by Jerry Harris
Churches regularly wrestle with their speed and agility in decision-making. This is especially true with churches that utilize a church eldership that is wholly separated (structurally) from the church staff. Everyone has an opinion, some informed and some uninformed – irrespective of whether it’s coming from paid staff or lay leader.
While everyone fits in the body of Christ, Paul teaches us that our individual location and function within that body is highly specific. There are just some things that others do better than us – and vise-versa. It’s true for decision-making too; one leader’s opinions will be more informed and gifted than another’s, depending on the topic at hand.
God designed the Church to run more like an organism than an organization. Just like the human body, Christ expects His body, the church, to operate according the gifts and abilities of its parts. The problem arises when, in the church, decision-making is accomplished by committee after hearing each opinion equally. This might sound fair to our Western ears, but it isn’t the way Jesus designed His Church to operate. Leaders often don’t shine as brightly as they otherwise could because everyone wants to, or at least is expected to, weigh in on every subject. Not only does this slow down the decision-making process, but the entire exercise is confused by opinions that aren’t beneficial to the body moving forward.
In an effort to get a laser focus on this, we did a leadership exercise early on at the Crossing. Before an annual strategic leaders’ retreat, I asked each elder to write down what he saw as the greatest strengths of the others there. Those papers were turned in to me ahead of the retreat to be compiled.
At the retreat, we had the elders sit in a circle, put a chair in the middle of the room, and one by one, each elder sat in the chair.
Once seated, I read to each elder what had been written about him. It was wonderful, encouraging, affirming, and humbling. After the comments were read, all the leaders gathered around the elder in the chair and prayed. Each elder broke down as he humbly received the praise.
There were two very important things that became apparent through the exercise:
First, we saw that in one or two areas, each leader was especially equipped and gifted. We realized that we each had a specific role inside the leadership and that our opinion was vital in specific areas. This did not mean that opinions in weaker areas were useless. It did, and does, mean that God has provided us a well-rounded team, with each part of the team having more insight than others in specific matters. Recognizing this, we work more like an organism, not an organization, reaching decisions quickly.
Second, we saw that God had given us great talent in nearly every necessary area when we viewed ourselves as a body rather than a committee. It was awesome to see that God had already provided all we needed to make great, highly competent decisions. Discussion also streamlined as each leader gave the weight of opinion to the leader or leaders with recognized expertise. This also has the entirely Biblical effect of affirming each leader as we rely on the gifting, equipping, and expertise of each part at different times.
John Wooden, the great basketball coach, was often heard saying, “Be quick, but don’t hurry!” Operating as a body makes the church quick to move, pivot, adjust, release resources, and to trust each other while they do it. It accomplishes all this without feeling frantic as deadlines approach, or feeling insecure because insufficient time was spent on a particular subject.
There are dozens of “one anothers” and “each others” in the New Testament. God has provided for us, especially through fellow Christ-followers – and we can trust His provision in our leadership’s decision-making process. Lean on your fellow leaders, and watch our Father do the remarkable.