We don’t often (enough) consider how and why leaders use power in the church.
A few years back, a small church located squarely in Southern Bible Belt decided to update their hymnal. The young pastor gathered all (9) of the musical people in the church, dusted off his hymnology notes from seminary, and brought the 7 best-selling hymnals to the “Music” meetings at his house.
After three weeks of discussions about pitch, key, indices, seasonal songs, and variety of hymns, the committee chose a hymnal for the Pastor to recommend to the Deacons, the governing authority of the church.
The presentation was progressing smoothly and everyone seemed ready for an affirmative vote until Deacon Jones spoke out. “The hymnal is the second most important book in the church. We Deacons haven’t read through it. How can we vote on something we haven’t read? We have a great responsibility to God to be good stewards…” and then ensued a lengthy sermon from Deacon Jones on the importance of Responsibility and the Serious Calling of the Board. In a scene reminiscent of Blazing Saddles, everyone around the table “harrumphed” agreement with Deacon Jones. Bottom line: the selected hymnal was placed in the church office along side of two others for two months so the Deacons could examine the books with rigor.
They sat untouched for 60 days.
The issue behind the issue was power and pride. Though no doubt sincere of heart, the Board declined to exercise power judiciously, allowing an appeal to pride to skew their judgment, and insisting on second-guessing the work of the music committee.
When presented at the next regular meeting, the hymnal was sheepishly accepted, unanimously. Deacon Jones was not in attendance due to a golfing commitment.