Backcasting and Discerning the Way Ahead.

by Christine Sine

Christ in glory

The MSA Team, Board and a few close friends are in a process of discernment. The process we are using is called backcasting, which we combine with our usual discernment process to help us get a sense of what God is wanting to accomplish.

Our questions are: What could MSA look like in five years time?  And then what do we need to do this year, next year, in 2016, 2017 2018 to accomplish that. Combining our usual discernment process with these questions is a very effective way to help us look forward and I thought that you would be interested in this and the way that we use this process. It has become such an essential part of who we are as an organization that we know it is part of what we want MSA to be in five years time.  I think that it should be part of any discipleship process.

This is an exciting time that helps draw us closer to each other and to what God wants to accomplish in and through us.  One of the wonderful aspects of this process is that it gives everyone involved both  a sense of ownership and it draws us together as a team that is focused on Christ rather than on our own agendas. We see it as an opportunity to mentor each other and to integrate our spiritual practices with our work.

Using a process like this also helps to slow us down, something that many of us struggle with as we live in such a fast moving society, but we realize that slowing down is actually what we need more than anything else. To be honest as I reflected on this I realized that we are probably not wasting time at all – in the long run we are probably saving time. The more time we spend focusing on God and God’s agenda the more effectively we will be at doing things that have eternal value.

In this process we always start with a centering prayer, which I first learnt about when reading Basil Pennington’s book Centering Prayer. I often use a breathing prayer for this process which helps all of us relax and let go of all that distracts us from God.

Our second step is checking in. We ask each other. What were the high and low points of the last week? Where did you feel close and distant from God? We then ask What are you looking forward to in the week ahead? What are you not looking forward to? We find that asking these questions sensitizes us to each others joys and struggles so that when we get down to business we are aware of the pressures on each other’s lives and how these could impact our work and our decisions. And in case we are not taking each other seriously enough we then ask these question What are the common themes? and How could these impact our work in the season ahead? 

Reflecting on where God is active and how God is moving in our personal lives first and using that as the foundation for our other work focuses us on relationships rather than tasks. It also strengthens our faith as we recognize the presence of God is all we do and take notice of the threads of God’s activity throughout the day. It is amazing how often what God wants to guide us into in our business flows out of this personal sharing time.

The next important step, which can be challenging as so easily move back into a secular business mode of operation, is to look at our business agenda in the same spirit of attentiveness, recentering as needed to keep us attentive to God’s spirit.  Noticing the God moments and the flow of God’s spirit during the meeting and offering our efforts to God, bringing us back to the center is an important final step.

We appreciate your prayers and your encouragement as we work through this process.


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