From my personal experience in talking to Christians through the years it is rare for any potential shepherd’s name to be unanimously nominated. Churches often create artificial benchmarks to form their “pool” of men to move forward in the selection process. For example, they may say “A man’s name must appear on 80% of ballots cast to have his name put forward.” That is their discretion so long as they understand it is a completely arbitrary percentage. That being said, even 80% is not unanimous. So how could a congregation still end up with shepherds if a name is not unanimous? Regularly. With love, communication, and unity.
No names that were put forward for consideration at O’Connor Road were on every submission form. In fact, a few didn’t submit any names (and that’s ok), and instead just checked the box saying they’d agree with what the brethren decided. So from the start, we can see how/why names nominated may not be unanimous, but at the same time how/why we as a church can still be united in the final selection of men.
This concept of “United but not Unanimous” is a simple concept to understand and one that likely occurs all the time in our every day lives without notice. For example, when it comes time to eat the kids may have their voice heard of wanting to go to Chuck-E-Cheese while the parents vote for Little Caesar's at home. As the family ends up at home, it was not a unanimous decision to have Little Caesar's, but the family was united behind the idea of eating , and in particular, eating pizza together.
Or perhaps you could think of a dirty polluted pond in a local community. Some protesters show up to City Council declaring the death of civilization because of man-made climate change / global warming and how the whole ecosystem will collapse unless the pond is cleaned. Other citizens don’t even believe in man-made global warming but still see value in cleaning up the pond. Here, they may not be united in a reason/cause, but they are still unanimous in the decision/action that should be taken - cleaning up the pond.
A biblical example to consider where this failed is with Paul and Barnabas. At the end of Acts 15 these traveling companions were about to set off on another gospel adventure together to check on the churches previously established. Barnabas wanted to take his cousin (Colossians 4:10) Mark, but Paul did not because Mark had previously abandoned them on a journey. (Acts 15:38) The text concludes, “And there arose a sharp disagreement, so that they separated from each other.” (Acts 15:39) This has always been a very discouraging text to me. Why could these titans of faith not work through this and remain united in their intended work together? They didn’t have to have a unanimous decision to still be united and intent on the same purpose. I’m not certain who is to blame (maybe both of them); but regardless, we don’t have to assign blame to gain a lesson.
As members of a local body (church) there are at least three attributes we need to take to heart in order to work together in harmony that are summed up in Philippians 2:2 “...by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose.”
1) Love - We must have a love for one another that removes self-will, selfishness, arrogance, and any other attitude contrary to the way and will of Christ. The immediate context points to “humility” as the part of love that is key to working together with the same mind and toward the same goal. We may not all have originally agreed (unanimous) on whose names to nominate to be shepherds here, but that does not mean that we cannot come to agreement. We can, if we proceed with a heart of love full of humility and kindness and graciousness.
2) Communication - We must talk to one another and we must listen to one another just as we listen to God’s word - with an open heart and mind. This is the only way to be of the “same mind”. We live in a society that has grown increasingly difficult to talk and to listen. Many people are afraid to talk to one another. This should not be the case amongst Christians. Many people are slow to listen to one another. Again, this should not be with Christians (James 1:19). In the next few weeks as we open our hearts and minds in love we must also open our mouths to speak with love and open our ears to hear with love. This is how we can be united even if we are not unanimous. Talking to one another, listening to one another, compromising with one another, so long as we don’t compromise God’s word.
3) Unity - “united in spirit” (Philippians 2:2) - what spirit? Contextually it is not the “Holy Spirit”. It is our spirit. We have stressed throughout this process that it is a process we must maintain unity in every way possible. This is about bringing us closer together in Christ. About bringing this church closer to the will of God (with respect to scriptural leadership). It’s about glorifying God by doing everything according to His will. His will is that we be united. That we maintain a spirit of unity. True unity. Not giving mere lip-service, but serving this ideal in word and in deed.
We may not all agree (unanimous), but CAN all be agreeable (united). We can come together in humility and compromise. Where Paul and Barnabas failed, we can do better. We can learn from their mistake. We can glorify Christ and His work and His church being “intent on one purpose”. We can be, should be, must be…. Unanimous in that. United in that!