The Thing with Discerners

The following was written by David Backus
Copyright The Free Believers Network 2011

I can usually spot them. It’s my job as I contribute my portion of the work to the Body of Christ. They are sometimes outcasts. Sometimes they are quiet and introverted. Other times they are more outspoken and abrasive. Either way, they are misunderstood. Usually, if they don’t want to be removed from their local church group, they conform, grudgingly and brood quietly. Many aren’t aware of why.

Often they get accused of being unteachable or unsubmissive to authority and being headstrong. The problem is, many times even they don’t recognize why or what they have. Usually these people’s hearts get crushed early on in the institutional church system.

I am speaking, of course, of those with the spiritual gift of discernment. This specific gift doesn’t get a lot of limelight and exploitation like the more powerful gifts. It is usually a threat to most pastors and it is more difficult to manipulate and control.

This is one of the biggest population of people in churches that get their share of spiritual and religious abuse. Either they conform to the all-knowing constraints of their pastors, or they get swept under the carpet, or booted out. Their warnings about error taking hold in the church often go ignored and usually such people aren’t given a position of leadership or to even speak in the average church setting.

I like to call the gift of discernment the twin gift of prophecy. People who are prophets or who work closely with prophets possess this gift as well. It complements and tempers the prophetic gift nicely.

The discerner is the watchman in the late hours of the night. They constantly scan the horizon for possible danger. They watch closely and carefully with a highly critical mind, for anything that might damage or lead the church away from the truth of the things of God.

If I were to liken the discerner to a part of the body of Christ it would be the immune system. They are the body’s defense system against viral lies that would infiltrate His people.

Unfortunately, due to religious pride, financial corruption and desire for power and control, religious abuse, or even the more passive aggressive church communities have rejected this crucial part of the body, rendering it vulnerable to the lies of the enemy.

Usually discerners don’t get along well with the pastor who doesn’t understand the gift and insists on running the show. They also don’t get along well with the “be nice and don’t judge” mentality of the average church attender. Often, discerners get accused of being judgmental, overly critical, or even arrogant.

I would offer comfort here though, there is an entire book of the Bible dedicated to the discerner. It is most often overlooked and poorly understood. It is one of my favorites, the book of 1 John. I take deep comfort in this book and other passages in the Bible which reaffirm this gift in me.

To the pastor or the observant church member, I say this. Look for the ones who usually are considered and labeled rebels. They don’t fit in, they don’t play nice with the status quo. They sometimes have a chip on their shoulder, they usually complain about the way things are and can tend to be overly critical. Look for the loner who is in the group, but never at complete harmony with it. Also look for the one who drives you crazy with their being “unteachable” and “unsubmissive.” Chances are, they have the gift of discernment, even if it is undeveloped and not brought under the control of the Holy Spirit and His Love.

To the Discerner: If this blog describes you, make sure you are submerged in love for people. Use your gift based on love. My gift of discernment became the most effective when I learned that God is love, and I asked God for the gift of seeing the world, especially the Church through His eyes.

As with all spiritual gifts, it needs to spring out of God’s flame of love for others deep inside of you. Fall deeply in love with people before operating in this gift. When you love people, you will never go wrong. And things can go awry when love is withheld and selfish motives are the root.

by David Backus

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