Community as Identity and Decisions

In our culture we expect to make our own decisions. But decision-making must have a communal dimension

First, we need the community to make good decisions. God does not have a specific will for our life that we have to somehow discover. The Bible speaks of God’s sovereign will (all things are under his control, good and bad) and his moral will (the revealed way of life to which he calls us all). Sometimes God guides in specific ways, but more often we make decisions with the wisdom that comes from fearing of the Lord and with our priorities set on God’s kingdom. The problem is we often find reasons for doing what we want to do. We need one another to help us see when our reasoning is corrupted by our sinful hearts.

Second, we should involve the Christian community in decision-making to the extent that our decisions affect the community. This doesn’t mean that the community or its leaders tell people what to do in their personal lives, but it does mean that we should:

  • make decisions with regard to the implications for our Christian community; and
  • make significant decisions in consultation with members of our Christian community.

A single person typically makes decisions without regard to anyone else. Marriage  changes everything. When asked to go for a drink after work, they think about the implications for their family. Big decisions get made in consultation with the family. The same is true in the Christian family. The family doesn’t makes decisions for us. But we make decisions with our family and in the light of our membership of that family.


6 thoughts on “Community as Identity and Decisions

  1. Hi Tim,
    How does this work out if the person asks for input on decisions because they are compliant and have a desire to please people? Could them asking for input actually be a sign of immaturity? I just recognise my own tendency of wanting to get things right does mean that I go and listen to people and hear their counsel but sometimes I’ve found its a way of avoiding responsibility for making a decision. Is there a wrong kind of dependence you’d want to avoid as well as helping people move away from an unhelpful kind of independence?
    Last question! (Promise) Given the sinfulness of the group how do you help people (especially leaders) confront the desire to control or dominate others, especially if an expectation has been set up that collective decision making is important and for all our good?
    Thanks Tim,

  2. Good questions. Yes, people can ask for input into decisions because they are pliant or (more common) because they are cautious and don’t want to take responsibility for their actions. How I respond depends on the nature of our relationship. Sometimes I’ll tell them straight to get on with it without bothering me! More often, I’ll provide a gospel perspective which usually sets some boundaries, but then suggest they are free to choice within those boundaries. The key thing is that your aim is maturity. For some people that means learning to take the wider community into account more. For some it means learning to take responsibility for their decisions.

    And, yes, some people can want to dominate. The two safeguards against this are community and gospel. By community I mean that we are not talking about one person shaping the decisions of other people. I’m not advocating a top down process in which the leader determines what people do! By no means (as Paul might say). I mean a process in which the community as a whole shapes what people decide. Second, ultimately leadership is about character much more than it is about structure. Whatever your structure, a domineering person will domineer. So we need to guard one another with the gospel: Christ – and not you – is the head and senior pastor of the church. We are called not to rule one another, but to serve one (Mark 10:35-45) as we follow the example of the cross. I must recognise that my wisdom is affected by sin so I need ot be humble and cautious in the advice I give to others. And so on. The gospel ought to restrain any tendency to domineer.

  3. Excellent blog Tim.
    One thing to add – which ought to go without saying : the community will then seek to be gospel-minded in its listening and comments.
    So gospel priorities, combined with a trust in God’s sovereignty.

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  5. Pingback: Tim Chester on Community Decision Making « fresh expressions…

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