Our congregation recently voted to reinstate four deacons as active deacons for the next 4 years after each took a year-long sabbatical. 94% of the people who voted checked the box: “I believe that it is God’s will for this candidate to serve as a deacon for the next four years.” Although this was an overwhelming majority, I was curious why 6% checked the box, “I believe that it is not God’s will for this candidate to serve as a deacon the next four years.” On our church website, I asked those who checked this box to state their reasons. Many responded.
Based on their responses, I realized that many people felt uncomfortable with the wording of the choices. Some people expressed bewilderment in discerning God’s will.
Let me explain why we use such unusual phrases on the ballot.
Church meetings shouldn’t be places where people gather to share their opinions. Rather, they should be places where people collectively try to find God’s will. Along the same lines, voting shouldn’t be a measure of someone’s popularity but rather a method of finding God’s will together. So I introduced these phrases in the voting after I came to Seoul Baptist and we elected our first new deacons. Similar language is used when we vote on reinstating senior pastors and deacons after sabbaticals.
Some people confessed that they hadn’t prayed to find God’s will but voted for the deacons because they trusted our church. They reasoned that the candidates were respected leaders of our church, so it must be God’s will for them to serve new terms. Actually, trusting church leaders and their opinions is often a reasonable way to find God’s will because God speaks not only through individuals but also through churches and their leaders.
You shouldn’t indicate that you “don’t believe that it is God’s will” simply because you dislike a candidate. You should check the box only if you believe that having that candidate serve as a deacon will negatively affect our church’s effort to reach non-believers. The Bible indicates the standard by which we should judge deacons: “Deacons, likewise, are to be men worthy of respect, sincere, not indulging in much wine, and not pursuing dishonest gain. They must keep hold of the deep truths of the faith with a clear conscience.” (1 Tim 3:8-9) You should also check the box if you believe that they will not serve faithfully as deacons.
Some people wondered if it was even necessary to have a vote, since every candidate was overwhelmingly confirmed. I would say that we do. We need to establish a protocol and precedent so that we could peacefully remove someone from serving as a deacon when he might bring harm to our church, however remote that possibility might be.
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