And the Lord told him: “Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king. As they have done from the day I brought them up out of Egypt until this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are doing to you. Now listen to them; but warn them solemnly and let them know what the king who will reign over them will claim as his rights.” 1 Samuel 8:7-9
“There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, “Thy will be done,” and those to whom God says, in the end, “Thy will be done.” C.S. Lewis
Here is a fundamental truth for church leaders (including pastors): the church is not for you (not really), nor is it about you. If you think about it, that is actually a rather freeing reality. That means it is not your responsibility to manipulate every outcome. Rather, it is your responsibility to speak God’s truth to the best of your ability and to love your people well…and love often means letting them mess up royally.
Most of my own best illustrations of this leadership principle come from parenting. If you are a parent, you already know the phenomenon well. There are times when a parent can see a wrong direction a child is headed and the very best way to teach this lesson is to simply warn them and then let them make their own decision (and live with the consequences). Take bedtimes, for example. Toddlers are simply told when they will go to bed. But, as they grow older, we eventually get to a point where they must learn to use their own judgment about sleep …
I remember well the very first meeting of our last pastor search committee at my own church. We prayed together and then we discussed process. One thing we all agreed on was that we were trying to discern the will of a sovereign God, and that was no small task. We agreed that we would not act on a simple majority vote. Rather that we should act only upon “consensus”. Then one of us (and I don’t recall who it was) asked a very natural question: if there are nine of us on this committee, what number constitutes consensus? Great question. I’m not sure we ever came to a consensus about how to answer it.
Just as soon as your church purposes to find God’s will by a “consensus” process rather than a simple majority vote, that question immediately comes to the surface: how exactly do we define “consensus”? Is it necessarily the same as “unanimous” or is it something less than unanimous but more than a majority?
This is another place where our puzzle metaphor is a bit enlightening. It makes “consensus” easy to understand. “Consensus” simply means that we have enough puzzle pieces in place to leave no doubt about what the picture is. We can still work to add the other pieces, but it is crystal clear to everyone (not just a few, but everyone) what the puzzle is showing us. In that instance, then, it is not so much about a specific number of pieces, because the number will change, depending upon which pieces we have in place. If we have a 56-piece puzzle (like the one pictured here), how many pieces do we need in place before everyone can see and understand the picture? 55? 50? 40? Again, it depends.