Church meetings, votes, majority rule—all of it greatly handicaps the local church. There is a reason why few church members attend church decision-making meetings. For that matter, a growing number of Christians don’t want to go to a denominational political meeting that has bylaws, votes, and Robert’s Rules of Order. Those who do may have a corrupt understanding of the living organism, the church, and how God, in Jesus, modeled the way Christians make decisions and move forward. If that is the case, the wrong people are making directional decisions for the Christian movement. The church is not a political organization. It’s the body of Christ, a living organism made up of people who would die, like Jesus, for His cause.

Honestly, in many congregations, the approach to decision-making is not biblical. It is interesting to study the life of Jesus in Scripture and recognize that not once did Jesus ask for consensus or a vote. Nor did Peter, Paul—or anybody! Church leaders involved in decision-making for the direction of the church will readily admit that just because you get a majority vote, in hindsight, it’s clear to see that it’s not always a direction blessed by God.

In truth, the politics of church meetings do not “sit right” with the most biblically astute members of any church. Consequently, it’s hard to get these folks to join a political system that makes church decisions. Ironically, the people who are greatly shaped by biblical content and truth often shy away from political boards or committees that make the decisions for the church. That issue is multiplied for denominational politics. From a spiritual perspective, this could be described as a self-destructive system.

For most Christians, there is a subtle sense of incongruity between the spirit of the Christian faith and the political overtures of church meetings. When I was a young pastor, I decided to visit, as a guest, one of my denomination’s national meetings. That particular year it was held in a city not far from where I pastored a church. We also had a Church Doctor table set up in the hallway where we could chat with pastors and church leaders during the breaks of the meeting. At first, I spent most of my time at our table. After a while, as the crowd thinned out around our table, I decided to go sit in the “gallery” where nonvoters were allowed to watch. Within about 10 minutes, I felt physically sick. It was odd, because I was just listening to the debate. There were people in line at the microphones, and the parliamentarian ran the meeting. Since I didn’t feel well, I left and went back out in the hallway. Within a couple of minutes, I felt much better. I talked with a couple of pastors who were “playing hooky” from the convention—at least momentarily—and then I returned to go sit in the bleachers again. At first, I felt fine, but within minutes, I felt sick to my stomach again. After doing this several times, I came to a conclusion: I am not a political person when it comes to the mission of the church. Call that my bias or weakness. However, show me from Scripture any justification for that form of directing the body of Christ, at any level.

Most churches are required by law to have a constitution. However, no church is required to be constitutionally driven. In fact, when we work with churches to develop a healthier, New-Testament-oriented decision-making process, the constitution is reduced to a very few, minimal set of statements required by law.

Many political entities, such as countries, states, provinces, and businesses, have a legal requirement. They are organizations that declare their purpose and provide (often) complex operational and decision-making constitutions. The more political governments become, the less effectively they operate.

Sadly, many churches follow a secular approach to define their governance structure. Many congregations and their leaders have the mistaken conclusion that Robert’s Rules of Order must be found somewhere in the Bible. At least, they act like it! Unfortunately, many congregations borrow much of the procedural language and ideas from the secularized government rather than the Scripture.

Groups of churches, such as denominations or networks of churches, often adapt and use secular forms to describe their structure and pass that influence on to the churches they oversee. These church constitutions are sprinkled with biblical language to give them a spiritual identity. However, the process of decision-making is secular in nature. Most Christians simply accept this as somehow spiritually appropriate.

Robert’s Rules of Order is not a biblical approach. It is not in tune with Scripture. Churches end up with a strategy to vote rather than pray. Christians are led to believe that “majority rule” is a guarantee of following God’s will.

Scripture does not dictate decision-making for your church by popular opinion or vote. Those who feel most comfortable with Robert’s Rules of Order are frequently those who are not in personal Bible study or Bible classes. Sometimes those who influence votes do not even worship regularly. We have seen this in many churches. Pastors or other leaders offer prayer at the beginning of a decision-making meeting. Yet, spiritual input is subtly sidelined for the rest of the meeting—except when the pastor or a leader is called upon to provide a closing prayer.

The political structure of decision-making in churches draws the interest of those who trend toward subconscious secular legalism. For those heavily involved in Bible classes and those who regularly read the Scripture, congregational meetings feel like a schizophrenic moment in time. Most people who are interested in mission, worship, and Bible study are least likely to be drawn to a politicized approach to decision-making. This occurs on the congregational level and at denominational meetings, which are often the worst example of politics. Most Christians may not understand why the best spiritual candidates to lead the church are not drawn toward leadership decision-making. Those who are in Bible study and also serve in various ministries of the congregation likely represent the most spiritually healthy people within the church. But they are not attracted the politically charged meetings.

After interviewing hundreds of pastors over the past several decades, we have discovered that many privately report that their most frequent loss of sleep is after a church decision-making meeting. However, many of these pastors don’t understand why. The political approach to making decisions is in stark contrast to the tone and content of the Scripture from which pastors preach every Sunday.

Kent R. Hunter is the author of Church Politics: Pain-Free Decision-Making. Kent is the founder of Church Doctor Ministries, now led by Tracee J. Swank. Church Doctor Ministries is a dynamic ministry that helps Christians and churches become more effective to make disciples for Jesus Christ. Church Politics is available from Amazon.com and ChurchDoctor.org.

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