Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came up to him with her sons, and kneeling before him she asked him for something. And he said to her, “What do you want?” She said to him, “Say that these two sons of mine are to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your kingdom.”
The verses in Matthew 20 (read also Jesus’ response!) highlight the kind of ‘flesh’ issues which rise up and need to be tackled honestly before we can find real, spiritual, heaven-harmonies agreement.
Real agreement doesn’t happen until there has been opportunity for honest, open disagreement. Apart from the common pride, ambition, fear and control responses that need to come to the surface, there is good questioning as well which we need to embrace. The ‘black hat’ person needs to be heard and the late adopter given time to process the details of the proposal. The understanding needs to shift from a majority in favour of a proposal (but not universal agreement!) to all able to buy into a consensus even if it isn’t ideal for every individual.
The more destructive kind of disagreement is often not overt, but hidden. Constructive disagreement will be more open because its goal is to find consensus, and that’s a pathway which requires some humility from all concerned – to be able to allow and even welcome the shaping of the proposal by others.
How do we spot what is often concealed in a political process?
- The ability to defer is lacking. Everyone needs to be able to defer; and it’s biblical (Ephesians 5:21).
- The desire to hear God afresh and learn is not evident. If I am hiding an attitude of disagreement, I don’t want people to hear God but to hear me. Or, to hear God if He agrees with me. I probably do not want my positioned challenged in such a way – otherwise I would be open in saying that my position could be wrong.
- There will be a lack of anointing on the discussion. A Spirit-led discussion will have plenty of light about it which shows the way and illuminates what might otherwise seem complex. Where the Holy Spirit has had to sit out of the meeting because of unhealthy disagreement, that light will not be evident.
- It feels heavy. Constructive discussion and kingdom progress are life-giving and fulfilling. A dry process is just hard work.
- Where God is in a process, God is seen in the progress. More is achieved than might be expected. Where there is underlying disagreement, the opposite happens.
- Results do not stick. Sometimes the leader or another influential person can bully a others into a decision. But if it isn’t a real decision, there will be ‘car park discussions’ and reasons found to re-visit.
- The outcome will prove to be unfruitful. Even when a decision seems fairly secure, if it has not come out of submissive agreement within the team and before God, there will be the lack of fruitful release that characterises a good and godly decision.
Teamwork isn’t difficult, given a willingness and a good heart. But the destruction of a team spirit is even easier. It only takes one to put a spiritual spanner in the decision process assembly line. Sometimes it is necessary to be lovingly direct and honest where one person seems to be acting as a spoiler. What are the underlying reasons? Have their concerns been heard? Should they be allowed an honourable way to walk away from the discussion? Whatever it takes, spiritual, emotional and volitional agreement is a non-negotiable essential.
Also posted on my ‘how to’ site, Discipleship Workshop