Q: How should we approach decision-making and "God's will" when it involves local church and district level elections?
A: Decision-making conducted through a voting process can be difficult to analyze and critique. It is made even more difficult when the element of “God’s will” is invoked prior to the elective process, or used afterwards as a “stamp of approval.”
Extreme care must be taken not to attribute to “God’s will” decisions that are self-seeking, misguided, or contrary to the clear and plain biblical witness. Some guidance may be found in Paul’s prayer for the church at Philippi:
This is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ to the glory and praise of God (Philippians 1:9-11).
Paul’s prayer may give us some direction about how to think about decision-making when it comes to church elections. The goal, to use Paul’s language, is to “discern what is best” so that God will be praised and glorified.
Here are some helpful questions that could be asked in that discernment process:
- Will passage of this resolution or issue help the church to fulfill God’s mission more effectively?
- Would voting in favor of this issue promote the concerns of God as communicated in the biblical witness?
- Is this candidate for local or district leadership “blameless” before the Lord to the best of our knowledge and awareness? Is his or her life filled with the “fruit of righteousness?”
- Would this election turn out for the “best” if persons were elected from a diversity of ages, ethnicities, genders, backgrounds, and congregations from across the district?
- Is it “best” for a small number of families or a small number of churches to be proportionally over-represented?
This kind of “knowledge and depth of insight” must be practiced and utilized throughout the process and particularly at the “nominating stage” if our decision-making is to come close to representing “God’s will.”
Brad Estep is lead pastor at the First Church of the Nazarene in Kansas City, Missouri, and serves as an adjunct faculty member at Nazarene Theological Seminary.