Henri Nouwen, a Roman Catholic priest, professor, author, and compassionate teacher teaches us to do the hard work of being transformed by God as we listen and engage by reading, prayer, and cooperating with others in their journey.
Reading this text reminded me about the story an employee told me when he was in the army. John tended to get distracted. On watching one night, he was enjoying the scenery, the sounds, and yes, he became distracted. That’s not good on watch! His direct report captured John’s attention by saying, “Private, don’t do something, stand there!” Nouwen wrote, “To discern means first of all to listen to God, to pay attention to God’s active presence, and to obey God’s prompting, direction, leadings, and guidance.” That may mean standing with others in a dark space.
I am afraid that to receive direct experiences with the Holy Spirit and our context that most of us will not enjoy that due to giving in to because we are easily distracted. It is hard work and sorting out whether the distractions are for our good or for worse can be inculcated into our rhythms of life.
“Before I can tell my life what I want to do with it, I must listen to my life telling me who I am — Parker Palmer.”
Everyone and every context have a story. One way to respect and love those stories is to be authentic in our relationships. A growing number of our laity hear a message on Sunday from a pastor who has no idea of their context. Some pastors who deliver a message on Sunday without any idea of what it is like to enter his or her laity’s shoes. Sometimes stresses and strains in the laity’s weekly routine conflict with the opportunity for discipleship and service. As a fellow hearer, am I helping my hearers hear better?
If the pastor were in his/her hearer’s shoes, he or she might have a better understanding of their capacity for involvement; they might even be able to model balance. This is where I believe the co-vocational congregation has a leg up on discerning contexts. Their packed schedule having multiple income streams is not much different than the workaholic; even many of our hearers who have two jobs.
The co-vocational congregation has a unique responsibility and opportunity to see communities influenced by Jesus. Deliberately working together with their co-vocational pastor contextual stories can be discerned better. The healthy or sick but getting healthier, the congregation can do so much together. Henri reminds us that understanding the context is one aspect of discernment. Another aspect is to be transformed by the experience. We can feel so wrong when we do not understand the terminology (Oh some of the stories I could tell). And, yet, I propose that wrong really ought to be a step forward. Learning!
“To assist congregations, Transforming Pastoral Leadership suggests two processes that might help congregations discern God’s missional promptings as they move forward into God’s future and experience conflict as opportunities for transformation.”
I propose to help determine healthy markers: practices and relationships that one can focus on to help the Church be outrageously successful in their community. Listening through stillness, research, experiences with others and making application of what God wants and the community needs is success; having a view that we aim to help transform even generations beyond our experience.
Each community is unique. Learning and working towards healthy impacts, a new and optimistic outlook on life. Re-habituating our communities with healthy habits, and to learn how to teach others these practices will help develop more holistic restorative processes.
Each person has something unique and special to offer as a human being as God intended. Doing the hard work of recognizing the many gifts a context has to for us through God’s love, a co-vocational, congregational leadership team will learn and be changed.
1 Corinthians 12:14 (ESV), “14 For the body does not consist of one member but of many.”
This is one of the simplest and clearest statements about our need for each other in the Bible. The body of Christ, or the people that are the whole of humanity, are a team. The body is not supported by one person, but by all of us. We are one, we are strongest working together in unity. Teamwork is the key to living life in harmony so that we can be and do God’s will.
I think Henri` Nouwen would recommend to us to engage the story not only to learn but to be transformed.
 Henri J. M. Nouwen, Discernment, (5) Kindle Edition.
 Quentin P. Kinnison, 2016. “Transforming Pastoral Leadership: Reimagining Congregational Relationships for Changing Contexts.” Eugene, Oregon: Pickwick Publications. http://ezproxy.nts.edu/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=nlebk&AN=1287004&site=ehost-live. (Accessed: September 10, 2019).