“We the people” is a powerful statement rooted deep in the history and consciousness of America. It begins the preamble to the United States Constitution which expresses the liberty of the masses of this nation. In our government, voting has been a primary liberty for expressing the desires of the multitudes on so many issues. Voting is certainly a privilege and honor for the common man to cast his political and legislative desires. But, is voting the best way for the church to carry out her business? Is this practice the best method for decisions makers to achieve God’s expectations? Consider these points in light of the scriptures.
Christ Rules through the Word
Christ and his church are not a representative democracy within a republic. In the U.S., citizens elect representatives to express their interests in the legislative branch of government where laws are made. Technically the U.S. is a republic governed by a federal constitution which endows people with certain unalienable rights which cannot be taken away or transferred. Being a republic matters significantly because in a pure democracy where majority rules, life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness could be easily taken away from the minority by the masses. The republic’s law prohibits this.
The church, however, is ruled by God, a theocracy governed by Christ. Jesus Christ is fully God (Col. 2:9) and is the head of the church, possessing all rule and authority (Col. 1:18, 2:10). Christ is the highest authority being the alpha and omega, the first and the last, and the beginning and the end (Rev. 22:13). He is King of Kings and Lord of Lords (Rev. 17:14). There is no rule higher and no master greater than Christ. There is no individual or organization of higher appeal. He now sits at the right hand of the Father “far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is names” (Eph. 1:21) and all things are under his feet as he is the head of the church (Eph. 1:22).
Christ holds sole decision making power in every matter of doctrine (Rev. 22:16-19). This he reveals through the Bible (2 Tim. 3:16-17, Jude 1:3). On earth, Jesus has commissioned elders (also known as shepherds or pastors) to make decisions in matters of judgement which are advantageous to the church (Act 20:17, 28, 1 Tim. 3:1-7, Titus 1:5-9). Elders don’t decide or determine doctrine, but they discover and apply Biblical doctrine.
Does Voting Have Weaknesses?
In some congregations some elderships or men’s meetings employ Robert’s Rules of Order which are patterned after parliamentary procedure. The way this works is one man will make a motion, a second man will second the motion, then by majority vote the motion will pass or fail. Let’s pause though and reason with the Scriptures. Consider that the moment a vote is taken the room could be fractured and divided into those in favor versus those who are opposed. Decisions could be advanced by dominant or eloquent voices, while passive or tongue twisted voices are silenced.
Consider that the voting process could lead to untimely and immoral outcomes. For example, consider Numbers 13-14 when the twelve spies came back with their report on the Promised Land. Only two of the twelve agreed that it could be conquered. What the majority wanted ultimately offended God. If a motion was made not to take the land, the motion would have been seconded, and passed based on the vote of the majority. What I am probing is asking- is there a better decision making process outlined in the Scriptures for the church in making important decisions? God says there is.
A Prayerful Biblical Unified Process
Be prayerful. The body of Christ must lay everything at the feet of the Savior in prayer (Eph. 6:18, Phil. 4:6). Paul said to Corinth “You also must help us by prayer” (2 Cor. 1:11). When people pray over decisions they approach the highest will and seek his aid.
Be Biblical. The late Thomas Warren would write, “In matters of obligation, unity. In matters of option, liberty. In all matters, love.” Decision makers must pray in full and earnest accordance with the word of God (Titus 1:9). These prayers and sincere pleadings are offered continually in matters of faith, doctrine, and opinion, since the word of God is all sufficient (2 Tim. 3:16-17, 1 Thess. 5:17). Man’s prayerful focus even in seemingly trivial matters (like the color of the carpet, silk or fresh flowers, who will pressure wash the building) elevate God and his will for his church. The Bible—God’s best practices manual— reveals wisdom in obligations, options and love. Even in matters of judgment and opinion God gives wisdom on what is good, better and best (Heb. 4:12, 2 Cor. 10:5).
Be unified. As the church prays and focuses on the word, what does the Bible have to say about the overall goal of consensus building? The Bible says that all should agree, that there be no division, and that people be united in the same mind and same judgment (1 Cor. 1:10). Brethren must be of one accord having the same love, and being of one mind (Phil. 2:2). Brethren must look not only to their own interests, but to the interests of others (Phil. 2:4). Before laying out the details of making a consensus decision, let’s consider our own personal interest in light of the interest of others (Phil. 2:4).
Building a Consensus: What About Me?
One will want to be conscientious of their own actions and the way it influences the group. Personally ask – what happens if the group disagrees with my point of view? Can I be unified if the group consents to another person’s choice? Can I be unified if my own personal second, third, or fourth choice seems best for all involved? These personal accountability and responsibility questions target behaviors that deteriorate advancing decisions in a group (Phil. 2:2).
Individuals within a group must realize that if the group does not decide, the group often will not proceed with action. The Lord wants personality, decisiveness, and individuality to be an advantage and not a detriment to his cause. A person with a “my way or the highway” or a “my way or I’m out” attitude can fracture a group and stifle the work of the church. The group as a whole will have to fight off spoilers who consistently refuse to make good faith efforts to maintain unity. The vacuous winds of the spoiler breathe an air of self-will that fractures and splinters. They are full of envy, dissension, rivalry, jealousy, and selfishness that ultimately leads to faction and division (Gal. 5:20-21). Momentum and energy will be stifled by the spoiler. Some spoilers are afraid of the effort of the heavy lifting of working and building up the body of Christ (Eph. 4:12, 1 Cor. 8:1). Instead, they prefer the less intense job of destructive critic.
The power of advancing self potentially could undermine the group, negatively influence decisions within the group, and ultimately hinder the Lord’s work if one is unrelenting in advancing his own views irrespective of the word or interest(s) of the group (Prov. 1:24, 2 Peter 2:10, Titus 1:7). Instead, what God desires is an attitude toward self where one constructs, builds up, and takes necessary detours to accomplish God’s will.
The goal here is not to completely silence self or to toil over decisions endlessly, but to realize that there is a greater mutual cause. This mutual cause will require the harmony of multiple individuals who will to accomplish the great work of the Lord (cf. Luke 2:49, Heb. 13:20-21). Brethren can often find that their second, third, or fourth choice accomplished the goal just fine.
The Details of Prayerful Biblical Consensus Building
In making leadership decisions in local congregation, prayerful consensus building is preferred over voting where people voice their differences and then move forward in spite of those differences. People move in a Divine direction when they are of the same love, the same mind, and the same judgment. This takes intent and motivation by the group to move in this way (1 Cor. 1:10, Phil. 2:2). This consensus building is rooted in the goals of being together, having all things in common, building partnerships, and being perfectly one (Acts 2:44, Heb. 10:33, John 17:23). How do church leaders build a consensus and make a unified decision?
Identify the Coworkers
In any group interaction each person has an important role to play. In building a consensus a few individuals must contribute in unique ways to achieve the desired outcome.
Identify the Bible facilitator. This person will listen to the group discussion with the Bible in mind. This person is clearly convinced of the power (Rom. 1:16-17), all sufficiency (2 Tim. 3:16-17), and transforming potential of Scripture (Rom. 12:1-2). Their mind will be racing around the Bible thinking - what passages apply to the matter at hand? An elder, Bible class teacher, or preacher is an excellent candidate.
Identify the conversation facilitator. The conversation facilitator often has the gift for gab. This facilitator is one who is listening and helping move the discussion forward. The facilitator will help verbally flesh out the issues and options while clearly identifying the precise goal of the group. The goal of facilitator is not chief decision maker, but important communicator.
Identify the recorder/note-taker. This assistant is one who listens with the motivation of keeping good and thorough records of proceedings. Like Joah, they listen with the intent to record (Is. 36:3,22).
Identify the prayer expediter. This helper is one who listens with the motivation of discovering specific requests, supplications, and decisions that need to be taken to the throne of God (Eph. 6:18, Phil. 4:6-7).
Attentive Listening and Fact Gathering
Having identified key contributors, next let’s consider their activity. In the fact gathering stage, individuals listen attentively. Each person adopts a “quick to hear, slow to speak” attitude where each one is keenly in tune to the interests of other parties (James 1:19). Each member of the group is welcome to give their insight because the group is adopting an attitude of mutual humble submission (Eph. 5:21). Investing early on in listening to multiple voices, especially voices with a different spin on things, protects the group from later moments where folks lament “wish we would have thought of that” (Prov. 18:17). Active efforts are made to avoid “groupthink” where people feel an inordinate pressure to conform to a particular option and subsequent decision, even when they disagree.
Weighing the Options and Arriving at a Proposal All Can Live With
As the group listens they are processing in view of the Bible (2 Pet. 1:3). This ensures Divine advice and Godly solutions as the group works toward wisdom, counsel, and success (Prov. 15:22, 16:1). As discussion moves forward the group crystallizes the end goal and what it hopes to accomplish. Once the respective voices have been heard, the various options are laid out on the table and weighed in the balances of Scripture using good judgment (cf. 1 Cor. 10:23).
The tone is one of interest and lively discussion where brethren are working together in collaboration and cooperation (Phil. 2:2). This isn’t a competition where the winners bump chests and the losers shed tears of regret.
Options where the cons clearly outweigh the pros are quickly unheeded because the group is working toward a resolution suitable to all. Members who offered these unheeded solutions don’t take this too personal. They are spiritually mature and value flexibility because the great work of the Lord is at hand and they are whole heartily invested in it being accomplished (cf. 1 Cor. 9:20-21). Brethren enthusiastically jump in and work as a team (Col. 1:28, John 2:16). Personal pride takes a back seat (Prov. 8:10-13). Each individual sets aside bias and prejudice (Gal. 3:28, Col. 3:11). The group senses the spiritual magnitude of this process. Time is of the essence because the ministry of building up the body is all too important (Eph. 4:12).
In building this consensus, the consensus may need to be edited until a decision everyone can live with has been achieved. The group can have unity even in the absence of initial unanimity. In the end, every person’s first choice may not have been granted, but brethren are content because they have achieved exactly what God wanted – being of the same love, same mind, and same judgment (1 Cor. 1:10, Phil. 2:2). In fact some are pleased precisely because they didn’t get their way since they know that in putting their brother’s interest first, they ultimately pleased the Lord (Phil. 2:4). In the end God was glorified. They calmly but resolutely reason – if God is for us who can be against us (Rom. 8:31, Psalm 27)?
 http://www.diffen.com/difference/Democracy_vs_Republic, accessed 19 July 2017.
 The Bible expresses several similar sentiments. You shall not fall in with the many to do evil or to pervert justice (Ex. 23:2). There is a wide and easy way that leads to destruction (Matt. 7:13).
 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Method_for_consensus_building#.22Spoilers.22_may_be_excluded, accessed 3 August 2017.
 Portions of this consensus building process looked at Scripture in light of this process and were adapted from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Consensus, accessed 8 August 2017; http://www.wikihow.com/Reach-a-Consensus, accessed 8 August 2017; and the Diagram By Locke Cole at English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=9936687, accessed 8 August 2017.