How do you know God is speaking to you? How can you be sure? Often, our relationships with God feel so much like a one-to-one relationship that we forget that other people relate with God, too. The process of discernment isn’t just a me thing, sometimes (or perhaps most of the time) it is an us thing. In this final week of the Discernment series, we’re looking at the communal aspect of hearing and obeying God’s will.
What is the worst advice you ever received? What was the best advice your ever received?
- How would you describe the process of discernment? What does it look like?
Read Acts 15:1-19.
- What is at stake in the disagreement between the two parties? Is this just a theological debate or would it have real-world consequences?
- How do the people of Antioch respond to this debate? Why do you think they deferred to others rather than decide themselves?
- What the the process of discernment look like for the council of people in Jerusalem? What steps did they take?
- What criteria did the council use as they tried to determine God’s will?
- In this story, how is community important for the process of discernment? Why sort of community makes this discernment possible?
- James is the leader of the church in Jerusalem, which at this time was the center of the Christian community. His pronouncement seems to be the final decision of the council, and everyone readily obeys. How do authority figures factor into the process of discernment?
- How does Acts’ process of communal discernment look different from more individual approaches to discernment? What steps and criteria should it include?
- Do you have people in your life who you value and trust enough to include in major decisions concerning life and faith? If yes, how do you include them? If no, what criteria would make people trustworthy enough?
Read Acts 15:19-35
- What else does the letter to the Gentile believers reveal about the discernment process and the criteria used for discernment?
- What is the result of the council’s process of discernment? How did it affect the people involved?
- After discerning, the council quickly acted by sending a letter to correct the situation. What could have kept them from acting on what they discerned?
- Have you been in a process of discernment before? Was it easy or hard to take the next step? Why?
Diving Deeper: The Body of DISCERNMENT
Read 1 CoRINTHIANS 2:12-30
- In our individualistic society, we tend to desire self-sufficiency. How does this passage relate to that desire?
- This passage speaks towards the apparent inequalities in organizational hierarchies. Some people in the community felt less than because they were not a leader or prominent individual. How does this passage address this tension?
- This passage specifically says that people have different gifts for the community. How does this affect how you go about engaging the faith community for discernment?
Guidelines for Communal Discernment by Victoria G. Curtiss (PCUSA Resource)
How does the Bible model Biblical discernment? (Acts 15) by Morgan Guyton
An Excerpt from Discernment by Henri Nouwen