Consensus

I live in America.  Voting is engrained in our culture.  We want to vote on everything.  It’s true in our congregations too.  Should we have flags in the sanctuary.  Let’s vote on it.  Where does the baptismal font go?  Let’s vote on it.  Should we use only fresh-cut flowers and live plants in our worship space?  Let’s vote on it.  Disagree on anything, the color of the carpet or the paint, take a vote.  The only problem is we thing this is the only way to solve a disagreement and majority rules, creating winners and losers.  Should folks feel like losers at church?  If we think of our faith community as family, should our family make us feel like losers?  That’s what we do when we vote.  We create winners and losers.

A few year ago, some colleagues of mine introduced me to consensus decision-making process, it’s a collaborative way to solve problems.  I’ve seen it in process.  Everyone has a voice, and the group comes to a consensus, or the group isn’t ready to make a decision.  This may not work in super large groups, but it witnessed it work well in groups as large as 20.  Consensus decision-making relies on the whole group trusting each other, working together, seeking God’s direction through the Holy Spirit.  It creates a “We’re in This Together” mindset instead of an “Us vs. Them” attitude.

It seems the early church relied on the consensus model of decision-making.  In one of their first big disagreements (Do Gentiles, who become followers of Jesus need to be circumcised to be true disciples?), they came together, talked about it and came out united.  By the way, after what seems to have been some serious debate, they decided the answer was no.  Their united message, makes it a stronger message, and one they could all support, even after disagreeing.  There were no winners and losers, they were One in Christ.  No longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free.  I love how Luke records part of the letter to Gentiles in Antioch about their decision:

25 We reached a united decision to select some delegates and send them to you along with our dear friends Barnabas and Paul. – Acts 15:25 Common English Bible 

I’ve been part of consensus, were mine was the lone dissenting voice, but having worked with that particular board for months, I was happy to support the group decision, knowing my concerns had been heard and were taken into account.  I had learned to trust the group more than my lone opinion.  The board was filled with faithful folks, working together to serve the Lord.

I realize there are times consensus is impractical, and voting must be done, or authoritarian way would better serve, but I believe we would all be better off if we would trust the group decision-making process of consensus more often.  It creates a working together environment instead of insisting on winners and losers, where it’s winner-take-all mentality.

Prayer:  Lord, help us, to trust in you together.  Move us out of our individualism and into a community that trusts and works together in you.  Amen.