Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Consensus and Church Vision

When you think about developing a fresh vision for your church, does the thought of reaching consensus cause you to pause? Worse yet, does it prevent you from taking faith steps in a new direction?

Consensus is simply group agreement about something. Too often, we think that means unanimous support for something. The truth is that consensus frequently involves hearing out a variety of opinions and then submitting our personal interests to the interests of the church as a whole.

We have a great biblical example of consensus decision-making in Acts 15. In the early days of the church, some were trying to require circumcision as proof of one's Christian faith. This led to a council where there was much debate (Acts 15:7). Then the leaders weighed in. First Peter spoke from early church experience and the work of God. Paul and Barnabas added to that God's miraculous works. Finally, James tied Peter's defense to the prophecy in Amos 9. Then they all agreed. They came to consensus.

We don't get to see what all of the other proposals were. What we do see, is that ultimately everyone came to agreement on something. The something they agreed on was in the best interest of the Church, guided by Scripture, and acceptable to the leaders of the Church. I think this is what Paul had in mind in Phil. 2:3-4 where he said to put aside selfishness and to not merely look out for our personal interests. It is also in keeping with the admonition from the writer of Hebrews to obey leaders and submit to them (Heb. 13:17).

This all gives us guidance to say that consensus is reached when we do the following:

1. We do not shrink from expressing our opinions. The Church needs our opinions.
2. We listen carefully and prayerfully to the opinions of others.
3. We objectively weigh the pros and cons of all opinions in the light of Scripture.
4. We objectively weigh the opinions of leaders who are called to lead. 
4. We collectively agree on a decision.

Too frequently, we are not willing to expend the effort to achieve consensus because it is difficult. I think too that we are sometimes lacking the tools to work toward consensus. Neither of these is a good reason to let a lack of consensus get in the way of refreshing your church vision.

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