Tuesday, January 18, 2011

House Church - Striving for Consensus

We all "have issues." In the church this is no different. We all have issues that we need to talk about. There are frequently decisions that have to be made. As in all of life, problems need to be addressed and handled in an appropriate way.

But how are decisions made? How are problems handled? How are issues dealt with in a manner that builds up the body of Christ and glorifies God?

In trying to follow the biblical model in all things, the house church strives for consensus in decision making.  The purpose is to gain agreement by all involved to maintain and improve the unity of the body.  This also encourages all members of the church family to participate.  It avoids the elevation of some members over others, and instead looks to Christ as the only Head of the church.

Jesus prays for the unity of His church in John 17:20-23, "I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me."

As usual, the book of Acts helps a great deal.  For example:

Acts 4:32, "Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common."  (emphasis mine)

Acts 6:1-5, "Now in these days when the disciples were increasing in number, a complaint by the Hellenists arose against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution. And the twelve summoned the full number of the disciples and said, 'It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables. Therefore, brothers, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty. But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.' And what they said pleased the whole gathering, and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolaus, a proselyte of Antioch."

In response to the Jerusalem Council, Acts 15:22 says, "Then it seemed good to the apostles and the elders, with the whole church, to choose men from among them and send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas."

In I Corinthians 10:1, Paul writes, "I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment."

Ephesians 4:1-3, "I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace."

I Peter 3:8, "Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind."

Please let me say this again in different words: the house church believes that there is a direct link between the unity of the body and consensus in decision making.  This does not necessarily mean that everyone will agree on everything (when does that ever happen?), but that all strive to be united and involved in decisions.  It may very well be that some disagree, but at the same time in humility go along with a decision in order to maintain unity.  As this decision making occurs, it provides time for spiritual growth as we seek to show charity and love even in areas if disagreement.  Decision making may be delayed for some time as everyone seeks unity in the Lord.

Consensus building can be messy, especially when the decisions are difficult ones.  Rather than shy away from this or simply look to a small group of people to make decisions, we have an opportunity to talk through issues that matter.  This forces us to look to Christ in order to display care and grace in the midst of hard issues.  House churches can do this because numbers remain small (probably below 40-50).

House churches have far fewer decisions to make than do traditional churches.  No building, no salaried staff, no planned worship services, few if any programs, etc. means that the number of decisions is dramatically reduced.  This makes it possible to have full body discussions and consensus in decision making.  Frankly, I don't know how a church of over 100 people could seek consensus with full body participation.

One more issue related to this: voting.  The larger the church, the more decisions have to be made.  Either a small group of people makes most of these decisions or the body votes on them.  I don't see either of these options as being biblical.  In particular, voting is not a biblical concept.  I've never seen it once in the New Testament church.  I'm sure it is embraced in this country in some churches because of the influence of American political thought.

In summary, my encouragement to all followers of Jesus Christ is that we strive for consensus in decision making in order to glorify our Lord through emphasizing the importance of the unity of His body.


Tim A said...

Well said particularly when you break out how it is different from voting as in democracy, etc. Institutions see decisions primarily as a door to pass through as quickly as possible to get to the other side without getting anyone made enough to want to leave. Organic church sees decisions as a key dynamic for building maturity into the whole body. The work of God is not held back by one person or more who don't agree.

Eric said...


You said, "Organic church sees decisions as a key dynamic for building maturity into the whole body." Very well written. The process of decision making is a vehicle for bringing about growth in the body.

Aussie John said...


It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and us.

A certain Baptist church had decided to function on the basis of consensus. The time came when, out of a congregation of about 25, 24 were agreed on a quite important action. One person could not agree.

They maturely stuck to their agreement regarding consensus. For nine months the stalemate remained. One night the one who disagreed rang an elder and said, "I am now at peace. We have consensus". The project went ahead.

Later on the group was given information which indicated the certain failure of the project if the 24 had had a majority vote.

Tim A said...

Organic church decision dynamic also reflects our identity as "members of one another" and that God has gifted each member differently, therefore each member has a different contribution to make to the decision.

Is there flesh orientation mixed in with each member? Yes, but this gets sorted out in mutuality. Throwing out God's design of the organism is FAR worse than some individual carnality mixed in. Systematizing carnality leads everyone into it's bogus confidence and trust - our leaders will sort it out for us.

Eric said...


I've heard of that example. It is both a good warning and lesson for us all. How I wish churches would seek that sort of unity.

Eric said...


It does seem that God uses the decision making process to grow us. You are right to mention that each member of the body has a contribution to make. Churches lose out dramatically when this model is rejected.