These three words (and, more importantly, the ideas they represent) are critical to a successful search process. Do you believe God still “calls” people and churches to accomplish the work of his kingdom? Do you believe God equips us to “discern” that call? Do you believe the Spirit is alive and well and guiding his church in matters large and small? If you don’t believe these things, why do you go to church? If you do believe them—especially as church leaders—you need to talk about the search process using these words very deliberately. For example, this might form the body of an announcement that kicks off the Search effort:
“God is and has been actively preparing someone to be our next preaching minister. He’s been working on that man, on his family, on his church … getting him ready to accept this new role and to be effective in it. He is “calling” that man here … and calling us to recognize and receive the one he has chosen for us. We need to be prayerful that God will let us see with his eyes so we can discern his calling and understand his will. This process will require all of us to listen to God carefully, prayerfully, humbly, and obediently. Because God has poured out on us the gift of his Holy Spirit, we trust that the Spirit will lead us and guide this process so that we can be an effective outpost of the kingdom in a world that so badly needs new life.”
The search process needs to be bathed in this kind of language. Elders should invoke the Spirit’s power and wisdom at every turn. The committee should talk about its work and layer every communication with the church and candidates using the vocabulary of prayer, dependence, discernment, and calling.
A search process that does not deliberately invoke this kind of language and thinking will quickly devolve into an essentially secular process that relies more on human effort than on God’s active and present working. How we talk—the words we use—reflects how we think … and the way we think determines what we do and the results we get.
Precisely because these words and concepts are not our common coin, we have to use them deliberately, intentionally, and with a great deal of consciousness. When we do that, however, God is honored and the congregation is trained in the essential ideas that have shaped our search.