The task of ‘discerning the word’ at a Community Gathering or other prayer meeting is just one part of the process of ‘weighing’ or ‘evaluating’ words spoken by prophets. Firstly, the person who thinks he or she has received a revelation should discern the word before taking it to the discernment team. This involves getting the word – and how to express it – as clear as possible. Also, the person should actively ask the Lord if the word should be shared with the body. The Lord shows us many things for our own edification – not all of them are prophetic words to be shared.
At Branch Gatherings and other large prayer meetings, we customarily use a ‘discernment team’, usually of two people, to exercise a preliminary ministry of discernment – of weighing or evaluating the prophetic words brought to the discernment team by individual prophets.
As well as carrying out an initial discernment of individual prophetic words, the discernment team also works with the leader of the meeting to effectively organise the delivering of the prophetic word in an orderly, peaceful and helpful manner.
This is done by informing the leader when there is one or more words that the discernment team thinks should be delivered at the meeting, and agreeing on when this will be done. The team then inform the people who are to deliver the words when they will be called forward, and in what order.
The discernment team may also play a role in suggesting to the leader some way in which the meeting may be led so that people can better respond to the prophetic word (e.g. prayer ministry by prayer teams or in small groups; worship in a particular way – on our knees, around the Cross; inviting people to share on a theme – thanksgiving, overcoming trials). It is for the leader to make these decisions, but the discernment team should respond freely if asked for input by the leader, or readily offer a suggestion if they feel a strong or clear leading from the Lord.
Serving on the discernment team does not require the specific charismatic gift of “the ability to distinguish between spirits”. Nor do those serving on the discernment teams themselves need to have exercised the prophetic gift frequently or strongly. Rather any Community member, who is reasonably well-instructed in Catholic teaching, has been baptised in the Spirit and is currently striving to live in the Lord may be able to serve on the discernment team.
The discernment team is invested with authority – for the duration of the meeting for which they are rostered on – to exercise the duty of the Community to “test everything”. The team should approach this task with humility, but also with confidence that the Lord will assist them to do it well. A positive attitude to prophesy is recommended by St Paul: “do not despise prophesying’ – so the team should come to the task with expectant faith that the Lord will speak and will make His word clear to them.
Part of the ministry of the discernment team is to also encourage those who are trying to develop the prophetic gift by listening to the Lord and by bringing forward any sense they feel they may have received from the Lord.
Contact Tomas Lara if you would like to be part of the discernment team at Gatherings.