Making decisions that we know affect other people is one of the most challenging things we do as people, parents, citizens, neighbors, and leaders. Oftentimes, we begin placing our thoughts, feelings, and potential outcomes through a filter. Almost certainly, we never use a single filter. More often than not, we use a hodgepodge of filters such as personal experience, limited knowledge, trusted input, and our intuition. And, as Jesus followers, we strive to also apply the filter of God’s Word that is light to our path (Psalm 119:105).
So, how do we make big decisions that affect (literally) thousands of people? I can’t say that I’m an expert, but I will share a few things I’ve learned over the years about decision making that have been affirmed in the last eight months.
We pray. Prayer roots us in our Master Decision Maker, Jesus. The fundamental reason a decision needs to be made is either we don’t know what to do next or we already know what we need to do and we need the confidence to do it. For both reasons, we bathe every decision in prayer. We reflect and thank God for his faithfulness in decision making in the past. We rest in the truth that God is the chief decision maker. And, we place our trust in whatever conclusion God will bring us to in the end. Prayer also invites us to present to God our collective insecurities and worry. We become vulnerable with God and each other which increases our trust in each other as a team. We take seriously, “Trust in the Lord with all of your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight” (Proverbs 3:5). It’s almost like we have a collective, constant, and ongoing conversation with God - which is the heart of a life of prayer.
We center ourselves on Jesus’ mission. Like a magnetic field always shows us “true north”, Jesus’ mission always shows us where to go next. Jesus’ personal mission was to seek and save the lost (Luke 19:10) and we see that every decision Jesus made pulled him closer to Jerusalem, the cross, and the empty grave. Fast forward to the early church, we see that every decision that was made was oriented toward Jesus’ co-mission: to make disciples of all people (Matthew 28:19-20). Both individually and as a church, we center ourselves on Jesus’ mission for us: to make disciples who love God, love people, and live like Jesus. Anything that distracts us from Jesus’ “true north” is given less priority which frees us to keep walking in Jesus’ direction.
Now - I don’t believe there is always one correct decision. Rather, God has given us incredible freedom to choose how best to follow Him both individually and as a church. Oftentimes, our own fear of failure or anxiety concerning disagreement fuel our indecision. Ed Stezer, Professor at Wheaton College once said that if you want everyone to like you, go sell ice cream. Making decisions is not for the faint of heart. Decisions are hard and a common agreement on a shared mission brings unity, disarms fear, and brings peace in the conviction that anything that loves and serves others is the best decision we can make.
We ask questions which lead to principles. Conversation begins with questions that might sound like, “what do we believe God sees as the ultimate outcome?” and “what do we know today about the challenge?”. Each of us has a different perspective and the difference of opinions matter. Clarifying our thoughts and seeking understanding from each other builds a cohesion of consensus. For example, when it comes to onsite worship, God’s outcome is that we live lives of worship because that’s what heaven will be like - a never-ending worship service at the throne of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Our challenge today is multi-faceted. There are guidelines, attitudes, underlying beliefs about the virus, the hard science of medical pandemics, social stigmas, organizational ethics and liability, and the list goes on. Throughout our conversations, principles emerged such as, “relationships are king” and “we move forward when it is wise and safe to do so”. If mission keeps us oriented to Jesus’ “true north”, then principles define the parameters of what we are willing to do.
We seek wisdom and input. Like a dinner buffet, everything looks good. Yet, we know that some options are more sensible than others. The way we discern which option might be the best to pursue, we ask for input from a variety of people. In this sense, decision making is very much a community sport. On behalf of our team, I solicit collective wisdom from our Board of Directors, our team of elders, other ministry staff and leaders, field experts (such as our Medical Advisory Team), and those we know and trust in our greater community. They see things we cannot see. They know things we do not know. Their wisdom and input makes us all better. Every piece of input is extremely helpful because it affirms our proposed decision, refines it, or leads us in another direction. In all three cases, we win because the best decision is both the one that is avoided and the one that is affirmed.
We commit. Knowing that our decision is a team effort, we are committed to its implementation, follow through, and owning the results - both success and failures. Every decision is a learning experience that sharpens our skills more and more so that more people can be invited to make disciples who love God, love people, and live like Jesus.
When I think about it, these learnings intersect making decisions in most of life - from diets to elections. So much of life is about growing in our ability to make wise decisions.
In the end, I believe that decision making is a skill that we develop over time. With that said, we know that the biggest decision of all time that gives us confidence in every decision we make has already made. God made the decision to send Jesus to love us, die for us, come back to life for us, forgive us, renew us, and lead us as we continue making disciples who love God, love people, and live like Jesus.
I’d love to hear what you think about decision making! You can send me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Love you more than you know.
The OSLC ministry team is a growing collection of women and men who live as a family on mission, leading the OSLC family in connecting an unchanging God with a changing world by loving God, loving people, and living like Jesus.