EP 216 WHEN CHURCH LEADERS AND TEAMS DECIDE
Hey there Bootcampers, happy Fall! We’re talking about how to make decisions as you lead your church toward renewal. Our topic is consensus, what it is, why it sometimes leads you to decisions that may not be the best for your congregation. Listen in and join in the conversation.
Consensus = a general agreement, to arrive at an agreement about a matter, thing, or initiative….
- 100% agreement about something is impossible (stating the goal is arriving on something which you can all agree upon – may limit the best decision)
- Arriving at agreement based on consensus may put us as the standard makers for decisions
- Striving for consensus is good in principle, but it may leave room for people to withhold opinions and reserve judgment if whatever you decide doesn’t work out.
- The goal is the best decision that honors God and is consistent with his work and way. (it may go against your best-laid plans and best thoughts).
- Getting to the best answer requires mutual submission.
- Follow the lead of the Holy Spirit
What insights do you have? Has your team navigated the decision-making matrix? We’d love to hear from you. Drop us a line, a comment, or a voicemail.
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JimBo Stewart: [00:00:00] We are back at the bootcamp, back at it again. Bob, I hope you’re ready for the next episode.
Bob Bickford: Jimbo. I am as ready as I can be for this next episode.
JimBo Stewart: We’ve been having to get some like, late night hours to squeeze this in now that you’re busy and important, Mr. Vice president of operations.
Bob Bickford: I know, well, I’ve got some stuff I’m doing, you know, with a three, one, three, and trying to change the world in a different way. And, um, I went, I walked through an abandoned office building in Atlanta, a week ago. And if you’ve ever watched the Netflix series, stranger things, this might’ve been the inspiration for that series.
It was really scary. There were, homeless people that had lived in it at one time. And Jimbo, I’m just going to say there were things inside the building that I cannot mention on the podcast. it was very scary. I was safe the whole time, but, there’s a little bit of mold in there. And I think I’m
still lingering, some symptoms of mold.
And I just hope I don’t turn into a Demogorgon. [00:01:00] That’s what I’m saying.
JimBo Stewart: So which is scarier, a abandoned office building or a empty church?
Bob Bickford: Abandoned office building. I think.
JimBo Stewart: Yeah. Sometimes, you know, you go to church and you’re the only one there. It’s like late at night. It can be a little creepy sometimes, walking around big buildings like that by yourself at night.
Bob Bickford: it can be certainly.
JimBo Stewart: Well, I’m excited to jump into another episode with you. Talk to us about, you, you know, you’ve got this old BMW convertible and you’re a little, what’d you, what do you call it? Uh, little red or little
Bob Bickford: Little red, little red.
JimBo Stewart: it, it, it could put on you like it went out. And,
Bob Bickford: It
JimBo Stewart: right before you moved, and so, So you made like some shady deal with the guy you met on Craigslist and you dropped keys off.
You haven’t even met the guy. Like, I’m feeling like you may never see this BMW ever again.
Bob Bickford: No, I may not. I may not. So, uh, So yeah, we were, we were in the process of moving from St. Louis to [00:02:00] Nashville. And, I was trying to get a, a restorer to work on it and he wasn’t, he never called me back and he recommended this guy, another guy named Bob and Jimbo. you need a guy named Jimbo in your life and you need a guy named Bob in your life or several of them because I think guys named Jimbo and guys named Bob are pretty reliable guys.
Good fellas. So this guy was Bob at GLB auto. And, so our schedule was crazy and I called him and I just said, look, I’m going to drop this off. And, we had to drop it off in the middle of the night and, it’s in a city just north of where we lived in St. Louis and I dropped it off. I, put my keys in an envelope and dropped it through the night box, wrote down my number and then Jimbo, we just left town and we haven’t looked back.
And so I’ve called him a couple of times and I’ve only talked to him once. And the rest of the time he’s either on a test drive or he’s underneath the car and the shop manager won’t get it
I’m just i’m having to trust that they’ve got my bmw and
that they’re gonna work on it. So,
JimBo Stewart: You sure you didn’t say his name was Art Vandeley?
Bob Bickford: Yeah, no, he’s not [00:03:00] So I you know, was it a good decision? I don’t know. I mean they have good yelp ratings. They’ve good google ratings So we’ll see if I can get my uh, bmw back at some point in time you know, we’re planning on going to Missouri for Thanksgiving.
And so maybe we’ll fly into Kansas city or St. Louis and figure out how to get our BMW and then drive it back. So, well, I may see it. I may not Jimbo. I don’t
JimBo Stewart: We should do like an over and under on how long is it gonna take before Bob sees this BMW again. Is it, is it three months, is it three years, or is it never?
Bob Bickford: It’s been a while. It’s been a month. I think I can’t, I don’t even remember when we dropped it off. 1st of October, I think before we fully packed up, we dropped it off. I think it was like on the 8th of October. Or no, the 8th of September. Actually, I think it was maybe.
No, it was the 8th of October,
JimBo Stewart: All right. We’re coming, coming right out a month in then.
Bob Bickford: Yeah. Month in no BMW, but you know, we’re not going to talk about auto repair. We’re talking about, when churches and leaders and teams have to [00:04:00] decide. And I was talking with the pastor the other day and decision making, uh, is something that churches have to do all the time.
Pastors, teams, elders, deacons, and Jimbo deciding
can be difficult.
JimBo Stewart: Yeah, absolutely.
Bob Bickford: when teams are deciding one of the things that they often will try to do is find an agreeable solution that everybody can support. So they might strive for something that we call consensus consensus. It’s real simple definition is it’s a general agreement and the process of building consensus or gaining consensus.
is to arrive in an agreement about a matter of thing or an issue or an initiative. And Jimbo, let me tell you what, being a dad and the leader of a family of five, when all the kids were at the house, Jimbo, I could not get our family to even get consensus on where to go to eat after church on Sunday.
JimBo Stewart: Yeah. I, I think you, you, you, you learn there, you can’t get a full consensus. And so at some point you just got to make the dad executive [00:05:00] decision or look at your wife and see what she’s wanting you to do. cause you’re not gonna, you’re not gonna get it all, you know, and I think definitely when it comes to decision making in churches, obviously depend, you know, look at your bylaws, look at, you know, what’s required there.
And if there’s something, if it’s a decision that requires a specific process by the bylaws, then you certainly need to follow that. If your bylaws are such like what Bob and I walked into, and if you’ve seen, heard referenced in previous episodes where Bob couldn’t even buy a vacuum cleaner because he didn’t, because he couldn’t get a quorum, and I couldn’t repaint the poles without going out of pocket on it.
Uh, then, then you need to change the bylaws, but you got to go about a process to do that. And we have episodes to talk about that. So just a little caveat, go by the bylaws. But, when it’s not something that requires bylaws, and it’s just a decision that needs to be made, then, how do you go, how do you go about getting a consensus, or, or what do you, what do you recommend, Bob?
Bob Bickford: [00:06:00] Yeah. Well, I want to talk about three challenges to this idea of consensus. And then I want to talk about three correctives for consensus. so let’s talk about some of the challenges first out. Here’s the first challenge, a hundred percent agreement about something Jimbo that is impossible. Right.
And so when we state that the goal is to arrive on a decision or an initiative or some kind of agreement, Which we all can support. We almost guarantee that we’re going to limit the opportunity for us to get to the best decision. Like, it’s just impossible when we say, let’s decide, or let’s, let’s make it our goal to decide on something that we can all agree on.
I just don’t think you’re going to be able to get there because like we said, you just a hundred percent agreement on a matter is
JimBo Stewart: Yeah, absolutely, and maybe you’re talking with your elder team, or your deacon’s leadership team, or something when you’re doing this, maybe even the whole church, I mean, and, 100 percent is going to be pretty much impossible. One of the things Bob Bumgarner, taught me is [00:07:00] in situations like that with like a leadership team, you’ve got a decision to make, and you want to make sure that everybody is enough on board that they can, they can stick with you on the decision.
a couple of things I’ve learned is one is don’t ask are 100 percent of us, 100 percent on board, ask, can 100 percent of us be 80 percent on board with this decision? And you got to be willing to say if you’re not, um, and so because part of this is you agree after we make the decision, after we walk out of here.
We’re all behind it. Like, we’re gonna, we’re gonna get behind it and we’re not gonna second guess it out loud and we’re not gonna, we’re gonna, we’re gonna stick together. You know, this came into play for First Coast churches when we were making decisions on what to rename the association. Uh, we recognized Jacksonville Baptist Association, was serving a little over 200 churches, and a lot of them were not actually even in Jacksonville.
[00:08:00] And so, we knew we needed to rename, and we wanted to kind of have a thread that we went by, and we were going through some things. And at one point, I think we almost ended up being like the Florida Baptist Association, or something like that. Some sort of, like, Florida network of churches or, and, not a hundred percent of us were 80 percent on board and we didn’t end up doing that.
And so I’m glad we ended up with a much better decision with first coast churches in the, the thread of don’t pastor alone.
Bob Bickford: Yeah. Almost like you sounded like you guys were going for something like the Ohio University, right? So, you know, we could have said that, but, you don’t want to do that. here’s the, here’s another thing that is a challenge about consensus. Arriving at an agreement, which is based on consensus, Jimbo, that actually puts us as the standard maker, the standard bearer for the decision, right?
And so, what we say in that process, and I get, it is a, I think it’s a noble thing to say [00:09:00] this. Let’s arrive in a, at an agreement, at a consensus that we can all support. Well, Jimbo, that puts us as the, as the measure of a good decision. And we know that churches are filled with people of different experience levels, of different maturity levels.
Heck Jimbo, there might even be some folks that are on decision making teams within the church that may not truly have a relationship with Christ and be renewed in their heart. And so. When we make consensus, the standard by which we’re seeking to have agreement, that means I become my best thoughts, our collective thoughts, which are well far below scripture become the standard for us to make the decision.
And so we put ourselves in a position that I think is not helpful.
JimBo Stewart: Yeah, I mean, we, we don’t want to be walking in worldly wisdom. We trust not in chariots. We trust not in our own ability to solve problems, but, we need, uh, [00:10:00] the influence of the Holy Spirit, the word of God and wise counsel. I think it’s great to discuss these things together as a team and, come to. some sort of decision, but it’s got to be a spirit led and not just on what are your best thoughts on this kind of like the Bible roulette and what does this mean to you type thinking?
we’ve got to, we got to dive into, we’re asking the Lord, you know, what is it that you have for us to do? you know, we’ve talked before on here about, you know, in Joshua five, where, you know, Joshua is with the commander of the Lord’s army. And the first question is, are you for us or against us?
And sometimes that’s when we’re the standard bearer and we bring our preferences to the conversation. It’s like, we’re coming and going, all right, are you for this or are you against this? Rather than asking the question that needs to be asked, what would you have me do, Lord?
Bob Bickford: Mm hmm. It’s a good word. Here’s another challenge. The last of the challenges I want to mention, striving for consensus is really good in principle, but it may leave room for people to withhold opinions and reserve [00:11:00] judgment whatever you decide doesn’t work out. Right? So you’ve got people who are saying, well, let’s, let’s arrive at a decision that we can all live with and that the majority of us can support.
And then let’s say you arrive at that decision, you implement that strategy, that plan, you execute the, that decision. And if it doesn’t work out, some people on the fringe or on the borders can simply say, well, I was not for it from the very beginning. But you agreed to it, right? And so there’s some other things.
I mean, we could do a whole episode on that right alone, just on deciding and then deciding and doing what you decided. but one of the challenging pieces of this. is if you just try to get a decision that people will be, you know, a small percentage okay with or Jimbo, this is true. If you keep me in a room long enough, I’m going to say yes to the decision that unlocks the door that lets me out of
that room at some point.
JimBo Stewart: Yeah. Yeah.
Bob Bickford: Right. So, I mean, you know, [00:12:00] we’ve all been in those meetings where we’re just like, just let’s do, I, I’m for it. Like, I don’t care what it is. I’m for it. Cause I got to get out of here. And then when you leave the room and you realize what you voted for or what you supported, you were like, well, I’m not for that at all.
Right. So, I just wanted out. Right. I was hungry. I had to go to the bathroom. I was sleepy. I need to get home. Right. So, you just have to be careful with
JimBo Stewart: Yeah. I think, you know, that’s where maybe the 100 percent of us are 80 percent on board with the decision maybe comes in of this idea of like, when I have been in this situation of making decisions, I was thinking about, during COVID, our elders were split pretty even on how to respond to COVID 19. Uh, mandates and, expectations and, you know, mask and all these things and social distancing very early on.
And so I scheduled a meeting with our elders after church one Sunday and just said, Hey, don’t plan on leaving, uh, until we’re done. and so we got to figure this out. And so one of the things we did is we all, you know, we all voiced [00:13:00] our opinions. And then I said, that’s great. Glad you got to do that.
Now let’s move to the word of God. Let’s see what the word, how the word of God instructs us. Right. And we’re gonna, we’re gonna discuss what the Word of God has to say, we’re gonna pray together, we’re gonna ask God for wisdom. But we’re not leaving until we can all agree that we’re going to execute on what we say.
whatever we say in here, we’re not gonna leave here and grumble and complain. We’re not gonna leave here and go, I was never really for that anyway. You know, we’ve got to come to some, some spirit led word driven decision that we are all standing behind because we’ve heard from the Lord and we’re not going to second guess it out loud out.
You know, you may have some thoughts in your head, but we’re not going to second guess it out loud out there. We’re going to be a united front.
Bob Bickford: It’s a great word. I love that. And speaking of getting to the word, let’s talk about three correctives and these three correctives take in to account, some of the guidance of scripture, not an exhaustive guidance, but, just a couple of verses that we can think about and. How we can, correct this idea of, [00:14:00] of consensus.
Here’s the first, the first corrective is that the goal is the best decision which honors God and is consistent with his work, his word and his way. And Jimbo, oftentimes that that kind of decision that’s consistent with all of those things that I just mentioned probably or may work against our best laid plans and our best thoughts, right?
So it reminds of what reminds us of what, the scriptures say in the Old Testament and Isaiah for my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither. Are your ways my ways declares the Lord. Now I can tell you there are so many churches that we’ve walked into who’ve made decisions that they’re living the consequences of those decisions.
And then they explained the decision they made. And I’m like, Whoa, like, like why did you decide that? And were you, did, when, how did you arrive at that decision? Did you consult scripture? Did you, did you pray? Like you know, and the strategy that they employed was like, we’ve got to have a decision or maybe they made it out of desperation.
And so, the goal was to [00:15:00] decide or to get some decision done not to really see what honors God is consistent with his word
JimBo Stewart: Yeah, we can’t make that decision fearing, man or out of fear of, anxiety. but out of a peace and contentment of the Lord walking in the Holy Spirit. I, you know, I think, especially when it comes to churches that have struggled and are declining, oftentimes we start to care so much more about our own preferences and, our comfort.
than what it is God has called us to do and who he’s called us to be. And so we’ll make decisions based on, on our preferences and our comfort and, our traditions and the way we’ve always done things rather than truly go into the Lord and going, okay, God, what, what is consistent with your work, in your way?
in a way I was talking with a, a new replant pastor today. And, He is in a very racially diverse community and, they talked about how they’re going to start opening up the building to the [00:16:00]neighborhood and, you know, using it for the community and sure enough, he already, uh, got a, a family in the community asked if they could use it for a funeral and, and so.
It was an African American family and they said he’s an African American replanter in a mostly white church in a mostly black neighborhood. And this black family came to him and were like, yeah, we’d love this funeral. And hey, I thought this was a white church. And he was like, well, we’re going to be a multiracial church.
I’m the pastor now. And they, and they were like, Oh, you’re the pastor, man. We’re going to be all up in this then. And, uh, some of the original church members were there and, and, and they overheard this. And so they came to the pastor and were like, Um, I, I’m not so sure about those people. right? And, and you’re going like, really?
okay, like, you, you aren’t so sure that they’re saved, so maybe they desperately need the gospel. And, hey, good, hey, good news. Good news. You know what? That’s, that’s what we do here. Like, we [00:17:00] share the gospel. We bring the gospel to people. And, and so, make sure that you’re not making decisions based on your flesh and on, on your preferences, uh, when you’re leading.
And making sure you’re not allowing the church to do that. You’ve got to lead and figure out how to shepherd the church to make sure they’re Making spirit led decisions.
Bob Bickford: It’s a good word. Good word. Here’s the next corrective. understanding this, that getting to the best answer requires mutual submission and takes us to Ephesians five. Ephesians 5. 21 says, submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. I’ve been in rooms and in gatherings of leaders where, we’re not submitting to one another and honoring one another.
We’re trying to convince one another, right? And so it becomes a, the challenge becomes, can I talk you into seeing Things the way that I see them rather than can I listen to you and maybe your Hesitations [00:18:00] about something or your perspective about something and can I lay down my preferences and change what I think?
is most important based upon listening to you and then seeing how others in the room respond to what you’re sharing and so so me submitting in part recognizes that I don’t have all the answers and And I may not have an answer, but I may be there to participate in a discussion where the Lord’s going to speak through another person to help me understand and see some things that I don’t see based on my history, my experience, my, my personality, you know, my slant, my, all those sorts of things.
And so I need to be humble enough to say that you might have a perspective that seems to be important for us to listen to in this moment and in this time. And then I also need to be sensitive enough to say, to see what the Lord is doing in terms of how others are responding in the
JimBo Stewart: Hmm.
Bob Bickford: you’re saying.
JimBo Stewart: Yeah. I mean, this is, [00:19:00] we are called to walk in humility. And have the mind of Christ, the Philippians, to put the interest of others above ourselves, to recall Luke 9, 23, to die to ourselves, take up our cross daily, and follow Jesus. Again, as you lead your church in making decisions, you can’t make it about you.
And you’ve got to help others. You got to help lead others to not make it about them. this is not to say that we disregard our members, and neglect them for the sake of, you know, community or mission. That’s never what God would call us to do. That would never be consistent with what God has called us to do.
But God will always call us to a humble reverence and submission to each other.
Bob Bickford: Here’s the last one. Follow the lead of the Holy spirit. One of my favorite passages in all of the new Testament is in Acts 15 when, you know, they’re trying to figure out. What do we [00:20:00] require of the Gentiles, you know, who are coming to faith in Christ and how do we, how do we incorporate them into our gatherings and, and what would the requirements be of them regarding, you know, the Old Testament law and all these sorts of things.
And so they’re, you know, big, big council there, Jerusalem and their going back and forth and big speeches are being made and all this kinda stuff, and they finally arrive at the decision. but one of the things that they. That the scriptures record and Luke writes this, he says, it seemed good to us.
This is the collective saying this, the group saying this, it seemed good to us or seem, excuse me, it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us not to burden you with anything beyond the following requirements. And then they kind of lay it out there for them. The principle here is there was a, there was the leadership of the Holy Spirit among them that led them to an understanding around which they could unify.
about how to handle the matter that was before them. And I think that in principle, when church leaders and [00:21:00] bodies can be sensitive to the leadership of the Holy Spirit. And can you imagine that gathering? I mean, there were strong voices all over the place and they were, they’re probably voices that were energetic and there are people that were passionate about things, but there was, in the process of them talking about all of the matters related to the Gentiles and what they, what they should do, what they should not do, etc.
There was a thread that the Holy Spirit was weaving among them that caused them to be able to say at the end of that, it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us, right? So there’s, there’s the movement of the Spirit and it’s joining with their understanding of how the Spirit is moving. So this is reading the room during a decision making moment and hearing people talk.
And be people bring out different perspectives, you can read the room and you can see where it’s going. Jim, I can’t tell you the countless number of meetings that I’ve gone into being convinced that we needed to make a decision. And this is what we needed to do. And as I get there, what I realized was, is that I was way out of step with everybody and the work of [00:22:00] God.
And so God was gracious enough to lead me through an experience where I was like, you know what? This isn’t what I wanted to happen. What I thought should happen was not in step where God was wanting to move or the spirit was wanting to move. And then what other people were sensitive to. and it was only through the process of really having those conversations, maybe where I became aware of God’s movement as I was listening to other people in.
Express their opinions and their perspectives, express what they knew from scripture to be true, what the current movement of God was like in our particular context. When I began to sense all that and experience all that, is the leadership of the Holy Spirit making my heart sensitive to what He wanted to do, rather than what I thought should be done.
JimBo Stewart: Yeah, I think in order to let, in order to make sure that we are following the lead of the Holy Spirit, we’ve got to be walking in the Spirit. and, you know, I often go to Galatians 5 and, the Spirit versus the flesh when it talks about that. And, you [00:23:00] know, it, when it talks about the things that come when we, the work to the flesh.
mean, it goes into some things that I’m hoping don’t happen in your business meetings, like sexual immorality and promiscuity and drunkenness and idolatry. But, it does move on from there to, hatred, strife, jealousy, outburst of anger, selfish ambition, dissensions, and factions. And so, if that’s what’s going on, you are not walking by the Spirit.
And if you’re not walking by the spirit, you cannot be making decisions that are led by the Holy Spirit. and so part of this leader is as you’re going into this and make sure you are walking the spirit, make sure you’re prayed up, you’re, I mean, slow down for a little bit, slow down before you even get to this decision making meeting, if you can.
and just listen to the Holy Spirit, be still and know that he is God. cease striving and, Find your hope and your peace just in Him. Let Him guide that, [00:24:00] and then lead others to do the same. Lead others to be walking in the Spirit so they can be led by the Spirit, which will be evidenced by the fruit of the Spirit.
And then you’ll make some Spirit led decisions, and you never know what God might do. I mean, He can do exceedingly more, abundantly more than we could ever ask or imagine, when we’ll follow His game plan.