This is the fourth in a series of posts on the topic of the spiritual gift of discernment.

The gift of discernment of spirits is a powerful weapon in times of spiritual warfare in church life, and of great assistance when breakthrough is needed.

Is it any wonder, then, that the activation of this gift is highly contested?

Many discerners struggle when it comes to communicating an insight they have received concerning what is taking place in the spiritual realm to leaders in their church.

Here are some tips to help you establish trust with your leaders and to maximise the effectiveness of your gift of discernment in church life. Note: these keys also apply to exercising the gift of discernment in any Christian organisation.

1. Make Prayer your First Response

Whenever we have an insight as to something taking place in the spiritual realm, our first response should always be prayer. As we pray, we are:

  • Confirming that our insight is based on something we have received from a place of intimacy with God and not from our personal feelings
  • If the discernment relates to spiritual warfare, we are beginning to pray for God’s intervention
  • Asking for further insight relating to the bigger picture of what we are perceiving

2. Discern What the Spirit of God is doing

A fallacy about the gift of discernment (and the watchman ministry) is that it exists solely to identify demonic attack.

Actually, the highest use of the gift of discernment is to see what the Spirit of God is doing.

Someone with a gift of discernment of spirits has the ability to perceive:

  • What the Spirit of God is doing, i.e. where His anointing is
  • Angelic activity
  • Demonic activity, and to describe it by name and nature for the purpose of waging spiritual warfare
  • What is sourced in human desire or nature (not necessarily negative unless it is presented as being of the Holy Spirit but isn’t)

In other words, a discerner has a Spirit-given ability to distinguish between what is from the human soul, what is of the Spirit of God, and what of a demonic source.

If a discerner is only ever seeing and relaying reports on demonic activity, there is an unhealthy imbalance, which needs to be corrected.

3. Seek God for His Redemptive Plan

Related to the above point, it is vital that we form the habit of looking for what God is doing, not just reporting on what the enemy is doing.

Leaders get enough negative reports coming their way without it continually coming from intercessors and their prophetic team as well!

Even when there is warfare happening and the church is under spiritual pressure (attack) our Father is up to something good. He has plans to overturn demonic strategies and to grow the church.

So don’t just bring a negative report to your leaders. Go back to God and ask Him – what is HE up to?

Something that’s especially helpful if you have the gift of discernment is to activate the gift of prophecy as well (even if this is at a basic level of encouragement) and team the two gifts up.

4. Find out the Preferred Means for Delivering Discernment and Prophetic Words in Your Church

Every church has its own practices for sharing revelatory insights. And within a larger church, individual leaders or pastors may prefer different approaches.

It is important if you are unsure, especially if you have changed churches, to ascertain what this protocol is. If your leader has not considered this before, give them a few options and find out which they prefer.

If public sharing in your church meeting is encouraged, I recommend running your insight past a leader before presenting it before others. Prayer meetings may have different practices to other public meetings or services.

Some examples of avenues to report a revelatory insight to a leader are:

  • Speaking to the leader personally
  • Report directly via email or other means
  • Report via a secretary or PA
  • Share via a designated leader or prayer coordinator

5. Share your Discernment Appropriately

One thing we must never do is ‘gossip’ revelatory insights. We do that when we share with others who are not in leadership the discernment we are receiving about leaders or the church.

The reason I make a special note of this is that it can happen unintentionally, in the guise of seeking advice, confirmation, help or prayer support from our peers.

Discernment received in a prayer meeting may be prayed through at that time, but should be relayed immediately to the church oversight.

Sometimes we do need a SAFE PLACE to process what we are receiving—especially when we are starting out and we lack confidence.

This may be the leader (minister or pastor) directly. However, our leaders may be too busy, or have a limited understanding of developing the ministry of discernment. They need the benefits of receiving it, but it is not necessarily their job to develop it.

In many cases, a trusted prophetic leader or intercessor may have delegated authority to assist a discerner with processing what he or she is receiving before presenting it to the oversight.

6. Other Tips for Sharing Discernment with Leaders

Use Prophetic Jargon Sparingly

Many church leaders are not themselves prophetically gifted. Even if they are, we should, as far as possible, use straightforward language and expression when communicating issues of discernment.

Be aware of Differences Between your Values and those of your Leaders

We need to be aware of differences between our own priorities and those of our leaders, because these are often reflected in the content or way we present a word of prophecy or discernment (this is a vital issue and I will discuss it further in a later post).

Submit your Discernment Without Strings Attached

When we share an insight concerning discernment that we have received, we naturally want to know whether it has been acted upon.

However, as with words of prophecy, we need to release our discernment and not place any expectation that our insight be acted upon or responded to.

*Do you have any questions or experiences to share with us on this topic? I would love to hear from you. Leave a comment in the box below. If the comment box is not visible, click on this link and scroll down.


DISCERNMENT Front Cover Small$5.95 AUD e-Book

Are you sensitive to what is taking place in the spiritual realm? Have you ever been adversely affected by a negative atmosphere?

You may have the spiritual gift of discernment.

The gift of discernment of spirits is a powerful weapon in times of spiritual warfare, and can be of great assistance when ministering freedom to individuals.

And yet many who have the gift of discernment have difficulty knowing what to do with what they are feeling or sensing.

‘Unlocking The Gift Of Discernment’ incorporates wisdom from Enliven Blog as well as additional valuable material on how to be protected as a discerner in times of spiritual warfare.

To view ‘Unlocking The Gift Of Discernment’ in our e-store, click here

Related Posts:

What Is The Spiritual Gift Of Discernment?

8 Signs You May Have The Spiritual Gift Of Discernment

Tips for Sharing Prophetic Warnings in Church Life

8 Ways To Grow Your Spiritual Gift Of Discernment

© Helen Calder  2010   Enliven Blog

13 thoughts on “6 Tips For Exercising The Gift Of Discernment In Church Life”

  1. Darling, this a so well written and, powerful if we exercise the wisdom here. Wow, I can’t wait to see this gift released more!! It will rock the spiritual world!!!

  2. Hi again Helen, yes well written. You may have already done this, but have you stated what the difference is between the prophetic gift and the gift of discernment? Are they both not in some ways the same thing? Both in some ways are hearing and feeling what God feels and is saying about a situation or a person or ministry. I would expect a prophetic person to also move in discernment as the Holy Spirit leads them. Therefore what applies to the prophetic should also apply to discernment?

    1. Thanks Charlie, I always appreciate you provoking me to further thought and to clarify my statements!

      Prophecy and discernment of spirits are two distinctive gifts. My descriptions in brief are:

    2. Prophecy is the Spirit-given ability to receive and pass on a message from God (expressing His heart and intent) to a church, group or individuals.
      Discernment is the Spirit-given ability to perceive whether Divine, human or demonic origins are the source of a presenting spirit, atmosphere, event or revelatory message.
    3. However, while they are distinctively different, they do have a close relationship. This is because they are both revelatory gifts. As revelatory gifts they are subject to the same guidelines and so on, as I have inferred in the above post. Both appear in Paul’s list in 1 Cor 12. Also, both tend to be found in the prophetic/prayer communities in a church. Sometimes a Christian is strong in both gifts, but this is not always the case.

  3. Helen – love the way you have put this together in a way that is easy to understand — with no “Prophetic” or “Christian” jargon to be seen!
    Also the way you have defined the difference between ‘prophecy’ and ‘discernment’, even though they are closely connected.
    As I was writing these comments, I was reminded of Jesus’ comment – “He who has ears, let him hear” – a reminder to use not just our ‘natural’ hearing, but to exercise our ‘spiritual’ hearing as well.

    1. Thank you Jenny,
      I’m sure there must be some jargon in there somewhere…. so difficult to avoid when you’ve spent a lifetime in church circles, isn’t it?
      Over the last few years I have really appreciated the way you and your team so wonderfully live out the things I share in this article 🙂


    1. Hi there Connie, a joy to hear from you!
      As with all spiritual gifts, the gift of discernment is a turbo-boosted version of an attribute that should be present in the life of every Christian believer. The Bible instructs us to grow in the area of discernment (Heb 5:14). But there IS a special gift that only some Christians have. A desire for and interest in the gift of discernment is certainly one sign that you may have the gift, but not necessarily. Check out this article on ‘Signs You May Have The Gift Of Discernment’ and see if there are any other signs you can relate to:

      Blessings 🙂

  5. Concerning prophecy and discernment, you have always emphasised
    submission to leaders’ judgement.
    This is not born out by the scriptures.
    1 cor. 14:29 (greek bible} talks of group responsibility. the king jamesversion mistranslated it.
    Also 1thess. 5:20-21 gives the responsibility to the body, not one person.
    In both passages, the idea is that , prophecyshould be delivered first and then Judged.
    Also in my personal experience, prophecy (not word of knowledge or wisdom) could not be withheld without grieving the Holy Spirit; you recieve a word or phrase and as you step out in faith, the rest follows. So. how can you submit such process to flitering as you suggested?

    1. Hi Kenny, thank you for the thoughtful questions.
      We at David McCracken Ministries believe uncompromisingly that prophetic ministry should both honour and be accountable to godly church leadership, that this value is founded upon scripture, and that our exercise of the prophetic gift should demonstrate this.

      In response to your particular thoughts:
      1. Re 1 Thess. 5:20-21, I teach on this constantly, that we all should embrace, weigh up and discern prophecy that has been given publicly, including personal prophecy.

      2. As far as your interpretation of 1 Cor 14:29.
      This particular instruction has been given to them by Paul, who is their Apostolic oversight.
      I teach the principle of accountability from this passage, and that church leadership sets the protocols, just has Paul has done here.
      And for the same purpose that he has done—to provide a safe environment that builds the church and honours God.
      It can be helpful to distinguish between principles being taught in scripture (such as accountability, above) and the actual practices of the times in which they were outworked. In this passage, Paul is specifying that they listen to 2-3 prophecies only, followed by weighing up. Note in the same passage Paul is also instructing individuals to produce a song and a teaching during the service, and that women should be silent in church!
      We need to review the scripture as a whole, and balance truth against truth. And distinguish between methods, which are flexible, and principles, which are enduring (such as submission to leadership, Heb 13:17)
      Godly principles are to be transferred to every situation, whereas practices and methods are adaptable according to the need and culture. For example, what can be done in a small church group may not be suitable in a church meeting of 500 or 1,000 people. It is up to a church leadership to determine what practices suit their unique church culture and provide a safe environment for their people.
      Finally, regarding your comment about not grieving the Holy Spirit, I believe Paul teaches in this same passage that there are times a prophecy can and should be held back, even though revelation is flowing. (see verses 29-33).
      See also:

  6. I have always had what I call discernment. Lately I have been having really weird visions or I don’t know really what to call them I thought for a moment I was going nuts. It’s like when I look at certain people I see things. When I look at a friend of mine he is a Evangelist I see a Flaming Bible and when I look at another friend he is like the dove on the day of Pentecost and another friend is like the Watchmen with the shofars sounding the alarm and I looked at my Pastor and I saw the ten commandment tablets and the stained glass windows in the church all have peoples names on them and I never knew until sunday that my window is Moses with the ten commandments. I was just concerned because I asked someone how do you handle it when you look and someone and you see something different and your skin crawls and no one can answer me. I do not know anyone where I am from that has this gift. So I honestly thought I was losing it for a moment until Sunday morning and The Pastor said that God wanted me to know that he was going to reveal the interpretation of these things that I had been seeing. One man spoke over me that God had given me the boldness of Jehu with the violent anointing of Samson and I said well he needs to give me the wisdom of Solomon so I know how to use his gifts and that I use them for him and him alone.

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