As you can well imagine, I have been on numerous teams and in numerous meetings over the years where discussions have taken place and decisions have been make.
I have seen productive meetings where healthy dialogue has occurred and I have been in unhealthy meetings (as well as on unhealthy teams) where I have witnessed the proverbial “Hatfield and McCoy” shootout in which one person, or several people, have held the team back from making a decision due to a refusal to change their minds or their opinion--sort of like a deadlocked jury that cannot or will not make a decision.
Sometimes it’s not clear who has the authority to make the final decision so there is a power struggle and no decision is made when a decision clearly needs to be made and should be made.
As I have observed this sort of scenario play itself out I have asked myself if what is at stake is biblical conviction or personal preference dressed in an attitude of stubbornness. The first is appropriate the other is not. I have left a team more than once where I felt clear biblical teaching was ignored or violated and I have given up my position more than once for the sake of the team when my position was a matter of personal preference.
I think it is essential for a leader to hold his ground when his position is based on what he/she believes God’s word clearly teaches. On the other hand it is, in my opinion, not appropriate for a leader or a team member to hold a group hostage over a personal preference that has no biblical foundations when the rest of the team wants to move forward.
There are numerous issues being bantered about in local churches today which are clearly a matter of personal preference and one needs to be careful not to hold these types of positions with a tight fist, but rather be willing to give them up for the sake of the rest of the team so a decision can be made and the ball moved down the field.
Varying ideas on worship style and song choice would be an example of this—“affectionately” known as “Worship Wars” which are, to my knowledge, still ongoing in many churches.
In my coaching I have had the experience of one or more leaders who have seriously considered leaving a staff position over personal preference issues which are, admittedly, not a matter of biblical conviction. The question for me or anyone else to ask is: is my refusal to change my position based on preference or conviction? If preference, am I willing to “go with the flow” for the sake of the team I’m on and not fight an unnecessary battle?
Now, I ‘ll be the first to admit that it can be difficult at times to discern whether my unmovable position is due to conviction based on the Bible or my preference based on my experience. It takes lots of God-give wisdom, grace and love for my fellow team members to make the right choices.
This has been referred to as closed-handed versus open-handed thinking and decision-making--closed-handed being biblical conviction and open-handed being personal preference.
As a young leader, I had too many things in the closed hand and too few things in the open hand. As I grew and became wiser, I now have fewer things in the closed hand. I don’t need to start a war over every issue, and I don’t need to hold an unmovable opinion about every decision. The same principle holds true in my marriage.
So here is the critical question for all of us!
How is the team you are on doing with one or more team members who are holding things up over preference issues which are not really biblically based, and how will the team deal with this so appropriate decisions can be made and progress can be experienced?