Does your church leadership have a biblical process in place for discerning the will of God? Most of us would honestly have to answer, “No” to that question. We might begin board meetings with a short prayer or expect everyone to come “prayed up.” We might even search Scripture for direction, but most church leadership decisions these days reflect a very corporate approach. While being more business savvy has merit, it is still a far cry from the process for discernment outlined in Scripture. Ruth Barton’s new book, Pursuing God’s Will Together: A Discernment Practice for Leadership Groups, is the best guide I’ve run across on the topic of corporate discernment. I guarantee it’ll change the way your team goes about making decisions.

Instead of positing ten quick steps to easy decision making, Barton outlines a strategy whereby a church’s elders, management team, board of directors, or staff (and the entire church for that matter) can become a community for discernment. Citing Romans 2:2, she says, “Corporate discernment begins with attending to the spiritual formation of each individual leader. We start with the book of Romans, which contains Paul’s clearest instruction that we are to ‘be transformed’ so we can discern the will of God” (page 37). What follows is a compelling vision for church leaders to discern the leading of the Holy Spirit in our individual lives and come to mutual agreement as to the Spirit’s leading in our churches:

When decisions need to be made and action needs to be taken, it is hard to trust that the Spirit’s presence and activity can bring about unity. So we capitulate to posturing and maneuvering, secret meetings, heavy-handed tactics and top-down pronouncements. It isn’t God we trust in such moments. When push comes to shove, we trust in familiar methods that make us feel safe and in control. There is not a lot of space for God to work in these methods (page 111).

If anyone doubts whether the principles outlined in this book work in the “real world,” I have seen from first hand experience that they do indeed work. As a member of the board of the Transforming Center for the last five years, I have served under Ruth’s leadership and witnessed these principles in action. When it comes to decision making, our process is far from perfect and we’ve faltered here and there, but our goal has always been to earnestly seek the mind of Christ.

Since Christ is the head of the church, the real question is, What is the mind of Christ on this matter? Discernment is never about what we think or prefer or are comfortable with. It is always about seeking the mind of Christ (page 176).

I’m excited for church leaders to read this book and catch a vision for a new way of making decisions that is truly Spirit-led.