One of the major news stories of the last few years has been the gridlock created by government leaders and their inability to provide solutions to the challenges our nation faces. Decision-making gridlock is a major deterrent to the functioning of healthy churches, as well. Here are some symptoms that may be evident at your church:
- Inability to arrive at a major decision. I recently worked at a church in Wichita, Kansas, that had been deadlocked for over 10 years on the issue of relocating the church.
- Division in the congregation over decisions made. I consulted a church in Ann Arbor, Michigan, that had hired a controversial youth pastor. Half of the members thought he was the greatest staff addition the church had ever had. The other half wanted to run him out of town!
- Reneging on decisions made. The senior pastor at a large church in Bakersfield, California, continues to make major decisions, only to reverse those decisions a little while later. The inconsistency is undermining respect for his leadership.
Decision making in the church is a challenge for several reasons:
- A church is a volunteer organization. You can’t fire that cantankerous elder, even if you wanted to!
- The church attracts dysfunctional people—on purpose! Jesus, the Founder of the church, even said, “If you have burdens, come, and I will give you rest and peace.” Churches are hot-beds for opinionated and troubled people.
- Religion, by its very nature, lives close to the seat of our emotions. Otherwise, intelligent, rational people get into a spiritual environment and easily get sideways with one another. As one pastor said, “It’s like, when they come into the church, they leave their brains by the door!”
- Christianity encourages people to be nice to one another—love one another. Sometimes this spills over to an avoidance of conflict so severe that church people can’t constructively face any challenge and solve it.
God has provided solutions for these issues, if only churches will follow them. Here’s what they look like:
- The Church is made up of all kinds of people with different gifts. Some have the gift of leadership. They should lead. Those without the gift should serve in some other way.
- Electing people to a decision-making position in a church has no precedent in the Bible. God’s plan is that people should be discipled (as in mentored) into a position of service—including leaders.
- The church is organized like a flat organization—a team. The Bible calls it a “priesthood of all believers,” where everyone is a minister; everyone has a part to play. Don’t make it into a hierarchical institution. This shape for the church is called “low control.”
- Low control works only if it is balanced by high accountability. Christians are told to “speak the truth, in a spirit of love.”
- Decisions are to be made from the perspective of what God wants. This is called leading from the center of God’s will.
It’s a miracle that any church functions well. But that’s no surprise. God is in the miracle business.
How do you avoid gridlock in your church? We welcome your comments below.
Kent Hunter is known as the Church Doctor. His most recent e-books are The Future Is Now and The J-Dog Journey, available at no cost. Contact him at (800) 626-8515, or you can visit www.churchdoctor.org.