do things by a majority vote. We operate by consensus!”
That seems like a simple statement, but it set off a number of thoughts. What does it mean to operate by consensus? And when is a consensus a consensus? A consensus is not 100%, so what percent is enough?
Most of the time, people build consensus around compromise. It is about meeting in the middle where everybody gets a little bit of what they want and so they eventually buy in. That may be how it works in some settings, but that is not how we have chosen to operate.
In the world of the Omega Project, we seek the voice of God. When He has spoken, it is finished. Consensus works, not because we are good at finding a place of compromise, but because we listen for God together.
“That’s good.” Not it.
“That’s better.” Still not it.
No agreement. Let’s wait. More discussion. No. Not yet. Wait some more.
The consensus we seek is a general agreement that God has spoken. When we look for God, there often is a “That’s it. Let’s go. Now.” There is that point in time when the Holy Spirit has spoken and we all know it. We look at one another and there is general agreement.
I say general agreement because even seeking God and His voice, it is seldom unanimous. God has created us so that we have very different gift and very different core values. It is very easy for one or two people to hold on to their core values, thinking it is God. That happens in both the person who is seasoned in Christ and in a new believer. One of the most needed qualities is a healthy respect for the idea that “I am egocentric. I will tend to believe the voice that comes out of my values center rather than what God is speaking.”
When a group of individuals know how easy it is to hold onto self, consensus is possible. Without that knowledge, consensus can never be consensus unless it is 100%. That almost never happens. Waiting on 100% stagnates movement and chokes an organization.
The person you are the most blind to is you. This is one of our one liners. Proverbs 16:2 and 21:2 talk about this blindness to self. So does Proverbs 14:12 and 16:25. Unless a group understands this one liner, there will likely be a “fight to the death.” There will be those who will defend their own ideas to the point that there is continual division, and little or nothing can happen.
It is helpful if the most mature person in the group is quick to admit, “I don’t know.” When that happens, it sets a tone. The safest place to live is to hear God together. We share ideas. We watch. We wait. We share some more. It never happens quite the same way twice, but there often is a point of “knowing” at a group level. Of course, with every “knowing,” there still is the understanding that we might not have it right—that we need to keep watching and listening in case God wants to demonstrate something a bit different to us.
Knowing that we don’t know is the foundation to the kind of consensus that brings unity. It allows a group to listen for God together. It allows them to move when it is time to move. It does not require unanimity, but does strive for a basic unity. In other words, it might not be a 100% vote, but there is a consensus that it is time to try a solution.
In the end, it is not a vote. Ever. It is trusting at a group level to define what God is speaking, and to respond “the best way we know how.” Yes, there will be some who “know” and some who “are not sure.” And maybe even some who think it is a mistake. But there is a consensus to walk together, with the knowledge that if God makes it clear that the current step is wrong, the group will hear and adjust.
Consensus. Not compromise but hearing God together. It is a beautiful thing!