No solution is ideal, as far as I can see. So much depends on the leadership and the membership.
That said I wanted to reproduce a short article here. It tells a great story….
“Recently I was reading a case study of a church in conflict written by a seminary student here in New Orleans. He described his church as made up of two factions competing for control. The monthly business meeting had become a war zone, and many people arrived to do battle and take no prisoners.
“Well, they were going to vote on calling this seminary student to become their interim pastor, to fill in until they secured a permanent leader. Another ugly discussion followed, which produced a divided vote and threats by some to leave. But the student took the job.
“Three weeks later, it’s time for another business meeting, at which our seminary student was to preside. The church constitution says that is the pastor’s job and our student was the man, for the moment at least.
“Now, this student may be young, but he’s got some smarts about him.
“Before they got into the meeting, he stood before them with the following announcement…
How did it go? The student reported, ‘That meeting and the six that have followed it have been wonderful. People who didn’t believe they could work together any longer are suddenly working together again. I begin every business meeting with the reminder that this is God’s house and He gives us the privilege of working with Him to further the kingdom of God.'”
If you must have a business meeting–a debatable issue to be sure–that’s certainly the way!
1) I do not suggest readers copy this student’s announcement and read it to your congregation. But it’s a good model. I suggest each of us do what this young man did and get with the Lord and ask Him to tell us what to say.
2) Do not miss the basic presumptions of his words to God’s people…
This is God’s house, the church belongs to the Lord Jesus Christ (Matthew 16:18), and the business is His, not ours.
We are His people and the sheep of His pasture, here to do His will. Our prayer should always be “Lord, what will You have us do?” That, you will recall, was the opening prayer of Saul of Tarsus outside Damascus when he met the risen glorified Christ. (Acts 22:10) No one has ever improved on that prayer.
Anyone unwilling to work with others to do His will may get up and leave now. After all, Jesus said, “By this all men will know you are my disciples, that you love one another.” (John 13:35) No one is saying we cannot disagree or see things differently. No one is saying we cannot have open discussions. We are human and “see through a glass darkly.” (I Corinthians 13:12) But we will do this in love or we will not do it at all.
The human spirit is a monster. It wants what it wants and insists that it deserves the lion’s share. We must be constantly taming it because it refuses to stay in its cage.
The pastor/moderator who makes such an announcement at the onset of a business conference must himself be gentle and loving, sweet-spirited and strong. (Do not miss that: “and strong.”) “Gentle as doves, wise as serpents.” Keep your head about you, friend.
The question always arises, “What is the pastor/moderator to do when someone is out of line, when they become belligerent or insistent and violate the plea of the leader for Christlikeness?”
There is a good answer, and it’s not what you think.
It’s not necessary to call him down. It is not necessary to expect some church member to rebuke the angry speaker. You are the leader and now everyone is looking to you to handle this.
You must–absolutely must–enter the meeting with a plan of action when and if someone gets out of control. And you must put the plan into effect the first time it happens, otherwise, like a herd of cattle about to stampede, the flock could get out of control and you be run over.
What you do, as soon as someone speaks up in an angry manner, testing you and threatening to throw the meeting into turmoil, is this:
Stand at the podium and lift both hands in the air, almost like you are a referee signaling a touchdown. Do not say a word. Just stand there with your arms in the air. Say nothing. Keep standing there.
If the speaker rants on, hold your ground. Soon, church members around him will alert him that you are calling time out and you want the floor. But so far, you have not said a word.
He quits speaking and looks at you. Perhaps he sits down and maybe he doesn’t. Either way, it does not matter.
After you allow quiet to return, clear your voice. Then pause another few seconds, and then lead a prayer. A soft-spoken one, in which you thank the Lord that He is present and remind Him how completely dependent we are on Him for wisdom, for self-control, for everything.
Remember now, you are speaking softly.
You must not–repeat not!–rebuke the previous speaker in your prayer. You don’t even mention what he was doing. You simply reaffirm to the Father that this is His church, we are His people, and we are so dependent on Him for wisdom as to what to do. In the wonderful words of Jehoshaphat, “We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on Thee” (2 Chronicles 20:12).
When you end your prayer, you say something like, “Would anyone else like to speak to this motion?” (In so many words, you have signaled to the previous speaker he is done for the night.)
Soft words, strong heart, prompt action.
The pastorate is no place for wimps. But neither is it a place for bullies who insist on their own way. This is the Lord’s church, the work is His, and so are the people. The only question that ever matters is “Lord, what do you want done with your work?”
Continually teach that to your people and you might come to love those monthly business meetings and fight to keep them.