One of the most important qualities of a good leader is the ability to make good decisions. When a nation elects a President, a corporation hires a CEO, or when a church calls a pastor, each of them must factor in the decision-making ability of the leader. Some decisions are strategically critical to the life of an organization, nation, or church that when they are executed, they set off a chain reaction like falling dominos.
Over the past few months, parents, politicians, and pastors have had to formulate plans, chart new directions, and address herculean global problems that few generations have had to face. We have had a crash course in decision making, but we have yet to take the final exam. In this article, I want to offer a few guidelines to assist us in making better decisions. I pray my advice will provide some protection from the highly expensive consequences of making impulsive, reactionary, and emotional assessments that can paralyze a church, family, or nation for years to come.
The Principle of ILLUMINATION (Look to God’s Word to interpret your world).
This may seem like an obvious and expected action for Christian leaders to make, but I have found that this step is frequently ignored. We need God’s perspective to guide, inform, and validate our ideas. There is not a scripture for every issue we face, but there are biblical principles that provide benchmarks, parameters, and instruction for every problem or opportunity. When I am struggling with a particular issue, I consult the Bible for every place that addresses my concern. I ask three questions ‘What was going on with those in the text?’, ‘How did they respond?’, and ‘How should I respond?’.
The Principle of INVESTIGATION (Look to the facts in your face).
Perform your due diligence and discipline yourself to look at current reality. The more critical the decision the more due diligence is required. When I am making a major decision for my church or family, I am most critical and suspicious of my own voice. I have learned that my own emotions and selfishness can blind me from seeing the risks, dangers, and vulnerabilities of a decision. I listen for God’s Word and look at my world by asking questions and doing research. Read books and articles, attend a seminar, and examine the demographic, economic, social, and spiritual conditions that may shape the decision.
The Principle of CALCULATION (Look to the full cost of your decision).
What price are you willing to pay? How much pain are you willing to endure for the decision to succeed? There will be a cost that will be paid, and you must have a spiritual, emotional, financial, and relational expense account set up to draw from. Some decisions will mean that we must invite new people to have greater access to our lives and others will have limited access. Our time, resources, relationships, and energy will have to be redistributed. As you add more to your plate you will be forced to take something or someone else off. One of the overlooked consequences is the effect a decision will have on our family and health. As my children grew, I made a deliberate decision to limit meetings, counseling appointments, denominational demands, and member’s expectations to be there for my wife and children. I gave them veto power over my life. They have always been my first ministry.
The Principle of ANTICIPATION (Look out for and expect problems).
Every decision, no matter how carefully planned, researched, and prayed over, will have unforeseen problems, setbacks, and detours. Anticipate there will be challenges but do not set out to solve all of them before you launch out. The wisdom, grace, energy, and solutions will present themselves as you move out. Too many people become stagnant and will not make a decision because they want to have an answer for every obstacle they may face. Once you have examined the facts, it will be your faith in Christ that will give you the strength to overcome any fears and move forward.
The Principle of CONSULTATION (Look to the advice of trusted advisors).
“Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisors they succeed” (Proverbs 15:22). Talk with people who have experience, wisdom, and are not afraid to tell you the truth. You want to consult with people who will push you to do what is hard and uncomfortable and help you discern your own self-seeking interest. While consulting with others is important, depending on your role in an organization, there may be times you will have to make a decision alone. Jesus asked his disciples to pray with Him in the garden, but when He had to make the most crucial of all decisions, they went to sleep on Him.
These simple principles are not the exhaustive list of what is required in making tough decisions, but they do provide the beginnings of a framework. Your next series of decisions can determine the health of your family, church, and community. Faith does not exist with the absence of fear, but it is advancing despite the presence of it. Go on and make your next move.