community is the context for discernment, so the first move in cultivating a culture of discernment is to establish the leadership group as a community for discernment.
  • Discernment requires us to move beyond our reliance on cognition and intellectual hard work to a place of deep listening and response to the Spirit of God within and among us.
  • Seeking discernment with others at the leadership level requires an extraordinary amount of safety in each other’s presence, along with great clarity about what values govern the process… We cannot just assume these values. We must talk about them and seek to live them with great vigor and intent.
  • The discernment process requires a commitment to listen on many levels.
  • …discernment is not the endgame. The endgame is to actually do the will of God.



4 responses

13 02 2009

This is the kind of thing that our current session must understand and work towards. Please share this with them directly. Not too sure how many subscribe to the blog.


14 02 2009

Thanks Ken – I think you are correct about a limited number of subscribers. I did give a copy to Bob in October – I’ll go ahead and email as an attachment to Wildwood leaders.

Any thoughts on the preceeding post re reaching our community?

25 08 2009

Discernment is indeed key, but you must be careful what you ask for. It seems that systems that are growing, such as Western Buddhism, stress discernment of what is transcendent – kindness, compassion, concentration, silence, equanimity, generosity and others. Practitioners can achieve a depth and purpose of spirit that is independent of deity – a richness that is sufficient to itself. Discernment can mean many things.

27 08 2009

Thanks you for your comment, I totally agree – discernment cannot happen vacuous of a biblical framework and scriptual substance.

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