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03 Aug '13

Just because something sounds spiritual does not mean that it is or that it is wise

Posted by T.J. Addington in decision making, wisdom
I am always amused or bemused by folks who parse Scripture so closely to come up with non-negotiables that sound deeply spiritual but are in fact deeply counter productive.

Take a church board I have been watching recently where every decision must be made unanimously because that is what God would want. Really? First off, the New Testament calls to unity have nothing to do with how boards make decisions. Second, even the leaders in the New Testament did not always agree. Third, such a practice means that one individual can hold up an entire board and church because unanimity is required.


However spiritual it sounds, it makes for dysfunctional boards and decision making. And in practice, the board I have been watching has made some terrible decisions and has been unable to get its act together precisely because everything must be unanimous. What you end up with are decisions at the lowest denominator that can be negotiated or a board with a few dominant voices with the rest being “yes” people. It is actually one of the most unhealthy ways to make decisions because it puts tremendous pressure on those who might disagree to come to agreement. After all unless they do, there is no way forward.


Or take the practice where all pastors must be on the board because they are elders. It sounds spiritual but in practice it makes it nearly impossible for the senior leader to exercise leadership and authority over his staff - who by virtue of being board members - are also his bosses.  Periodically I receive calls from senior pastors who wonder how to get at issues with a staff member who is also a member of his board. Good question! This practice also confuses management (what staff do) with governance (what boards do). This spiritual sounding practice almost never works in the long run.


Then there are those churches who have a policy that they will never borrow money because of a rigid reading of one verse in the New Testament that does not speak to that issue clearly anyway. For some reason it is OK to borrow money to purchase a house but not build a church. Now a congregation may choose to build debt free but that is a choice not a requirement dictated by Scripture.



The next time you hear something that sounds spiritual but which causes complications ask yourself the question: Is it really a biblical mandate or it is someone’s personal preference that they have couched in spiritual language and with Biblical texts that do not in fact require a certain practice. Usually it has to do with someone wanting their own way and exercising control. The opposite of what is truly spiritual which is a willingness to abide by the decisions of the group.