The attached file is an exercise to assist people to clarify their understanding of spiritual discernment. The file was revised 26 JAN 2017.
103 Understanding Spiritual Discernment Feb
It can be used by evaluation team members to facilitate consensus on data collection and analysis for this aspect of an evaluation.
It can be used with stakeholders as the evaluation is planned.
It can be used to facilitate use of spiritual disciplines that guide the activities of the evaluation team.
May your ministry be more pleasing to God as you develop deeper understanding of discernment, and internalize discerning practice.
Hebrews 13:5-6; Rev. Charles H. Spurgeon commentary
Hebrews 13:5. Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.
CHS… You have a grand reserve, therefore. What you have in possession is only a little spending money to use on the road to heaven, but “he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.” You may confidently fall back upon the providence of God in all times of straitness and need [dire straits = a very bad situation that is difficult to fix].
Hebrews 13:6. So that we may boldly [confidently] say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me.
FGC… Confidence emerges from beliefs held strongly. The strong belief here is that taking risks to do the will of the Lord may lead to consequences that will be difficult to endure. The Lord will be with me, not to lessen the severity of the situation, but to assure me that doing the right thing matters. Following the will of God for my life is more important than anything else.
If I believe through prayerful discernment that the will of God for me is to promote transformative evaluation in agencies that partner with marginalized groups to transform lives and society in the biblical sense; then I can count on the Holy Spirit to sustain me regardless of what others say about my work. I can learn from what they say. I can continue lovingly with my witness with bold humility, with or without their support, strongly believing that God will use my work for future good. Glory be to God!
The program manager was reading the evaluation report when he exclaimed, “This evaluation stinks!” The evidence showed little or no progress for most of the program objectives. There were numerous recommendations for improving the chances for accomplishing the objectives, but the cost would be high. The report was bad news for the manager, and he reacted defensively by lashing out at the evaluation.
A similar program was evaluated in a different setting. The results for achieving objectives were similar, but the evaluator had used a transformative approach. Throughout the exercise the manager had participated in several sessions of reflecting on relevant passages of scripture with the evaluator and other stakeholders. And data had been collected and analyzed on program alignment with the agency mission; the evidence showed good alignment.
Before she shared the report with manager and others, they reflected on 2 Corinthians 2:14-17. They spent time discussing savoring the fragrance when Christ was present, and how people could decide to be triumphant in their situation or to be defiant. People could accept bad news in the eyes of the world as good news in the kingdom. Or not.
The manager read the report and commented first on the results for alignment. “I feel like we are living near a fragrant field of flowers, but our land where we are working has a lot of weeds choking the “crops” we have planted. The achievements are disappointing, but the nearby fragrance is encouraging. We need to prayerfully re-examine our objectives and how we using our resources, rejoicing in the promised triumph that comes when we are faithful.”
The evaluation approach and the reporting style can be a ministry of death or a ministry of life. Work towards an evaluation exercise that offers life going forward, not by obscuring worldly failure, but by facilitating awareness of the fragrance of Christ that transforms attitudes toward worldly failure. Praise God for revealing wisdom in scripture that surpasses worldly wisdom.
“For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:17)
Evaluation is designed to fix our eyes on what is seen by qualified observers. Can this verse that emphasizes the superiority of the unseen have any application in TE?
It is tempting to use this verse to justify the use of constructivist approaches to evaluation that acknowledge the importance of unseen personal perspectives along with things that are seen. But there is a much more important application; the need for discernment in the TE process. Discerning the will of God, as revealed while participating in the evaluation exercise, is one of the consequences of viewing evaluation through the lens of a Christian worldview.
“There are unseen things, as well as things that are seen. And there is this vast difference between them; unseen things are eternal, seen things but temporal, or temporary only. Let us then look off from the things which are seen; let us cease to seek for worldly advantages, or to fear present distresses. Let us give diligence to make our future happiness sure.” (Matthew Henry commentary)
Short-term results based on what is seen is the typical outcome of most evaluations. Recommendations for going forward with the evaluated program are based on those results. In TE such recommendations should emerge from discernment as evaluators and stakeholders reflect on what really matters in community development. Describe recommendations for program improvement, recommendations for better alignment between program and mission, and provocative propositions regarding a better future from an eternal glory perspective.