There is a vital difference between the way church leaders make decisions and any other board of leaders would make a decision. I have been reflecting on this because quite a few people have either asked me what church leadership meetings like or made some comment about what they assume they are like. Some have asked things like:
– so what do you guys talk about?
– what is there to talk about?
– is it just like any other meeting?
– why are they so long?
These questions are kinda funny, because they hint at some sort of mystery behind the closed doors of a church leadership meeting.
I recently had a discussion with P. about the difference between publicly run schools and privately run charter schools. And we boiled down the difference to their bottom lines: public schools ultimately want educated students; charters schools ultimately want profits. I think this sort of discussion can mislead people to think that this is the primary difference between the way churches and businesses make decisions, the bottom line. Granted, the church has a very different bottom line than a business (well, at least, churches are not supposed to be in it for the money). Churches are ultimately concerned about drawing the lost by modeling the kingdom of God to the rest of the world, business are ultimately concerned, again, about profits. I think this certainly is cause for drastic differences in the way decisions are made. The values of an organization will always determine the way they make decisions. However, this is not what makes the church distinct. After all, what started this line of thought was that schools have different values than businesses.
I believe that instead, the church is driven by a different set of assumptions:
1. we believe that the church is God’s and not ours
2. we believe that God has a will and a plan for his church
3. we believe that God communicates with his church
What does this mean?
It means that the driving force behind our decisions should not be questions like: can we afford it? can we handle taking on more stuff? will the people be upset? is that what the people want? is that reasonable? do we have enough staffing for it? will this win more souls for Jesus? will this increase the scope of our ministry? will this cause our church to grow closer to one another?
Instead the questions should be: have we prayed to ask God about this yet? what does he want? what has he already told us about stuff like this? what have we yet to hear from him about this issue?
This does not mean that we cannot ask if our decision jives with the churches values and purposes. I definitely believe we should. But they should not be the driving force. Jesus said that the traditions of the Pharisees made void the Word of God. In the same way, our purposes and values can get in the way of God’s purposes. This is the same reason why some churches refuse to hold too tightly to doctrinal creeds, because the creeds should only be an expression of what they believe Scripture teaches and should constantly be subject to Scripture.
The ultimate rule of the churches decisions must be the result of communication with God. So we don’t simply ask, “How does this jive with our church’s vision and mission?” But we ask, “How does this jive with God?” This is why it is so important for leaders to keep a close relationship with Jesus. This is why the office of the deacon was originally created, because the elders (the decision-makers) needed to focus on studying Scripture AND prayer instead of waiting on tables. If a leader does not devote himself to prayer regularly and often, he will be out of practice when it comes to making decisions in the church.
I encourage all Christians to pray regularly and often. If you are a leader, encourage more listening and praying to God during your meetings. If you are not a leader, pray for your leaders to hear from God and to follow his will.