In leadership, it eventually always comes down to these two critical questions
- How are decisions made in your group, church, company or family?
- Who has the ultimate decision-making authority?
I, along with millions of others, have been watching, reading and listening to what’s being played out in our country as well as in other countries around the world.
To a large degree It boils down to authority; whether we are talking the tension and animosity between the three branches of our government, the leadership in a sports franchise (baseball, basketball baseball, to name the big three in the USA) the way the military works, the local church or the basic family structure.
We see the battle in the US being fought over masks or no masks, going to school or online learning. We see the constant fighting and bickering between federal officials, state officials, county officials and city officials. Closer to home for me, can churches gather for worship and under what conditions? Who decides this? Who is assuming they have the authority to decide? In many cases it doesn’t seem to be clear, hence the tension and protests. Here in California where I live it’s all out war over the authority issue. Look at your history books. Nothing new under the sun. It’s been so from the beginning of humanity. I am the captain of my ship. I will decide.
If there is uncertainty (which is the situation in many cases) as to where the ultimate authority lies, the most powerful group or person will attempt to fill the perceived vacuum. If it seems to be clear some other authority will challenge the current authority. When you look at China and Hong Kong, this is what’s going; Hong Kong wants freedom, China wants authority to call the shots. When you look at any dictatorial regime and people under it who want more freedom to decide, the question of authority is again being played out. This authority fight is a world-wide phenom, not just a USA thing. You can look at most any country in the world and see the same battle taking place on multiple levels.
Dealing with authority in governments, in the military, in sports, in the schools is beyond my paygrade, but I would like to address the question of authority in the local church where a lot of my time and energy is invested.
When I’m in a coaching partnership with a pastor or church leader, it usually comes up in the first few weeks. How are decisions made in your church and who has the ultimate decision-making authority? We often refer to this as “Church Polity.” How churches are governed and run. There are different models on this. Here are three that I am aware of. There are, of course, others.
- Congregationally led
- Elder led
- Staff led
Among those I coach I see all three. My point here is not to advocate one over the other, although I do have my personal convictions on this issue, but to simply (but firmly) say that it needs to be clear and it needs to be in writing.
It still surprises me when a church leadership team is having some difficulties making decisions and the two questions are asked that I get a “Well, it’s really not that clear.” Some churches have documents, but the documents are not all that clear; they are outdated, contradictory or seldom referred to. At times the first step is starting the process to rewrite the documents so it is clear who has authority to decide what. This can be an arduous and painful process and can take quite a while; but, in my opinion, is well-worth the effort. Plan on people lining up to take sides when there is a powershift for decision-making and we all know that there’s no fight like a church fight! I have been through this process with two churches. It took time and was not easy.
My specific purpose here is not to provide a simple solution to a complex issue, but rather to strongly encourage church leaders to take the time and effort to make it as clear as possible as to how decisions will be made and who has the ultimate authority to make those decisions. The more we move based on Scripture and are led by the Holy Spirit, the better the process will proceed.
You just gotta do it, as difficult as it may be. It will save you lots of headaches down the road–guaranteed!
I’d love to see some comments on this post.