Several years ago ten whales were found beached off the Baha Peninsula, and though experts were called in to try to rescue them, their efforts failed. All ten whales died.
A marine biologist was asked to study the event to understand what happened. Apparently, the whales were chasing small fish, and the final report said they chased them into water where they didn’t belong and became stranded. The headlines read, “Giants Perish Chasing Minnows.”
Satan well knows the mission God has for the church – to “go into all the word and make disciples.” To prevent the church from achieving her mission, however, he tries to beach the church by getting Christians to chase a bunch of little periphery issues that have nothing to do with our real agenda.
Jesus addressed this tendency with the Pharisees. They were skilled in what the law said, but they missed the point and spirit of the law. When they threw a woman caught in adultery down before him, they asked, “What does the LAW say?” Jesus wanted to know, “But what about this WOMAN?” On another occasion Jesus said to the religious leaders, “You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me” (John 5:39). They knew the minutest issues of the law but missed who the scriptures were pointing to in the process. Then there’s the Apostle Paul in Acts 9. Any religious leader of his day would have said, “There’s a man who knows the Scriptures.” Yet Paul had to go blind to see the truth! After he met Christ on the Damascus Road, he stopped chasing minnows and put his central focus where it belonged—the Cross of Christ! Paul gained a sense of the immensity of the mercy of God in his life, and it became his life’s passion to proclaim that message from the rooftops. He later spoke of those who were “always learning but never able to come to a knowledge of the truth” (2 Tim. 3:7). They were the ones who had a “form of godliness” but denied the power of God (2 Tim. 3:5). So consider this: We can become experts in knowing what the Scriptures say, but not experts in doing what the scriptures say. God didn’t give us the Bible just so we could accrue information; he gave us the scriptures so we could experience transformation. (How can DBMinistryCoach help you? See our web site for a compete of list of consulting services for churches).
I’ve learned that silence in the eldership means disapproval. These words were spoken to me by a church leader who made a proposal to his fellow elders. When no one responded and everyone looked around with blank stares, he knew the idea was dead in the water. It wasn’t that he minded divergent opinions; he simply struggled to understand why a mere discussion about the idea seemed so far away.
I am convinced this scenario is played out time and again because of the way we view the adoption of a new idea – up or down. Leadership groups are often held captive to the belief that most decisions are either/or propositions. Why not make room for both/and, for the refinement of an idea through healthy discussion to produce an even better idea?
Here’s a suggestion: Instead of trying to get a group of leaders to arrive at a decision by way of a simple up or down vote, ask each member for a 1-5 vote. Here’s what we mean:
I’m all in, let’s go.
I’m all in, but I have a question or two.
I need a little more time.
I’m not for it, but I won’t work against it.
I’m not for it, and I’ll work against it.
This kind of vote is helpful to gauge the temperature of the group. If there are mostly 1’s and 2’s, the likelihood of the decision looks hopeful. If a group member indicates a 3, then it is helpful to ask patiently, “How much time do you need?” If there are mostly 4’s and 5’s, the best advice is to wait a while, take time for conversation and for prayer. The wise Solomon said, “The purposes of a person’s heart are deep waters, but one who has insight draws them out” (Proverbs 20:5). Such an approach puts us on the path toward creating a shared vision versus the adoption of an idea that may not have been subjected to all necessary reflection. It also honors the efforts of one bringing the idea to the table, whether adopted or not. Through meaningful conversation and mutual respect, leaders will most likely discover a better way forward.