By Leo Rogol
From time to time I have heard and read that voting and majority rule in business meetings are wrong; that voting is sectarian and therefore unscriptural. I, for one, would like to present the “other side of the coin” on this matter. I believe that, to a great extent, such feelings about conducting business meetings arise by confusing the issues. They begin by stating that business meetings are solely to decide matters of lawful expedients, and then argue against voting, etc. upon the basis that it might lead to the danger of initiating unscriptural practices. We need to keep the issues straight in order to avoid confusion and misteaching on this subject.
What the Issue IS NOT
There are areas where we are not at liberty to follow our opinions and in certain matters we have no right of choice in deciding whether or not a thing is to be done. The church is a kingdom, not a democracy. Christ has all authority (Matt. 28:18); He is the head of the church and has all preeminence, (Col. 1: 18). He is the Lawgiver (Heb. 5:9) and the New Testament is our authority today. Hence, in this article the issue is not, Can we “vote” on matters of faith? Does majority vote constitute the rightness in such matters? Can we decide upon matters of doctrine, the organization and work of the church and other related matters that are laid down in the New Testament? We have no right to choose how often we will observe the Lord’s Supper because scriptures determine this for us. We have no right to choose what emblems will be used. We have no right to vote whether or not we will use an instrument in worship because that has been settled for us in the Bible. Sometimes in the past an instrument was introduced into worship by the use of majority vote. The sin here was the exercise of majority votes in matters of faith; hence majority vote here simply resulted in the transgression of scriptural authority because they voted upon something they had no right to vote on in the first place. Even if they unanimously agreed to have the instrument in worship, it still would be wrong. Hence, it was not the vote itself that was wrong, but what they voted on in the first place, the use of an instrument in worship.
What IS The Issue?
This involves the very practice of engaging in a business meeting. There are certain areas in the framework of the church where we have the right, and the need, to decide what to do. There are certain matters of expedients, which are methods or means of carrying out the work. In these things decisions must be made for a more efficient, successful, and continuing function of the church. For example: teaching is a function of the church (Eph. 4:11-16). It is what God “gave” the church. Now, who is to teach, how to divide the classes, what materials to use, are not outlined in the Bible. In other words, God gave the church the work to be done but did not spell out the details of the means or expedients by which this is done, or the arrangements of the teaching program. As long as there are qualified teachers, there is a scriptural organization, and the word of God is taught, then these other arrangements are left up to the decision of the church. There are, therefore, many things that must be planned and arranged that are not matters of faith, but rather, matters of expediency to expedite or aid in a more efficient manner the teaching program of the church. Hence we have business meetings to decide on such matters.
We have no specific command to conduct business meetings. Nothing is outlined as to the procedures to follow in conducting them — so long as things are done “decently and in order.” Yet we necessarily infer that some manner of deciding the business of the church must be arranged. Again, neither the business meeting nor the procedures of conducting meetings are outlined in the Bible. Hence, this must be arranged by the brethren and conducted in a way that harmony and the well-being of the church may be preserved. Since all this is in the realm of human judgment, then also the means of arriving at a conclusion satisfactory to the church must be of human arrangement. Not all are going to agree upon everything; hence we always believe that in the spirit of brotherly love the few should go along with what serves the best aims of the majority.
Those who say, voting is wrong, or that majority rule is not right, must produce a Passage of scriptures that outlines the procedures by which any action is reached in a business meeting. They must produce the specified manner by which decisions are reached to prove majority rule is wrong. If the manner of conducting a business meeting is not specifically outlined in the Bible, and therefore is left up to human judgment, then voting or majority rule cannot be against a specified rule that does not exist! Those who insist such is a violation of scriptures must therefore produce a passage of scripture that specifically tell us exactly what procedures are followed in a business meeting to prove voting, majority rule wrong. For one unable to find a specific command as to the procedures of a business meeting, and then argue voting or majority rule is wrong, is legislating in the area of human judgment.
The argurnent is made that majority rule can lead the church into something unscriptural. But this is confusing the issue. We well know we cannot vote on matters of faith! But that can work just the other way too. What if a few want to lead the church into something wrong? The majority cannot stop them! I am certain we are well aware that in some places there is a clique made up of two or three who dominate the church. They somehow have the ability to rule without any serious challenge. They are unopposed for several reasons. There are those who are so indifferent and show such little concern about the affairs of the church that it matters not to them what is happening. Then there are those who are so timid that they fear to disagree with the ruling element in the church because it’s “upsetting” to them. There are also those who think that “peace” is maintained in the church by allowing certain parties to have their way. All of this is unhealthy and adds up to – minority rule!
As far as majority rule leading the church astray is concerned, I firmly believe that in so, many places the opposite is true. A few press their desires and influence the majority and thus do whatever they desire because some feel majority rude is wrong. A few ambitious zealots can so manipulate matters as to gain their desires over the congregation.
Too often a matter is brought forth and brethren are asked to decide on it. One brother will say, “Whatever the rest want is alright with me.” This sets up a chain reaction because the next man hesitates to speak out on the matter. As a result, the whole thing is in doubt, and although everyone will go along with “what the rest want,” nobody knows what anybody wants! So they are unanimous in deciding nothing for fear that someone might dissent from the rest. Thus many business meetings serve no purpose at all except to go through a motion of one and wasting a great deal of time. I firmly believe that if brethren would decide to act on what serves the desires of the majority, much confusion, grumbling and dissatisfaction could be avoided and the church could make the progress it should.
It seems strange that in all other organizational affairs people agree to majority vote, be it Congress, PTA, or what have you. Yet a reasonable method of action such as this is rejected by our brethren in business meetings because of some strange notion that majority vote is wrong! I believe it is because of a basic problem among brethren. In the business world they can act as gentlemen and work in accord with majority rule but in the church brethren so many times act as spoiled children who raise a tantrum if their whims or desires are not carried out. If they would act as gentlemen in the church as they do in their businesses, this problem of majority rule would not exist. Did not Paul say, “Quit you like men” (I Cor. 16:13)? Become as grown men, or act maturely!
I have been in places where a chronic objector would be against any good sound plan, all because it is his nature to be suspicious and be against everything. Sad to say, many buckle under such and their excuse is, “We don’t believe in majority rule.”
Consider it this way, please. Some brethren argue that, unless all agree upon something, it should not be done. For example: the brethren agree to have a “song practice” once a month, say on Wednesday night. One brother objects, another agrees with him. The decision of the two ruled over the desires of the rest. And by their argument that majority rule is wrong, they defend their practice of minority rule! They got their way. Now, brethren, if majority rule is wrong, is this minority rule right? If a project can be killed because one or two object to it, then this establishes the law of minority rule. If majority rule is “unscriptural,” then is minority rule scriptural?
Some argue that unless the rule is unanimous, this would give the young, inexperienced the free road to push through anything that might be wrong. But this works the other way too. I have seen as many old men bring in unscriptural things and kill the initiative of the church. So the argument against the one is an argument against the other.
Some brethren are opposed to voting in business meetings. “Vote” simply means an expression of approval or disapproval of a certain proposition or person under consideration Many times names are submitted in churches in consideration of the eldership. Usually time is given to raise valid objections to the names submitted. Now, if this is not some form, one way or another, of voting, then just what is it? If voting is wrong, then this practice must cease for this is exactly what it is-voting. (Read your dictionary definition of the word.) Any time a decision is made about anything, any time any one is appointed for a certain task-this is voting. I do not know why brethren object to calling by name the very thing they practice. Even a nod of the head, yes or no, on any given motion is a vote.
Any time a matter is proposed in a business meeting, one of two things must happen. The men must accept or reject it. Hence the very thing of bringing up a matter to decide upon puts in motion the action of voting. A motion is made, seconded. Now it must be decided if it will be accepted or rejected (The definition of “vote.”) How? By determining how many are for or against it? This is a vote! There are various ways by which a vote is made to determine the matter. One way is to ask, “All in favor say yes, all opposed say no.” Or there can be a show of hands, or the process can be dragged out by asking each one individually his choice, which is only a long way of doing the very same thing that can be accomplished by a show of hands, a “yes” or a “no.” Now right here brethren practice the very thing they do not want to call it-voting. Even the ones who are against “voting” do it whether they realize it of not. Now, since it must be determined how many are in favor of a proposed motion, and the only, way of deciding on the motion is to ask how many are for or against it, then I ask someone to show a better way of deciding on a motion other than all ex pressing their approval or disapproval-if voting is wrong-because expressing approval or disapproval of a motion is voting.
Some say majority rule is wrong because we are to be “of the same mind” and that there should be “no divisions among you.” Well, the anti-cla8s folks use the very same argument when they say we should not divide into classes because that’s “division.” But the very thing wrong with the anti-class folks is what is wrong with the anti-majority brethren. They do not apply scriptures correctly, they do not “rightly divide the word of truth.” A parallel passage to 1 Cor. 10 is Phil. 1:27: “that ye stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel.” If we were voting on matters of faith in our business meetings, that would be wrong. But if it comes to the matter of expedients, or things left to human judgment in carrying out certain functions, that is not a matter of faith and we have the right to differ on methods, etc. I never read in my Bible that I have to agree with every opinion, but I do read in my Bible that I must yield my personal opinion for the good of the whole body, if the rest want a thing done a certain way.
I do not read in the Bible where one or two can ride the church with their opinions, where the entire church must yield to the whims and ‘desires of brethren who set themselves against the rest. I do read in my Bible where I must yield my desires to the desires of the church in order to preserve harmony and peace in the congregation. ,
Since the procedures of arriving at some conclusion on a given motion is not outlined in the Bible, then they rest in the area of human liberty and no one can legislate in this area where God has not defined these matters.
TRUTH MAGAZINE, XVI: 20, pp. 11-13
March 23, 1972