Discernment is a time-honored practice in the Christian tradition. It is the process of aligning your will to God’s will.

In one sense, we do it all the time, from choosing the college we attend to simply planning our day. We listen to the “still, small voice” (1 Kings 19:12) inside us to help us decide what actions we engage in—that’s discernment.

The process of discernment is intentional, deliberate and takes the time it takes. (1 John 4:1) Discernment cannot be rushed. After acceptance of the Missional Discernment Application, aspiring Missionals wade into the process of establishing relationships in the Village and are encouraged to be prayerful and reflective, taking time to listen to the subtle movements of the Spirit within their own hearts, recognizing and dialoguing with God about their feelings. If the fruit of this quiet time is peace and joy, this typically indicates a genuine call to serve as a Missional. Fruits such as anxiety, frustration, fear and confusion may indicate a call to something other than becoming a Missional, or it could suggest that now is not the right time to pursue the Missional life.

Discussions with your spouse and family, a pastor or other spiritual guide, friends, other missionals, Community First! Village residents, and most importantly with God in extended periods of quiet prayer, are all vital to engaging in a robust discernment process. During this time of discernment, if you are receiving consolations, encouragements and other positive emotions, ask God if that is Him affirming—whether becoming a Missional is His will for you. Likewise, if you have anxiety, hesitations or negative emotions, ask God specifically about each of them. Is He leading you away from the Missional life, are these simply your own human frailties, or possibly even lies of the enemy? Listen with the ears of your heart for His answers.

Also during this time, pay special attention to your dreams, to out-of-the-ordinary events, to new people you meet, and to new insights from reading Scripture. Ask God for how He was revealing His will for you in those events. The goal of discernment is to know God’s will, and He uses many different ways to communicate that to us. Our job is to actively listen, to attentively perceive, and to assiduously pray to God throughout the process.

Ask God during this time for the ears to hear and the eyes to see His will.

We are listening to see if discerning Missionals can answer YES to three questions:

Is God calling you to live and serve missionally in Community First! Village?

God is always calling. Sometimes it is a nudge to hand a bottle of water to someone on the street corner, and sometimes it is to lay down one’s life for a friend. We don’t have to think about handing out a water bottle, but to prioritize the life of a friend as higher in value than our own is the ultimate in mature discipleship. A call to live and serve missionally in Community First! Village is not as extreme as giving up your life for a friend, but it is certainly not a casual commitment. It is about service, and service demands sacrifice. This sacrifice may be to give up your life as you knew it, to change your priorities, to make yourself more vulnerable to the suffering of others so God can mold you and empower you to become who He seeks you to be. Discernment must be taken seriously, first and foremost, for the protection of our neighbors. But also, for your own welfare (and perhaps that of your family)—physical, mental, and spiritual.

Living missionally is all about building up the body of Christ in the least of our brothers and sisters (Mt 25:40). Concurrently, it is about becoming—to borrow the phrase from Oswald Chambers—“My utmost for His highest,” doing what you were meant to do and submitting to God’s will. Just as it takes time for a plant to grow and mature before it can bear fruit, and even then, it takes more time for the fruit to ripen, so too the revelation of God’s will appears in the fruits of love and service. They appear, grow and mature in time.

As God’s will is gradually made clear, it can be trusted. The confidence that comes with that assurance is what is required for the discerner to proclaim a full-throated YES to question two. Please proceed to the next tab.

Are you prepared to step out in faith by fully committing to answer that call?

Discerning God’s will in our lives is hard work. It requires trust, patience, honesty, vulnerability, persistence, an open mind and more patience. And to all these things add a spirit of surrender. We have lots of questions as human beings in our Western world, and we want answers now. Discernment does not work on a schedule. It cannot be bullied into submission. There are no shortcuts.

We collect small affirmations along our way, subtle nudges that indicate we are moving in the right direction. It might be a comment from someone, a smile, an affirming scripture, song, or word when unexpected. It could be the answer to a puzzling situation that resolves in shocking elegance, or innumerable other strange “coincidences.” Discernment is the art of centering ourselves in prayer, then going out to experience whatever God has for us, looking for indicators that affirm that we are aligning with His will. When we have a number of these assurances in their many forms, we begin to experience confidence—we’re on the right path, and we  know it. It turns a big leap of faith into a small step forward.

When we get there, that’s when we are ready to say YES, and mean it, to question three. Please proceed to the next tab.

Is the CF!V community affirming your call?

Sometimes we misinterpret signs in our lives and are led to an incorrect conclusion. Perhaps I make up my mind first, and then go about looking for evidence to support my decision. I might also be susceptible to the influence of others, or of the enemy—who seeks to lead me away from the truth to my own destruction. Self-deception and manipulation abound in our modern world. How can we not fall victim to it? By seeking the mature affirmation of others. This is the final stage of the process. Our Missional Discernment model incorporates feedback from neighbors, staff and Missionals. It is the community, attuned to the authenticity of aspiring Missionals, that provide that measure of assurance and validation. It occurs naturally over many instances and encounters. There is always a bread crumb trail that shows when we are moving toward or away from validation. There is a simple way to know where you stand in the process. Ask yourself this question and be honest with your response—“Today, right now, what would a poll of neighbors at Community First! Village indicate when they hear I’m moving in?” Will they be joyful? Will they say “Thank God!” and “That’s great!” Or will they ask—“Who?” or worse, “So?”

A discerning Missional who has confirmed an authentic call, has settled into a posture of surrender to say YES, and has been affirmed by neighbors and missionals is ready to become part of this crazy and awesome experience we call Community First! Village.

Ready to Continue?

Discernment How-To’s: Practical Guidance