Monday, December 8, 2014

Church Simply: Decision Making Consensus

Robert's Rules of Order is a book about parliamentary procedure. It is necessary and even helpful for political meetings and other gatherings of that sort. When secular groups come together to discuss important issues rules must be in place to govern who speaks and how. If this doesn't exist, chaos will soon follow.

I'm saddened every time I hear about Robert's Rules being used by local bodies of believers. I admit to taking part in "church business meetings" in the past where Robert's was king. Those meetings at times felt more like contentious political gatherings than they did family get-togethers. It should not be this way.

When we look at the church in the New Testament we see no Robert's Rules of Order.

Instead, what we find are exhortations and admonitions to body unity, body charity, and body love. We see churches praised for striving for unity of mind. Conversely, we see churches in conflict who are told to stop it. Unity was of utmost importance.

Regarding the specific issue of decision making in the New Testament, we see a model of decision making consensus. Instead of the voting we so often hear about today in church business meetings, the church ought to be striving toward consensus. Voting simple allows for a quick decision to be made; it also allows for a tyranny of the majority. It actually hurts unity. Decision making consensus, on the other hand, forces people to talk through issues, see others' viewpoints, and focus on finding places where they can agree. It demands compromise in the good sense of that word.

When we read in the book of Acts, in particular chapters two and four, we see believers living in harmony. There is no strife, but one mind.

In Ephesians 4:1-3 we read, "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." Paul desires that they and we be eager to maintain unity. Unity of this sort is fostered through finding consensus in decision making.

Paul continues with this theme in Philippians 2:1-4, "So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others." Paul makes it clear that the unity he expects comes through looking out for others before self. This can be shown tangibly through striving for consensus when making decisions.

When we read the New Testament we don't see a couple of things. First, we do not find any church business meetings. They simply do not exist. Today's meetings of this ilk stem from secular thinking. Second, we do not see leaders making decisions for the body. Leaders lead by serving not through decision making.

So, who makes the decisions? The body does. How does the body do it? It accomplishes it by finding consensus.

Finding this consensus make take longer than voting. It may also be messier, at least for a while. However, in the end the positives far outweigh the negatives.

Consensus brings unity. God expects unity. Unity brings joy.

Let's find consensus no matter how long it takes and no matter how difficult it is.

2 comments:

Aussie John said...

Eric,
Very appropriate,and timely words!

Having participated in such meetings for more years than I like to remember, some only too well.

"Legalism according to Roberts" is probably a better title.

Using similar words as your last sentence, I sought to introduce the concept of consensus. As I spoke a very vocal lady stood up waving the Constitution above her head, "The constitution requires a majority vote, and that settles it!"

When the church uses secular rules, it functions as the world does!


Tim A said...

There is a prerequisite to simple church consensus. You have to have a simple church - where God's people expect to think and dig into scripture all week, expect to participate when they meet in mutuality, expect to not outsource any ministry to a hired expert, expect 100% of their giving to go beyond yourself, etc. If you don't have these prerequisites, consensus process has little interest. It looks like a bad idea. Who wants to complicate their already complicated life by examining a budget, wrestling with salary scales, facility upgrades or deferred maintenance? Few if any except a few who have been taught that they should wear a special title and be in s special group called deacons or elders. So much mutuality, intimacy, participation faith, and deep spiritual walk with Christ is thrown away with crowd oriented church. Decision making by our body identity must be abandoned as well. So much decision making has nothing to do with the body. It's now the institution.

Our fellowship is small with no special building to maintain but the "elders" have decided they are the sole decision makers. I asked them where they got this from scripture. They said they had more discernment than the rest of God's people. I showed them that the scripture on discernment deals with all God's people, not just elders. The scripture was meaningless to them. It was their authoritative decision to do all the deciding. These are very sincere brothers. God reminds me daily to pray for them on this issue. I'm leaving it with the head of the church.