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Ebb and Flow Decision Making*

Congregations within our Baptist family lean towards one of two poles while making decisions. Some elect leaders to give spiritual leadership but then reserve the right of veto through grumbling and mistrust. Others, sit back and abdicate decision making to those in the back room. In each case, outcome ownership is limited.

Scripture teaches both the principle of spiritual eldership and the principle of the priesthood of believers. Healthy congregations practice both, rhythmically. Like tides that ebb and flow along a shoreline, congregational decision making that honours the authority of spiritual leaders as well as the insight and confirmation of the wider spiritual family, will instigate decision ownership and unity. The greater the issue, the greater the impact of honouring both principles.

For example, the leaders of one congregation I worked alongside were challenged to address significant repairs to a large parking lot that resulted primarily from not adding a second layer of pavement some fifteen years earlier. The deterioration of the surface significantly impacted the base, compounding the cost of repair. As always, other issues came into play – a pattern of investing in programs over infrastructure, the reduction of income following the departure of a previous lead pastor, a sizable property debenture, and a lack of transparency in decision making.

The leaders took the matter before the Lord, felt led to share the dilemma with the congregation, sought the permission at a congregational meeting to obtain three quotes, hesitantly took the results back to the congregation, invited wide feedback, then went back to develop a plan to raise funds for the repairs, then agreed only to sign a contract after a base amount was donated or pledged by the congregation. When the vote was eventually taken, the informed proposal received 100% approval and all the funds were received in full before the date of the final payment. Lessons learned from this process lead the leaders of this church to apply the ebb and flow pattern to further significant decisions. Unity and generosity soared as the leaders and congregation submitted the legitimate challenge to the Lord and to each other.

The bottom line: the authority of spiritual leadership is authenticated by attentiveness to the will of God and the needs of the people served.

*An excerpt from a recent Church Health Report to one of our Alberta congregations. To learn more about how your church can benefit from our CBWC Church Health Initiative, contact Sam Breakey at

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