In traditional churches it is common to think that everyone should be in on the decision making. The church is a democracy, and all people should be heard. If it’s not practical for all to be heard, then at least every viewpoint needs to be heard. From what I’ve seen this way of thinking will kill the church. Since “vision leaks” (was it Andy Stanley or Erwin McManus that said that?) and evangelistic fervor is entropic (we lose our energy to win people to Jesus), churches commonly redirect their energy and resources to take care of themselves.
In newer “leadership oriented” churches, the argument is made that not all voices should be heard. Instead, the leaders function as the stewards of the church’s mission. Their job is to know current reality, be completely sold out to fulfilling God’s mission, and to make the wise decisions to make the mission a reality. The idealist in me sees this as a great way to do things. The cynic in me sees it as another form of our culture’s tendency to expertocracy.
How about a third option? What would happen if all the people consistently developed their relationship with God and each other? What if they cultivated their ability to hear God through careful listening (in the Bible & prayer) and ready obedience? Then when a decision needs to be made – assuming it’s a big decision that knowing the mission of the church alone isn’t the deciding factor – the church gets together, not to vote, not to hear an edict (we usually call it a “presentation” these days), but to wait on God. In my experience, sometimes God will speak quickly, sometimes not. Sometimes God will speak through an established and recognized leader – but often not.
The advantage of this third option – over the Democracy and Leadership models – is that it won’t work without God – or without our steady cultivation of our life with God. Nothing automatic anymore. No guarantees going in that we’ll get what we want.
Might be worth trying.