Men discerning the Nashville Family of Brothers are seeking God’s preference on two different questions:
Committing to joining a family is a big step, and it should not be taken lightly. Brothers will discern their call for a minimum of four years to gain confidence about God’s call on their life. Our process is divided into three stages punctuated by increasingly stepping into the Commitments of the Nashville Family of Brothers.
After casually connecting with the Nashville Family of Brothers, discerners participate in our 12-month, cohort-style exploration process before moving into the community and making one-year commitments. This process includes the following:
Our next cohort starts September 2020. Contact us to get more information.
In order to move into the Nashville Family of Brothers and make one-year commitments, an individual does not need certainty or even confidence that God is calling the individual to vocational singleness and the Nashville Family of Brothers. The individual only needs a desire to discern those questions formally, an understanding of the formal discernment process to come, and a sense of blessing from God to formally ask those questions.
An individual begins the formal discernment process by making one-year commitments to the Nashville Family of Brothers. During the stage of discernment that follows, individuals will live into the commitments and rhythms of our community, including living in the monastery. Individuals will continue meeting with their discernment director to develop their capacity to discern, deepen their theological appreciation of marriage and vocational singleness, and study our Community Covenant.
During this year, the discerner will intentionally ask God the following questions: (1) God, are you calling me to Christian marriage with a woman or vocational singleness for the sake of the kingdom? (2) God, if you are calling me to vocational singleness, are you also calling me to live that out through the Nashville Family of Brothers?
In order to make three-year commitments, an individual should have 60-70% confidence that he is called to vocational singleness and the Nashville Family of Brothers. If the individual does not feel that level of confidence but feels called to continue discerning, he can repeat his one-year commitments. A discerning brother can only repeat one-year commitments once.
If an individual discerns that he is called to join the Nashville Family of Brothers during his stage of discernment, he will enter into the stage of confirmation by making three-year commitments. During this stage, individuals will seek to confirm that God is indeed calling them to make lifetime commitments. Over these three years, the individual will participate in the rhythms of our community and prepare to make lifetime commitments.
In order to make lifetime commitments, an individual should have 90-100% confidence that he is called to vocational singleness and the Nashville Family of Brothers. If the individual does not feel that level of confidence but feels called to continue discerning, he can repeat his three-year commitments. A discerning brother can only repeat three-year commitments once.
Once the individual has confirmed with confidence that God has called him to join the Nashville Family of Brothers, the individual makes lifetime commitments to our community as described in Our Commitments.
Before we start discerning any specific questions, we need to develop ”spiritual muscles” for general discernment. Prospective brothers will hear how to bring a question before God, consider Scripture, consider practical aspects of their question, seek advice from spiritual mentors, arrive at a potential conclusion, hold that conclusion before God, seek confirmation through small steps, and move forward with confidence.
Discernment directors will ensure that prospective brothers have a healthy theology of both marriage and vocational singleness. Plus, we will help individuals remove any emotional barriers to open-handedly offering this decision to God. Perhaps the individual has been affected by the idol of romance or divorce in the family.
We should let the mission we feel called to help inform our vocation. Does the person feel called to a special mission, a difficult ministry, or a life of contemplation or study? Or does the individual feel particularly called to raise children for God as their primary kingdom work?
1 Corinthians 7:32-35 communicates that the practical purpose of vocational singleness is to use that freedom from a spouse and raising children to fully commit oneself to the work of the Church. And in particular, to work parents couldn’t do. So if we feel called to a special mission, a difficult ministry, a life of contemplation or study, or monastic life, perhaps that means that we are called to vocational singleness.
We can observe our present and past circumstances to see if they might suggest we are called to vocational singleness or marriage. Have a string of experiences suggested that God might prefer the person to commit to singleness for the sake of the kingdom? Or the contrary?
The individual should seek support from his church in the discernment process. Pastors, parents, mentors, and friends can provide an outside perspective in the discernment process.