“Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves” (Philippians 2:3).
The word the Apostle Paul uses for “strife” is the Greek word eritheia which means “electioneering or intriguing for office”. The Apostle is addressing the politics that can gain ground in a congregation. One of the clearest concerns for this growing and giving congregation is that the move of God would be hindered by politics and a partisan agenda.
We have created structures for “strife”. The way we conduct ministry and the way we make decisions leaves us fully exposed to the satanic strategy of strife. The popularity of people; the money of members; the longevity of service and the personalities of leaders can easily begin to dominate what happens in churches. This is the set up for strife.
Most mainline traditional Protestant churches in America are democratic and not theocratic. When a church is democratic the most important thing is the will of the people. When a church is theocratic the most important thing is the will of God. A democratic church is congregational; a theocratic church is biblical. A democratic church is institutional. A theocratic church is spiritual. A democratic church is governed by the votes of people. A theocratic church is governed by a vision from God.
Having pastored for 30 years I can assure you that any pastor called of God cannot and will not be able to fulfill the call of God in a pastorate if the church is purely political. The role and goal of the pastor is to center the church in the Word and prayer so when decisions have to be made the mindset of the people is “the mind of Christ”. When people in church want what God says in His Word then a vote is a consensus for and confirmation of God’s will.
The Early Expanding Church in the Book of Acts votes in the first chapter. “”And they gave forth their lots; and the lot fell upon Matthias; and he was numbered with the eleven apostles” (1:26). A few things you should notice about the voting: 1) It was lead by Peter, their spiritual leader (vs. 15). 2) It was biblical in its intent and motive (vss. 16-20). 3) It was done only after the entire congregation prayed about it (vs. 24).
My counsel to pastors who are stuck in “strife structures” is to teach the people why they need to vote. Don’t spend much time trying to move people away from all they know about church. Don’t try to seize the illusion of power they need to affirm their church titles and positions. Why fight their thinking when you can inform their thinking?
Pastors teach the people to vote. Encourage the members to come to the “business meetings”. Most of the pure and more spiritually matured members avoid business meetings. Their experiences have educated them of how ugly and messy a carnal congregation can be when trying to make collective and corporate decisions. Pastors must however convince the biblical, spiritual and professional members to attend the meetings and V.O.T.E.
Why should a pastor teach the people to vote?
- Vision that God is establishing in the church needs to be supported and strengthened. “Where there is no vision, the people perish…” (Proverbs 29:18). On the other hand, where there are no people the vision will perish. If the good and godly people don’t show up and support the vision, the vision will become a division.
- Opposition is real. There are institutional interests in churches that will oppose anything new or anything true. Weapons are being formed against the vision and the purpose of God in the church by church members. Organized opposition shows up to business meetings. Voting with the vision protects the vision and the pastor from being harassed and hindered.
- Transition is necessary. When you have political tendencies and contingencies that are long standing making changes will be the greatest challenge. People have worked for years and some families for generations to get the positions and power they have. Do you really think they are going to just give that up? Members with big vision and great expectations have to show up and vote in order to affect change in the leadership and in the direction of the congregation.
- Expansion is happening. Churches that are growing are also fighting. We are fighting against lethargy, apathy, and mediocrity. We are fighting against the forces that want to drive away new members and new ministries. We are fighting against the disinterest in prayer, progress and professionalism. Members who are committed to ministry must show up and vote so the church can continue to preach Christ and pray without the drama and trauma of the corrupt and carnal.