There is no doubt that the First Presbyterian Church of Vernon, Texas is blessed. We, in fact, have always been blessed. Lately, however, our blessings have been more apparent to us. There is an excitement in the air, and we have seen new people, new resources, and new opportunities in our midst. Our congregation could have taken these blessings for granted, but instead the leadership of our church decided that we needed to be good stewards of what God has given. The simple truth is God has blessed us to be blessing.
In January 2006, the congregation commissioned a team to lead our congregation in discernment. Much of the work of this team so far has been behind the scenes. However, starting this fall, the congregation as a whole will be engaged in the hard work of discernment. “Discernment,” I am told, comes from the Latin word, discernere, to separate. Like the farmer who separates the wheat from the chaff, we are called to separate God’s vision from all the competing choices.
God’s vision is not ultimately based on marketing research or the latest fads about church growth. Instead, we believe that God’s vision is a gift of grace only recognized when we allow God to touch, shape, and mold our lives. As a result, Scripture, worship, and prayer must remain at the forefront of our discernment process. The Spirit of Christ will use these means to keep us connected to God.
At the same time, we recognize that congregations come in all shapes and sizes. There is not one way to be the church. A violin sounds different from a saxophone or a tuba. God’s grace will manifest itself in different ways in different congregations. The song that we sing will depend on our context. Already, we are looking at the character and needs of Wilbarger County, and the history, culture, talents and shortcomings of our own congregation. The music that God calls from us will be heard in this place and in this time.
Discernment must include an honest appraisal of ourselves and our surroundings along with an openness to God’s grace.