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Theme First Evangelical Church Association Discernment Discernment !"#$# ! ! Bulletin A joint and

Theme First Evangelical Church Association Discernment Discernment !"#$# ! ! Bulletin A joint and
Theme First Evangelical Church Association Discernment Discernment !"#$# ! ! Bulletin A joint and
Theme First Evangelical Church Association Discernment Discernment !"#$# ! ! Bulletin A joint and
First Evangelical Church Association
A joint and integrative ministry of
spirituality, mission and social concern
Issue 22 •
April 2005 •
An Interview with
An Interview with
An Interview with
Gordon T. Smith
Gordon T. Smith
Gordon T. Smith
Learning Discernment (1)
— The Spirit Assures Us of
God’s Love
Interviewed by Chi-Hok Wong
Learning Discernment (2)
— The Spirit Calls Us to
Gordon T. Smith is currently serving in interim preaching
ministry at Seven Oaks Alliance Church and as president
of Overseas Council Canada in British Columbia, Canada.
Learning Discernment (3)
— The Spirit Calls Us to Truth
Our friendship with Gordon Smith began in 2001, when he
first came to speak at our Spiritual Direction Training
Program. We have been blessed to have him as our advisor
of Spiritual & Ministry Formation ministry.
!"#$%Seven Oaks Alliance
Church !" Overseas Council
Canada !"2001 !"#
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! !"#$!%&'
Learning Discernment (4)
— The Spirit Guides Us in
Times of Choice
I still remember when you first came to serve our
!"#$%& '()*
community as our speaker for the First Evangelical Church
2001 11
Association (FECA) Spiritual Direction retreat on November
2001, I shared with you that we wanted to build a long-term
Learning Discernment
friendship and partnership with you. Since then, you have
— Guided Meditation
come to minister to us many times, and our people love you
!"#$%&'( %&)*
!"# !
very much. Every time they did evaluations, you received
Christians in the Marketplace
very high scores. We are also grateful that you agreed to be
!"#$%&'()*+ ,
the advisor for our Spiritual and Ministry Formation Ministry.
The Heart of a Servant
What have these past three years of serving and
teaching among the FECA community meant to
!"#$% ! !
The “Y” Malawi Project
Two things have impressed me about FECA. The first
is the quality and intentionality of the approach to spiritual
!"# ! !
!"#$%& !
Listening and Obeying
First Evangelical Church Association Bulletin • April 2005
First Evangelical Church Association Bulletin • April 2005
• •

formation; it is well designed — comprehensive, biblical, and with a strong emphasis on the individual in community. Naturally, because of my own interest in discernment, I am glad that discernment is a key part of the approach to spiritual formation at FECA.

Second, I am also impressed with the quality of people who participate; it takes much commitment to stay with the program over the months (and years). These are people with demanding jobs and

family responsibilities; yet they appreciate the value of being intentional in spiritual formation. They are eager and committed. And

it has been a joy for me to be able to contribute to the work of God in

their lives.

In your doctoral studies, you focused on the subject of discernment, comparing the approaches of John Wesley and Ignatius of Loyola. What motivated you to choose this specific area of research?

The reason for choosing to study Ignatius Loyola and John Wesley

may not sound all that impressive or spiritual. At the time that I began my studies, I had a growing interest in John Wesley, having just read

a biography of him along with his Journal. I was also interested in his

emphasis on sanctification in the Christian life. But I was studying at

a Jesuit university (Ignatius Loyola is the founder of the Jesuit order)

and I thought that the only way that they would let me write a dissertation on Wesley was if I made it a comparative study with Ignatius! Furthermore, at the time, they had a keen interest to see how the thought of Ignatius Loyola compared and contrasted with other spiritual writers. As it turned out, it was tremendously valuable for me to study both of them.

What is your own definition of discernment? What are the essential qualities we need to cultivate if we want to become discerning persons? want to become discerning persons?

This is a very good question. Briefly speaking, discernment is the spiritual practice by which we weigh and consider inclinations of the heart and the mind to determine what is truly from God. We are attending to the Spirit, seeking to know the mind of God — how God is speaking to us, leading and guiding us.

The essential qualities of a discerning person are these:

a person whose mind is richly indwelt with the Word of God (a discerning person is a student of the Scriptures);

we know what it means to live in

mutuality (mutual submission, mutual service, mutual encouragement). But I should stress, it does not mean that we


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are lost in community; we must stress the importance of spiritual solitude at the same time.

a person of humility, notably the humility of eagerness to know and do the will of God.

I could also stress the importance of self-knowledge and patience, and the vital need for emotional self-awareness. But I think these three are the most critical: the Scriptures, the community, and humility.


You were previously the Vice President and Dean of Regent College. After that, you became the President of Overseas Council. In your journey of changing ministry focus and platform, how did you discern the will of God for this change?

This was a very difficult decision for me. I thoroughly enjoyed the work at Regent College and valued the opportunity to give academic leadership and to teach theology and spirituality within the curriculum. But after five years, I sensed that perhaps I had done all that I could do within the administrative responsibility. Furthermore, I also felt that I would only stay if I was sure that it was God’s calling to continue. After much prayer and wrestling of spirit, my wife and I concluded I would not accept another five-year term. Only after that did the opportunity open with Overseas Council. This, in turn, has allowed me to provide leadership to a strategic dimension of Christian missions: the formation of leadership in seminaries and Bible colleges around the world.

In the Evangelical circle, spirituality is a very popular thing to pursue. We find both wheat and chaff in this phenomenon. What do you think is the DNA of a biblical and balanced Christian spirituality?

In my estimation, there are three critical indicators of an authentic Christian spirituality: it is Christ centered, it is biblically oriented, and it finds expression in Christian community. Christian spirituality is about life in the Spirit; and there is only one Spirit: the Spirit of Christ; the Spirit who is also the author of the Scriptures; and the Spirit who enables us to live in the fellowship of the Spirit, which is the body of Christ.

Again, much more could be said; but these are the three most critical issues when it comes to discerning an authentic Christian spirituality.

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First Evangelical Church Association Bulletin •

April 2005