The AAA Test for Elder ConsensusBy Blair Cushman
July 20, 2020
I don’t know about you but these last few months have tested the unity and strength of our elders, not to mention our entire church. Some weeks it seemed as though we were making massive decisions on a daily basis as new information came to light and our governing authorities issued their orders. The God-appointed diversity among our elder teams brings with it various preferences, convictions, and priorities. Elders are often businessmen, medical professionals, law enforcement officers, scientists, or a host of other professions. They bring with them training and experience in all kinds of fields. The common calling is our love for Christ and his bride. And while we value and strive for consensus decision making as elder teams, actually achieving consensus is more difficult and is a gracious work of the Spirit. Compounding the difficulty of normal consensus decision-making are our current cultural issues surrounding the pandemic and racism.
Assuming the best and believing that each brother elder is seeking God’s will for their church, how can we reach consensus when there are differences? How can elders reach consensus when, after reviewing the same material, they come to different conclusions? I offer the AAA Test for elder consensus. Start by asking these three questions of your conclusions when at a crossroads.
Does it agree with biblical wisdom?
That we believe in the inerrancy, sufficiency, authority, and necessity of the Word of God should go without saying. However, to stop and take our conclusions or decisions back through the Word is a good exercise for us every time. Difficult times reveal to us where our priorities lie. We may find that when consensus is hard to achieve, we are letting economic, financial, relational, scientific, or other priorities lead us in contradiction to our biblical convictions. Praise God for crises that reveal these misplaced priorities.
Ask then, is there a clear biblical command guiding my viewpoint? Can I make a case from Scripture that is driving my decision? If not, it is time to yield your conclusion to a more biblical one. If so, humbly walk your brother elders through what you are seeing from the Scripture as you together pursue biblical wisdom and therefore the way you should go.
Does it advance the Great Commission?
Maybe the easiest way to know if your decision comes from Scripture is if it advances the mission. Believing what we do about the mission of the church to make, mature, and multiply disciples of Jesus Christ, our directional decisions should always in some way be about advancing the gospel for the glory of God. Jesus promises to be with us when we are engaging the Great Commission. Where Jesus is at work is where I want to work and where we want to lead our churches. To lead our churches away from the Great Commission is to abandon the mission and Jesus himself.
Ask then, how does my conclusion make more disciples? Will this decision get the Gospel out? If not, how does my viewpoint bring glory to God? If so, what obstacles stand in our way? Government mandates? Financial resources? Workers in the harvest?
Do other godly leaders, both inside and outside our church, affirm this decision?
This is one (of many) reasons why I love the GCC! I love the camaraderie among our churches. There is strength and health in knowing that I could pick up the phone and run a situation by a brother elder in another church and he would help me to see blind spots or personal agendas that may exist in me. Because we share doxological and missiological convictions, I can trust his judgment and counsel.
Here in Texas our elder teams have healthy and helpful relationships with one another throughout our churches. We work hard to maintain unity within and among our churches. While we might reach out for affirmation of a decision, we must be mindful to guard against gathering allies in support of an agenda.
Ask then, when at a crossroads, would our church be walking this road alone or in step with other churches of like-mind? If alone, what convictions are guiding us? If together, what obstacles stand in the way of proceeding?
I don’t pretend that these three questions will solve every scenario but trust that they will help elder teams reach consensus and lead our churches faithfully, especially as we make decisions in these days of massive cultural shifts. May God keep us tethered to his Word, eyes fixed on the prize, in humble accountability with one another.