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Decision Making in the Church

Decision Making in the Church
Jul 13 Tags: unity | 4 Responses Print Save as PDF

In order for the local church to carry out its work, there must be some dependable, consistent method for making decisions. Many churches address this need by holding a business meeting in which the members can vote and thus the majority rules. Sound harmless? Aren’t we always hearing the positive side of living in a democracy from the news media? The serious Christian however, wants to know what Scripture has to say.

A look at the Acts

When we read the book of Acts we discover that the early Christians had larger concerns than simply solving a problem and getting on with the work at hand—concerns like discerning the mind of the Lord, and preserving the unity of the body. A classic passage for study reveals the handling of the doctrinal problem by the so-called Jerusalem council in Acts 15.

After much discussion and testimony on the question of the place of Moses’ law in the salvation of Gentile believers, the apostles and elders reached a conclusion and wrote letters to inform the churches. Two points in the letter written to the churches stand out.

  1. In verse 25, the literal wording is: “It seemed good to us, becoming of one mind…” (KJV) or we might render it: “having come to one accord…” By using the verb “to become” the writers acknowledged that something now existed that had not been there before; i.e. a unanimous conviction on the matter.
  2. Secondly, in framing a concluding application for the young churches to follow, we find in verse 28 the words: “For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us…..” Placing the Holy Spirit first shows that this position to which all had come was God’s mind in the matter from the beginning and through some effort had now become the mind of the believers. What an uplifting perspective on problem solving! Christians working together to discover the mind of Christ.

Is it unrealistic for churches today to solve problems and decide issues this way? Not if every believer values God’s will in every decision above his own. Space does not allow us to survey passages like Phil. 1:27; 2:2; 3:15; 4:2 that appeal for oneness of mind among believers.


Consider the benefits of seeking unanimity. Elders may be wise, but they are finite in their wisdom. In depending on the Head of the church for guidance, they appeal to One who is omniscient to disclose His will in any matter. As the believers share in this process, and see it lived out in the life of the church, healthy discipleship training occurs.

Then patience is learned, even when our flesh finds waiting on the Lord distasteful. Speed is not the goal. Rich spiritual protection comes from knowing and embracing both the Lord’s will and His timing.

Objections to leading by unanimity

Two objections are common.

1. Church Voting

Some people refer to Acts 14:23 to justify congregational voting in the church. Doesn’t the Greek word there meaning “to lift the hand” support the idea of voting? Actually, it does not. The literal rendering is “And having appointed for them in every church elders…” Clearly, Paul and Barnabas are the subjects who did the appointing.

William Hoste writes: “There is indeed something grotesque in the idea of Paul and Barnabas ‘electing by a show of hands.’” The word used should bear its normal meaning of ‘pointing out.’ The apostles would recognize and be able to point out those who were qualified as this was a return visit to this area, time having elapsed in which evidence of suitability would now be manifest.

Proponents of church voting ought to ask themselves how often in scripture or society has the majority been right? The passion of personal desires and the influence of friends or family members make the objectivity of the crowd a poor choice for the basis of determining truth.

2. A hindering believer

The other objection to decision making by unanimity of the leadership is the charge that a dissenting brother can hold back the work of God. This can be a serious problem if not handled carefully. After faithfully following the process of investigation, discussion, study of the Word and prayer, elders ought to ask anyone who dissents from the proposed course of action if his objections are based on Biblical principle or personal scruple.

If the former, he should be able to produce relevant scriptures rightly applied. This will indicate that oneness has not been reached and further waiting on the Lord is necessary. If the latter, he should be asked to give his blessing to the rest who are convinced that the mind of the Lord has been discovered and who desire to move forward.

It is important in building any leadership team that every brother be agreed on some means of distinguishing between objections based on Biblical principle and objections that reflect personal preference. In this way, long stalemates and stagnation of the Lord’s work are avoided.


It isn’t easy to put aside the interests and viewpoints of self and earnestly seek together for God’s thoughts on any question. But there are rich rewards to both the process and the result for those who will accept the disciplines of seeking the mind of Christ.

Editorial note. This article was first posted in Elder’s Shopnotes in July 2003. It is re-posted with permission from the author.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect any other author or an official position of the assemblyHUB team.

Jack Spender

Jack came to know the Lord Jesus at age 7 at Camp Berea (NH);  He and his wife Ruth have been Serving full time in the Lord’s work since 1972. Jack’s main efforts have been in planting new assemblies, Bible teaching, discipleship and leadership training. They live in Bethany Conneticut.

4 Responses to Decision Making in the Church

  1. Avatar
    Mark Jacobberger


    Thank you for bringing some light and clarity to this difficult area of decision making. You touched on the idea of decisions coming from discernment which I’ve wondered, if this isn’t the more important principle to pay attention to. In other words, we gravitate towards business type decisions and the practical matters and often neglect serious Spiritual leading.

    As a side comment, I heard a brother say, business type decisions are often what we are focused on but the oversight should primarily be a spiritually discerning body of men. This will then facilitate Holy Spirit led decisions making.

    While I think you are well on track with your thoughts, and though men desire to be a fully yielded vessels, and filled with the fulness of God, I would be hard pressed to, in our day, write words that were written in Acts, “it seemed good to the Holy Spirit”. They were writing scripture. Would it be more appropriate to write or say something like, after much prayer we believe we are being led to do this or that?

    Perhaps a minor point, but I get a little nervous if any man were to invoke the Lord or the Holy Spirit as if we absolutely have heard from Him. Invoke Him as if the leading was just as authoritative as scripture or an additional revelation. We certainly do and can hear from Him and we can confidently move forward on that basis, so don’t take me wrong in what I’m saying. I just spent sometime many years ago around believers who felt they were absolutely getting new Revelation, which were actually voicing just their opinions and passing it off of as God’s new Word to them.

    I’m certain this is not what you meant when you wrote, I just wanted to clarify so others don’t find themselves going down that kind of road. Having said that, we can see just how important good and godly discernment is in order to be (as certain as we can), of the Spirit’s leading in this equation of decision making.

  2. Avatar
    Calvin Fritchey

    It’s good to see there are those who believe Scriptures when it says “be of the same mind”, “speak the same thing”, be “of one mind”, “arm yourselves…with the same mind”, etc. I have experienced the “Business Meeting”, type decision making and have been on both sides of a “vote”, been out voted by several brothers who rarely came, etc and saw only harm come out of these votes. I have also experienced truly being of the same mind and subject to one another. Though I was not an elder I was able to vote on how to close in an open outdoor space to provide more fellowship room. I was the one dissenting vote (due to the cost being triple), but the Lord gave grace to not fight it, but to submit to the other brothers on the matter. I was truly leaving it in the Lord’s hands. Once the project was completed I discovered that on a rainy day the other brother’s idea was actually better, even though it cost 3 times as much to do. We were able to use this area with youth work. The Spirit of God changed my heart and mind! I believe the same concept is what scripture is talking about in part when it speaks of being of “one mind” even with “spiritual matters”. Being subject or submitting to one another is not everyone totally agreeing on something. Submission occurs only when there is a difference of opinion or understanding, or disagreement. I humbly submitted to the others when I DISAGREED! However, there is more to “being of one mind” than just submitting. There is also the Spirit of God taking God’s Word and showing us the mind of Christ in the matter, where there are actually none disagreeing and no need for submission. For example if you take the very volatile subject of marriage and divorce. Rarely is there a group of elders who agree on this subject. I believe with much discussion on scripture and much praying the Spirit of God can cause elders to even come to be of “one mind” on this and many other very difficult spiritual matters without any elder dissenting. And lastly, the Spirit of God will NEVER contradict the Word of God. He is the one who moved Holy men of God to write it, so He won’t go outside of His own Word! He will NOT give us new Revelations outside of His Word. When elders come to an unanimous agreement based on the Word of God there are times where they can truly say “they believe they have the Spirit of God” in the matter. However, if there unanimous agreement is contrary to the Word of God, then there is NO WAY the Spirit of God was in the decision making in the first place! Yay for true one mindedness, as that means we are in the Will of God!

  3. Avatar
    Calvin Fritchey

    An Addtl thought: I think one of the greatest errors was often quoted by a wee man who used to say “We can agree to Disagree”. I loved this brother and hauled him back and forth from many a meeting. The Bible DOES NOT teach us to AGREE to DISAGREE! It does however teach us to be in agreement with one another and as a whole local Church. Paul lived this out even in ALL the churches he spoke at 1Corinthians 4:17 –“For this cause have I sent unto you Timotheus, who is my beloved son, and faithful in the Lord, who shall bring you into remembrance of my ways which be in Christ, as I teach every where in every church.” Sadly no one believes Paul’s teachings that we are to teach the Word of God the same EVERYWHERE and in EVERY CHURCH!

  4. Avatar
    Mark Jacobberger

    Well said Calvin! When it comes to being of the same mind, I can’t help but think of Phil 2 – You wrote about submitting one to another in your comments and the mind of Christ. When we let “this mind be in you (us) that was also in Christ Jesus”, submitting instead of pridefully arguing our biases is possible. I liked your additional thought as well. The expression you mentioned is used very frequently and while I may employ this expression in a secular setting to keep peace in my work place – in the assembly scripture doesn’t teach us to continue secretly opposing our brother while smiling on the outside. What kind of peace is that? Thank you for your contribution to the discussion!

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