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Revive Israel Ministries

"It Seemed Good…"
A Model for Decision Making in Ministry Leadership Teams
©December 26, 2007 Asher Intrater

The early community of disciples of Yeshua (Jesus) came to a crisis concerning the standing of Jews and Gentiles in the Body of Messiah. The resolution of the conflict released a great advance for the kingdom of God.

The way in which the conflict was resolved provides a model of how to make decisions in ministry leadership teams. The process for coming to the right decision was made up of three elements:

  1. Group DiscussionActs 15:7 - "After there had been much dispute." The discussion was long, and at times heated. Each of the key leaders had a chance to express himself. This is a time-consuming and uncomfortable process. However, if we want to understand God's will, we have to be willing to hear other people's viewpoints. We cannot be afraid of heated discussions.
  1. Leader's DecisionActs 15:19 - The apostle Jacob (Yaakov, known as James), as leader of the group declared, "Therefore I make judgment that…" His statement reflects the role in Jewish religious courts of the head judge who serves as "posek," rendering the final decision. Despite all the open discussion, everyone recognized that at the end, there had to be one leader in the group.
  1. Holy Spirit DiscernmentActs 15:28 - "For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us." The personal presence of the Holy Spirit in their midst was seen as a full participant in the discussion, with His own opinion and will. The disciples made an effort through prayer and fasting (Acts 13:2) to listen and submit to the leading of the Holy Spirit.

All three of these elements are needed.

If there is no group discussion on the leadership team, but only the leader (as charismatic or authoritative as he may be) deciding according to how he hears from God, the group will degenerate into a cultic or domineering style. There will be no accountability. Potential new leaders will leave in frustration. Valuable differing perspectives will be missed. Even if the leader is certain of the direction the group must take, if he does not involve his sub-leaders in the process of making the decision, they will feel offended, and the unity of the team will break down.

If there is no clear leader whose authority is recognized, the group will degenerate into paralysis by analysis. No clear direction can be set. Division, rebellion, complaining, and confusion will be the result. Growth in numbers will be prevented because authority will not be respected, nor will it be possible to delegate authority. Some people think it is more "spiritual" or "loving" to operate without a clear leader of the group, but that idea contradicts the teachings of Scripture.

If there is not submission to the Holy Spirit, the group degenerates into humanism and religious politics. Notice here that no "vote" was taken. This is not a committee, but a group of saints seeking the will of God. Our goal is to "pray and talk, and pray and talk" until we come to unity of heart, submitting to the Holy Spirit. All human viewpoints are imperfect. It is not "our will" we seek, but "His will" (Matthew 26:39). All of us are "wrong." We need the help of a "third" party. It really is possible to hear the voice of the Holy Spirit if we humble ourselves and pray.

There is much debate whether leadership structure in the New Covenant is "royal" (hierarchical authority with a single head leader) or "fraternal" (a group of equals with no vertical authority). Since authority comes "downward" from heaven and delegated through Yeshua, there has to be clear vertical authority. On the other hand, since every believer has the right to receive the Holy Spirit, we have to hear from one another as brothers and sisters in the Lord. So the answer is obviously a blend of the two positions. (See Covenant Relationships, page 212, "Headship with Plurality.")

When dealing with authority, we find ourselves in one of two positions, either "in" authority or "under" authority. We all need to know how to handle both positions – up-line and down-line. As the centurion said, "I am a man placed under authority, having men placed under me" (Luke 7:8). We all have to know how to submit under someone else's authority, and how to treat those under our authority.

When we are in a position under authority, we should lean as far as possible toward the "royal" model, giving the leader the benefit of the doubt, affirming his authority and demonstrating submission. When we are in a position of leadership, we should lean as far as possible toward the "fraternal" model, listening to those serving under our authority, treating them as brothers and sisters, respecting their opinion.

Human nature tends to do just the opposite. We clamor for a more fraternal approach in any group where we are under authority. Then when we are in leadership, we expect those around us to respect and submit to our authority. Almost everyone makes both mistakes in both directions. If we fight against that fleshly tendency, we may come closer to the godly balance.

Yeshua's "golden rule" of leadership is simply: be a servant. "Who is greatest among you shall be your servant" (Matthew 20:27; 23:11). We need to have a servant attitude in either role, both when we are submitting to authority, and when we are exercising authority.

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