How do we make decisions at Kingsview Church? As we prepare as a church to make some very important decisions, I want us to propose changing the way we make decisions.
I recently read a book that challenged my thinking, The Ministry of the Missional Church, by Craig Van Gelder. One of the chapters especially caught my attention, “Spirit-Led Discernment and Decision Making.”
There are three theological foundations to decision making:
First, Scripture – which is inspired by the Holy Spirit – is our ultimate authority.
Second, this same Holy Spirit lives in every Christian (1 Cor. 6:19) and every Christian community (1 Cor. 3:16-17).
Third, Christian communities are very diverse. This diversity is a both God-given (1 Cor. 12) and man-made (our prejudices and biases).
Most people would probably agree with these foundations, but it is important to carefully consider the implications. The implication of the second and third foundations is that decision making must be a communal process.
Most churches do not operate with a communal decision making. Decisions are made by the pastor, or an elected group of leaders.
While churches often require a congregational “vote” to affirm major decisions, the reality is that very few members of the congregation have a role in the decision making process. Sure they get to ask questions, discuss, and vote at a business meeting, but very few are involved from the beginning.
In most cases, the congregation is only included when the decision has been made and the leaders have to “win” approval of what has already been decided.
What does this say about our theology of the Holy Spirit? What does this say about our theology of the priesthood of all believers? What does this say about how we view the pastor?
Keeping the three biblical foundations in mind, Van Gelder provides a simple process for decision making. Even though it is not explicitly stated, each phase of the process involves the community who must be submissive to Scripture.
Attending: “this phase of the process involves giving careful attention to the context, both the context of the congregation and that of the larger community within its cultural milieu… Attending is the part of the process that involves both listening to the various perspectives, and also testing these against one another.”
Asserting: “this phase of the process involves testing alternative strategic choices for action but doing so in relation to both biblical-theological frameworks and theoretical insights from the social sciences and common wisdom.”
Agreeing: “this phase involves the process of coming to a communally discerned agreement on the strategic action of choice in light of biblical-theological foundations and theoretical insights. Foundational to this process for a Christian congregation is the role of prayer, which invites the active participation of the Spirit into the discernment and decision process.”
Acting: “this phase of the process involves the implementation of the strategic choice that was communally discerned and agreed to.”
Assessing: “this phrase of the process…involves a thorough review of what took place in the implementation process of the strategic choice that was made.”