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Nineteen Reasons Baptists Should Stop Voting on Stuff

I’m not seriously calling for the abolition of voting among churches, just a severe reduction in the practice. I’m a strong believer in the autonomy of the local church, but I’m the first to admit, I don’t like church “business.”

I was once the Pastor of a church in central Arkansas that had battled years of political scheming and the resulting resentment. We once moved an old metal desk out of the auditorium into a side room and I got in huge trouble because the moving of the desk wasn’t voted on! On the basis of this and dozens of other frustrating experiences, here are some reasons I think we should vote not to vote on so much stuff…


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  1. Voting never brings unity, it actually calls for division. Who is for and who is against?
  2. Voting is democratic – government by the people. Church should be theocratic – government by the Holy Spirit.
  3. Voting plays right to the flesh and personal preferences. We typically vote what we want or prefer, regardless of what God wants or what leaders are leading us to do.
  4. Voting gives equal weight to every member, regardless of investment in ministry.
  5. Voting leads us to believe that the majority must be right. According to some presidential elections, that obviously isn’t true (I’ll leave you to sort out which ones make my case).
  6. Voting gives the impression that a plurality of approval is the same as unity. It’s not. One deeply hurt family prevents real “unity.”
  7. Voting supersedes God’s intended order of leadership within the structure of the local church.
  8. Voting risks friendships needlessly.
  9. Voting equals leadership by polls. Since when did Jesus ever ask the audience their opinion? Even with His shepherd’s heart, Jesus never polled the sheep to find out which direction to go.
  10. Voting doesn’t work too well for Congress!
  11. Voting is man-made, there isn’t a single scriptural example. And Mattathias is not an example (Acts 1).
  12. Voting keeps us business-minded, not ministry-minded.
  13. Voting suggests the church has a political side. It’s the only time we really see power plays within God’s family.
  14. Voting is governed by rules but church is governed by relationships.
  15. Voting creates confusion and invites the opinions of 15, or 150, or 1500 viewpoints. No real problems are ever solved.
  16. Hanging chads.
  17. Democrats.
  18. Republicans.
  19. People were pretty much unanimous to crucify Jesus.

You’ve got to admit, I have at least a dozen good points, right? What’s your vote?

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  • Bob Willits

    I’ve been involved in plenty of that mess too. My current church is Elder lead and I prefer that much more. Congregational voting is limited to annual budget, new elders, pastor, and a few other big issues. Everything else is out of our hands.

    • Brandon

      Amen to all of that, Bob!!

      • Kerrie Smith

        I agree with all your points, Pastor Brandon, even the dozen that are right. I do think we vote on too much stuff. Of course, my friend would argue that Matthias counted as the church voting, but I don’t find any Scriptural examples on voting either.

        • Brandon

          Yeah, I think voting boils down to us wanting to have some control.

          • Kerrie Smith

            Oh, and another thing, too. Our church also votes just on budgets and things of that sort, but we don’t get too deep in that and I’m thankful. I just assume vote on what really is most important, which among those things, that everyone would be saved. Now, that’s the most important vote of all, and that shouldn’t be voted on; we just need to get out there and get the ball rolling!

  • http://www.timothyfish.net Timothy Fish

    I agree that voting can get out of hand. Though I would disagree with you on Matthias. I’m not sure what else we would call it when they “gave forth their lots” if we don’t call it a form of voting. But more importantly, I think you are overlooking some of the benefits of voting. One of the benefits is that it gives everyone an opportunity to be heard on an issue. There are often very vocal people who have a lot to say about an issue, but when it comes to a vote, the quiet ones vote them down. Not everyone feels comfortable arguing a point, but most people can raise their hand. A divided vote doesn’t create a divided church; it is an indication that we have a divided church. By voting, we get that out in the open and we know we may have a problem, rather than having people grumbling in the halls or just taking their family and finding another church. Voting creates a situation in which we are forced to provide people with information. When a small number of people are making decisions, they tend to do things without keeping everyone else informed. When we know a vote is going to take place, we start putting our ducks in a row and thinking about how we are going to tell people what is going on. It is almost always the case that when we give people enough information they will vote the right way, but when we don’t give them enough information they will vote something down just because they don’t understand it.

    • Brandon

      Timothy, I see your point, especially about the passing along of information, but I’m not sure it’s worth the problems created. I do appreciate the perspective.

      • http://timothyfish.blogspot.com Timothy Fish

        All I can say to that is that I have personally seen people leave less democratic churches and choose to join our church because of the openness they saw in how we conducted our business meetings.
        .-= Timothy Fish´s last blog ..It Doesn’t Have to be One or the Other =-.

    • Brandon

      By the way, I want to clarify about Mattathias. To me, it was a prime example of the way decisions should be made. The staff (the apostles) selected another apostle. The never asked the congregation who should replace Judas. Instead, ordained men who were fully trusted to lead made the decision.

      • Kerrie Smith

        My, this sure is a fun post. I looked up Acts and that is true. This is the way decisions should be made indeed.

  • Josh

    I agree with you Brandon, voting can get out of hand. On the flip-side, voting creates accountability for the leadership, as Timothy Fish mentioned. Also, I believe voting makes members feel like they are part of the church, instead of just onlookers.

    Voting is not without problems, but the lack of voting can create a type of dictatorship, and that is much worse!

    • Brandon

      Josh, dictatorship is definitely bad leadership mojo! It’s not the way the New Testament presents the role of Pastor at all, so I’m with you on that.

      I have also considered the participation factor and I see the point – people feel they are a part of things if they have a say so. But I would also throw out there that it’s far better to have people participate with their hands in ministry than their vote on an issue.

  • Bob Willits

    Majority rule is a strong American concept that we have imported into the church. We Americans don’t want to give up our rights. Christ speaks to the opposite of that attitude clearly. Jesus never pulled the God card.

    It’s hard to defend majority rule in scripture but an Elder led church can be defended in the NT.

    • http://timothyfish.blogspot.com Timothy Fish

      Actually, it is the other way around. One of the founding fathers (I believe it was Thomas Jefferson.) visited a Baptist church at about the time of the drafting of the Constitution and was so impressed with the way they conducted business that he decided it would be a good way for the new nation to conduct business.

      I can see the argument for saying that the early churches were elder ruled, but I hesitate to go too far with that because many of the modern day “elder ruled” churches aren’t led by the elders but by some select group of people who may not be elders at all, using some selection process like they are the most active in ministry or they give the most money and the “Grecian widows” are left out in the cold. But if a church is led by the elders of each family, there is no reason to think that anyone will neglected and if some church wants to use that method, who am I to say that they shouldn’t. My personal preference is still for every member to get an equal vote because we are all equal in the sight of God and God is no respecter of persons.
      .-= Timothy Fish´s last blog ..From the Mailbag =-.

      • Bob Willits

        Without trying to sound too smartalik, my “personal preference” may be polygamy, but that doesn’t make it biblical. All personal preference has to be measured up against scripture.

        Our church votes on Elders. It must be 75%+ for an Elder to be approved by the congregation. However, from past experience, we have never had a vote below 90+%.

        If we, as a congregation, vote on these men as our Elders to run the church then I have no trouble submitting to their authority in all things as long as they do not violate scripture.

        We are all equal in the sight of God but scripture is very clear on a hierarchy of authority. Christ, while equal to The Father, submitted to The Father in all things. Christ never asked The Father & Holy Spirit to take it to a vote. The will of The Father trumped all else. The pastor & Elders submit to God, and the flock submits to the Pastor & Elders.

        I need at least 1 NT passage where church members voted on the direction of a church before I can accept that as a biblical church government in out age.

        But Tim, we are brothers. I respect your right to your opinion. I don’t want to make an enemy over this issue. If I came on too strong, I am sorry. I’ve been in well run churches where people voted. I’m just not there any longer.

        • Josh

          Bob,

          I agree with what you are saying about submitting to the Pastor and Elders, but only concerning Spiritual matters. The problem is that there are many decisions that could be made that are not spiritual at all. For example, I was part of a church that had an old building that had been left in disrepair for years. It was in fact starting to collapse on one end. The Pastor and the Elders held meetings about what should be done. The Pastor, who knew virtually nothing about construction insisted that the building could not be repaired and had to be demolished. Two of the Elders who had quite a bit of experience with construction advised that the building could be repaired and at the same time be expanded and improved, which the church was in need of. At that time the cost to repair and improve the building would have been about $225,000. Well, to make a long story short, three years later the building got repaired, but by that time costs had gone up significantly. The end result was the building was not expanded or improved, and it cost about $225,000. If this issue had been presented to the church and been voted on we would have had a much better building built, and 2/12 years earlier!

          My point is that just because someone is qualified to be a Pastor or an Elder doesn’t mean they are qualified to make all the decisions for the church.

  • Godsgal

    I totally agree with Brandon and all discussion supporting his list! What I think that needs to be said is that God mandated a certain amount of authority in the church as a body, just as He did in the family structure. He, through the NT, put that in motion. Authority of the church was to be given to the pastor and elders. They in turn were to be under the direct authority of God through the Holy Spirit . As church members, we are submitting ourselves to the authority of those leaders, and the understanding that they are wholly submitting themselves to the leadership of the Holy Spirit. I believe this is where we get into trouble with congregation led churches… well meaning people who are not being submitted to the Holy Spirit are part of decisions and do not want to submit to the authority that God has place before them. Yes, this authority can be misused, that is why more than one elder is important. I believe that one of our biggest obstacles in church history is that we shun authority, if we cannot submit to a God placed authority we can see, how can we truly allow God to be the ultimate authority in our lives… Amen to people being a part of the church by being the hands and feet, not just by a raised hand in a vote… lastly, if church leadership is what it should be, humble and given to the authority of the Lord through the Holy Spirit… anyone should be able to come and present there opinions to all or any elder/pastor and be received/heard with love, grace, and complete humility.

    • http://www.brandonacox.com Brandon

      Though I appreciate what you’re saying, it also humbles me thinking of the HUGE responsibility of leadership, which is a good thing!

  • Connie

    I agree with Timothy Fish. I am in a church where the pastor makes all or most of the decisions. Over the last two years there have been harmful financial decisions made but because the church was used to following whatever the pastor recommended they went along with it. I say they because I didn’t. The thing is, because of the fact that everyone blindly trusted the preacher we are now badly in debt and laying off staff. Our pastor had to resign because it was revealed that he had fallen into sin a year ago. I grew up in a denomination in which things are voted on by the congregation. Those of us realizing that there was a problem would have had more of a voice in that church and would have been able to do more to avert the debt we are in now. I should also mention that in our church the deacons are only there to advise the pastor and if they disagree with him they really can’t do anything if he overrules them. Having realized exactly how everything works and trying to change things while making little to no headway I have decided to leave my church. I am going back to the denomination that I grew up in where the pastor does not have carte blanche to do whatever he wants. I have prayed about this and feel God leading me to this decision. I love the people of my church and that includes the people in leadership but I can no longer abide by the way our church is run. The church being run in this manner leads to burn-out as well in pastors. As for what some of the others said, of course Jesus asked God’s permission to do things. Jesus was perfect. We as humans are not. It is a fact that we can fall into sin. Absolute power corrupts absolutely and I do not believe any pastor should have that kind of power.

    • http://www.brandonacox.com Brandon

      Connie, you make some excellent points that need to be noted.

      Pastors aren’t called to be dictators, dominators, or lone rangers. We’re called to be shepherds. Further, we’re called to be UNDER-shepherds of Jesus and CO-shepherds with others leaders within the flock.

      When Pastors lead in the way you’ve mentioned, it’s usually because of a need to control, which isn’t the role of a shepherd-leader.

      This situation does beg the question, though, of what’s wrong with that kind of leadership? The bottom line is that it isn’t biblical, right? I think we’d agree that dictatorial, controlling Pastors are not leading biblically.

      So my next question would be, what’s the biblical response to poor leadership? I don’t have all the answers but this much I do know – unbiblical methods of leadership shouldn’t be corrected or controlled by unbiblical responses.

      I still don’t think there is any biblical model whatsoever for congregations rising up against their leaders. What I do see is a biblical mandate to confront false teaching, so I’m not advocating cultism. I’m simply saying that the idea of congregations voting on issues instead of leaders having freedom to make decisions with a shepherd’s heart is equally outside of the New Testament plan.

      Pastors shouldn’t have absolute power, but neither should a congregation with a majority vote – the Holy Spirit should.

  • Rachel

    I don’t agree that voting should be used for everything…..we are currently in a church in which deacons were mislead by a chairman who did not know what he was doing and followed the pastor in everything. This “pastor” sexually harassed one of my dear friends. He told the deacons there was some inappropriate language used, that he had spoken with the woman and it was all taken care of. They believed him and never talked to the woman involved. Things were not okay…she was (and still is) a spiritual wreck….however, she has sought counseling from a trusted pastor of a family member. All of this came out during another unfortunate incident in our church…one in which a staff member was going to be fired for insubordination to this “pastor”. The congregation was furious…..because once again the deacons chose to believe the “pastor” and did not come to the staff member to find out the details of what had happened. The pastor is no longer there…he has resigned, but as a result of what has happened, this body of believers does not trust the deacon leadership. So following that leadership is difficult. I know some people are upset about a current issue that was voted on in the church because people did not do what the deacon body wanted. But they have to understand that once trust is destroyed, it takes alot of time to rebuild. I believe our church is on its way to healing, but that, too, is going to take time and others in the church need to understand and respect that….we just need to reach out and continue loving and leading gently instead of calling the church a rebeliious and immature body of believers. They have been through much hurt….love them back….don’t lash out.

    • http://www.brandonacox.com Brandon

      Rachel, it's so unfortunate that such abuses of power take place. This was never God's intention for the role of a Pastor. I believe very strongly that the Pastor is the leader of the church as an undershepherd, but the Scriptures are clear that Pastors will be held to account before God's throne for that leadership and the care of the souls of people. I pray your church recovers and moves forward to advance the kingdom!

  • Isaiah

    Rachel,

    I think we attend the same church in VA (at least, I hope so – I don't want any other body to go through what is happening with us). I am one of the deacons, for now. We were mislead last year, but I don't think the previous chairman deserves all the blame. You have to admit the former pastor had a way of winning people to his side. Still, it was wrong, and everyone feels terrible about not questioning what really happened. The pastor will certainly answer for how he has hurt the body of Christ. Keep praying for us!

    The church vote from last week convinced me that general congregational vote is not a healthy way for the church of God to operate. One of our members had been speaking out and distributing letters condemning the current leadership for financial fraud, saying that women in our church have been sexually molested (the husband of the woman you mentioned says it was harassment, not molestation), saying the leaders were evil men (even comparing to Hitler), etc. We have been speaking with this member individually and in groups of two or three for over 6 months. He’s seen financial records and knows that what he says is untrue. The leadership was afraid to do anything earlier because they knew the church, in a vote, wouldn’t support them. He is unrepentant about spreading dissension and strife in the church. We gave him numerous opportunities to stop what he’s doing, but he wouldn’t. The entire church staff and all of the deacons were unanimous in calling for revoking his membership (he had already lost his membership in two local churches for the same actions), so we called for the required 75% church vote. Only 73% voted to follow their leadership. I was told that 73% was pretty good, that it would have been only 60% a year ago. If the leadership is Godly and is following His commandments, I think that anything less than 90% at a minimum shows that the church is run by personal issues, man’s rules, and either unsaved, carnal, or spiritually immature people. If you can determine that your current (not past) leaders are following God’s word, then follow them! It’s difficult when trust has been abused, but we cannot hold to the past.

    Congregational vote provides the opportunity for any member – including spiritually immature ones – to direct the course of God’s ministry. Those who are called to the ministry, and whose vocation, career, and passion are daily ministry should be the ones to make decisions regarding God’s church. Shouldn’t they be better informed and equipped to deal with decisions that affect its purity?

    I love my family at church, but don’t believe they are prepared to lead a church. I'm at the point where I can no longer invite people to my church because of all the politics. I don't want them to be exposed to this and turn from God forever.

  • Joshua Mathew

    Thanks, Brandon. Seriously fantastic list…
    Connie, Rachel et al: Can we talk about the plurality of elders as the biblical version of those desperately needed “checks and balances?”
    The loudest disagreement i hear is regarding this same fear. “WHAT IF (always a terrific way to start an intelligent argument…) the pastor/elder goes crazy and says we should give all the money to him?! THAT’s why we VOTE.”

    Also, I’m officially “borrowing” your list. It’s too good NOT to share. Thank you!

    • http://brandonacox.com Brandon A. Cox

      Borrow away man! Thanks a ton!