Congregational Unity and the Nature of Consensus
How very good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity!
For the Psalmist, unity is not simply good, it is very good! Unity in a congregation is always a very good goal. As your pastor, I pray and seek daily to foster spiritual unity in our congregation. Unity is not the same as uniformity. We are not all the same (i.e., uniformity), but we can be a congregation living in unity. Unity comes from our shared relationship with Jesus Christ and desire to make disciples for Jesus Christ. We may differ in many ways, but we can live as a congregation connected in spiritual unity through Christ.
In the decision-making life of our congregation, we always strive for consensus. Consensus does not mean that we all agree on the same thing. Agreement is the step beyond consensus (Amos 3:3). Consensus is achieved when the majority decides an issue and the dissenting minority commits to not sabotaging the decision or harming the unity of the body or scheming to over-throw the discerned will of the majority because of a personal agenda. Getting to consensus often means letting go of a desire to get what one wants in a certain situation for the sake of congregational unity. Sometimes it is hard to accept some things but we learn to accept people and their decisions for the sake of unity. We trust God in the process. This has been an important life-lesson that I’ve learned as I have lived in Christian congregations.
In New Testament terms, I often invoke the “Gamaliel Test” when my position is not the majority position in a congregation. Remember Gamaliel in Acts 5? When the Jewish community in Jerusalem was attacking the new Christian faith, Gamaliel gave those Jews some important advice. He said that “if this plan or this undertaking is of human origin, it will fail; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them—in that case you may even be found fighting against God!” (Acts 5:38, 39). Consensus means that you will accept someone else’s decision without ill-feeling or animosity. Because of our inbreed desire to control others, the ability to accept other people’s decisions with whom we live in the spirit of Gamaliel is a good indicator of spiritual maturity. Consensus is not agreement. That is a step beyond consensus. Consensus is achievable in a congregation and thus a congregation can be a place of spiritual unity.
We have an amazing amount of unity in our congregation. Let’s continue to protect our unity by accepting consensus and seeking to walk in agreement. How very good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity! (Ps. 133:1)
With Confidence in Christ,