Decisions are intellectual exercises. People gather information from a number of sources, evaluate it, and create actions and a timetable based on the outcomes of their analysis. When people make decisions, they generally seek to control the outcome.
Discernment is an attentiveness – cultivated in the head, heart, and gut – to God’s work in the world so that we might join God in those efforts. Wisdom about the matter for discernment unfolds in God’s time and through many of the same sources upon which decisions are made, plus some that might be discounted when acting purely on logic. Those in discernment continually turn over their own agendas in order to embrace the greater good to which God calls.
Discernment is an end in itself, not just the means to an end. It is a pathway to a deeper relationship with God (and often, with others) and a way of understanding ourselves on a more profound level.
That said, decisions are sometimes warranted. Not every action requires a full-blown discernment process. Search teams can ask themselves, “What is the significance of the question before us? How might God wish to weigh in?” to determine whether the situation calls for decision or discernment.