Being inclusive – as a society, as a church, as a community – is one of those things we are all supposed to do and be. From playgrounds to boardrooms, we’ve all witnessed situations when somebody isn’t included and it’s painful. What’s even more concerning is when we live our lives never noticing who’s not at the table and whose voice is not being heard.
And yet, in organizations like the Church, sometimes our mission is sabotaged when “everybody” is included. For example:
- A congregation elects a Pastor Nominating Committee and there’s a desire to include a member who is a reliable naysayer. He has strong opinions and many believe it would be a good thing to include him so that he feels like he’s a part of important decision-making in the life of the congregation. A Pastor Nominating Committee needs to be on the same page in terms of what the congregation wants in the next pastor. And this particular guy has announced that under no circumstances will he allow the church to call a clergywoman, even though their denomination ordains and supports women in professional ministry. This not only frustrates the work of the PNC; it also blocks the movement of the Spirit.
- After a year of study, St. Thomas Church on the Hill votes to build affordable housing on their property for homeless veterans. They have prayed about this for a long time and they feel that God is calling them to do this. The vote was 89% in favor of this project during the congregational meeting, so it’s going to happen. When putting together the six person team to work with the builders, the pastor includes two of the members who voted against the project. Unfortunately, those two are doing their best to sabotage the construction process even though the congregation is overwhelmingly in favor. They are asking questions and making demands that have already been settled. They should never have been added to the committee, but – for the sake of inclusion – they were.
See what I mean? A healthy governing board indeed includes a diverse group of people who are representative of the congregation, and yet the board needs to be able to debate an issue and come out of it as a united body. Healthy elders and deacons might disagree with what the others approved, but they leave the meeting backing up the the majority vote.
In a healthy church, there are not “winners” and “losers” in terms of congregational decisions. If our focus is on pleasing God, and we have prayerfully discerned the situation, we have to agree to agree with each other and show a united front.
I hope this makes sense. What I’m not saying is that we forego inclusion of different ages, heritages, and perspectives on our church leadership teams. What I am saying is that we must be committed exclusively to following the Spirit’s lead. Otherwise, we are wasting everybody’s time.
It’s best to exclude those who don’t play well with others. Love them. And love your church by electing those who are most excited to expand the congregation’s mission.