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Posts Tagged ‘congregational meetings’

Last month, our country held its mid-term elections.  Imagine that you went into the voting booth having no idea who was running for office until you got there.  (If I still lived in California, I’d exclaim, “Oh, no, Jerry Brown is running again?”)  Many of us become familiar with those who are running for major offices, although we still don’t know anything about more than half the names on the ballot.  But how wise would it be for officials to unveil the names of political candidates only on the day of voting?

And yet that’s how thousands of churches choose leaders every year.

When I was in my late teens, I was asked one year to count ballots for the annual business meeting at my church.  95 people cast their ballots for elder, and one man received 20 “no” votes.  Because the candidates only needed to receive a simple majority, he was still elected to office, but shortly afterward, he resigned due to sexual misconduct.  I wonder how many of those 20 people knew something about this man’s life that the rest of us didn’t?  Maybe if some of those people had known ahead of time that his name was being considered for elder, they could have shared what they knew with the pastor or church staff and his name could have been quietly withdrawn.

For years, I attended public church meetings (whether they were called “business” meetings or “congregational” meetings) in which candidates/issues were presented to the church and then the church was expected to take a vote immediately.  This process often raised the anxiety level for people because some of them simply were not ready to make a quick decision.  They wanted time to think, pray, and talk to others before casting their vote.  When they were not given that opportunity, they sometimes claimed they were being “railroaded.”

That’s why I like the process of selecting elders that our church has.  Last Sunday, three potential elders came and stood on the  stage with their wives.  The pastor briefly introduced each person and then referred to their biographies, which were made available on an insert in the program.  Then the pastor said that we had a month to give feedback about these men and we were told how to do that.  Only after the one-month feedback time would these men become elders.

Those who know me know that I am very deliberate when it comes to decision-making.  The more crucial the issue, the longer it takes me to decide, but once I do, I don’t look back.  Whether it’s voting for the President of the United States or an elder in my local church, I take my vote very seriously.  And from the time a candidate’s name is introduced to me, I need time to think, to pray, and if need be, to speak with others.

When a church introduces candidates in a public meeting, and then expects God’s people to vote immediately on those individuals for office, people are denied the ability to think.  They are denied the ability to pray.  They are denied the ability to speak with others.  In a word, they are being manipulated.  Some people may vote “no” on some of the candidates just because they inherently sense this even if they can’t put it into words.  They feel violated.

Why do churches do this?  Sometimes it’s because the leaders figure that people will only come out to one meeting, if that, so that have to take all their votes at once.  Sometimes it’s because the leaders don’t know who is running for office until right before the meeting!  But usually, it’s because of anxiety.  The leaders just want to get the “voting thing” over with.

But if believers aren’t allowed to think, pray, and talk with others, why vote at all?  Then the members end up becoming “sheeple,” just doing whatever their leaders tell them to do.

Is there a better way to handle such meetings?  I believe there is.  That will be the topic of my next blog.

Check out our website at www.restoringkingdombuilders.org  You’ll find Jim’s story, recommended resources on conflict, and a forum where you can ask questions about conflict situations in your church.

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