Our second installment in this new series focuses on leadership. Simply put, tough times call for tough people. Quite frankly, the last year has been some of the toughest the Church has faced in a long time. The circumstances surrounding CoVid-19 and its impact on the Church will be studied for years and felt even longer. Thankfully, God’s people have leaders molded in His image to lead us through the days ahead. Today, Matthew Morine joins us to address the type of leadership we need in this article entitled The Weakness in the Majority.
You hear it all the time. Little bits of wisdom about the intelligence of the crowd. People all know that “majority rules.” Take a vote on a controversial decision within the leadership and the item with the most hands wins. Was the choice the right choice? The majority would believe so because people believe that there is a “wisdom in the crowd.” Within a congregational structure, people fight for a certain direction because, of course, “the majority want it that way.” But the majority does not always have the best interests of everyone at heart. Do not take a vote to decide what is for supper between five snakes and one rat.
Empathy as a Roadblock
Too often leadership in our congregations has turned into consensus building instead of faithfully bold direction. The problem is that no one does ministry to hurt people. No elder or preacher intentionally desires to emotionally scar a member of the congregation. In fact, most people do everything possible to protect the feelings of others. No one wants to be a jerk! There is something inside religious leaders that is allergic to harming another human.
Often church leaders are full of compassion, mercy, and sympathetic love. So when the majority in a congregation complains or revolts against the leadership, the natural inclination is to admit wrong and apologize proclaiming no one on the leadership team meant to hurt anyone. The natural compassion for the crowd causes leaders to stop needed spiritual progress in the name of empathy. The pain of the crowd overwhelms the need to lead.
Think about Numbers 13, which is the famous chapter about the twelve spies snooping out the promised land. Two groups returned. The majority group provided a bleak outlook. They said in verses 32-33, “the land was foreboding, full of fiercely massive giants, and there is no way us grasshoppers have a chance of success.” They thought the best solution was to go back to the protection of Egypt.
On the other hand, the minority report was optimistic. Joshua and Caleb told them in 14:7-9, “there are certainly challenges, but the land is lush and abundant. With God on our side, we’ve got this! Let’s press on to victory.” Then, the chosen people of God listened to the majority report of faithless cowards instead of the minority of courageous and Godly men. This error of following the wrong majority led to the people of God wandering for another 40 years. Those of age died before entering the Promised Land because they believed that more voices give better information.
Our gut tells us that when it comes to decision-making, more heads are better than one. If you ask for more opinions, you get more of the outside view, a wider variety of perspectives, a broader range of beliefs, and that will improve decision quality. Intuitively this makes sense, but it can be wrong. Instead a meritocracy is wiser, a system where one head is not equal to one vote. It is a weighted system wherein people more qualified to make a decision receive more votes rather than merely counting heads to discern the right direction.
Too Long, Too Late
Think about trying to make a decision on a heart transplant. A person is seriously sick and needs a new heart. The people in the congregation are voting on whether or not the person should get a heart transplant. There is the accountant who most concerned with the cost. Another sweet sister in the congregation is stressed about the impact on the family of the sick member should he die in surgery. The egotist deacon is telling the person to “tough it out.” The elders are praying for healing and feel that not enough time has been given to God to work in the situation. The preacher is worried about the cost to the congregation and not getting a raise that year. But there is one lone doctor in the congregation who also happens to be a heart specialist. The man asks the congregation to discern whether he should or should not get the heart replacement. Everyone votes and the doctor is outvoted. Honestly though, who is the only person able to give real insight into the situation – the cardiologist! Everyone else has an opinion with little true knowledge of the situation.
Typically if leadership goes with the majority within a congregation, the majority will probably stay with the safe, comfortable, and conscious choice most times. The majority will long to head back to Egypt because the memory of melons is overpowering the memory of bricks and slavery (see Numbers 11:5).
Waiting on the majority to approve a decision is sometimes a sign of waiting too long. After the last person in the congregation approves the choice to move to flannel graphics, the congregation down the road has installed PowerPoint. True leadership is moving forward with the confidence of the Lord, not waiting until the last naysayer signs off on the change.
Matthew Morine is the pulpit minister for the Castle Rock Church of Christ in Castle Rock, Colorado. He is a frequent contributor to the Gospel Advocate, a sought-after speaker at lectureships across our country, and a blogger. Follow this link to read more from him.