Why You Should Listen to Your Congregation When They Vote with Their Feet

It’s an old phrase, but one that I find extremely helpful as a leader.

It’s “voting with their feet.”

So many times we wonder about the validity or value of something when the answer is patently clear: people have voted with their feet. Meaning they aren’t coming, supporting, inviting…you fill in the quantitative blank.

The point is that they have given you the feedback you need.

I’ve had numerous conversations with leaders over the years about the value of this or that, and in the end, it comes back to a simple assessment: people have voted with their feet. They don’t want it, need it, or care about it. It doesn’t matter how good the idea was on paper, how passionate a particular individual might have been for the enterprise, or even the handful of “fruit” stories that might have emerged from its efforts.

Now, let me qualify this in two important ways.

First, this does not mean you only give people what they want. That is a consumer-driven church, and that leads to heresy. Or at least a superficial faith.

So I’m not talking about doctrine, disciplines or anything else that would be put on a “doesn’t matter whether it’s popular it’s essential” list.

But I am talking about programs and ministries that are in the “good” but “non-essential” camp that people “vote” on in a way that good leaders should pay very close attention to.

Here’s why:

You have a limited amount of energy, resources, finances, volunteers, square footage and time. You are called to fulfill the Great Commission with both tenacity and wisdom. As a result, it would be foolish to allocate anything to a non-strategic path.

Now the second qualifier applies to the above-mentioned “handful of fruit stories” comment. Jesus was very clear in the parable of the talents that we are to be shrewd investors of time, talent, treasure…anything that is ours to be managed. Of course I can mobilize 100 people to fan out across a city for door-to-door visitation and witnessing and get one or two stories of receptivity.

But what if I took that same mobilizing energy and used it in a way that resulted in over 1,000 lives changed for Christ? Isn’t that what we should be wrestling with? The Holy Spirit will honor Himself as the Word is proclaimed in whatever fashion (at least, I believe He will), but that doesn’t mean He doesn’t honor even more those efforts that seek to maximize His witness to the world in ways that are most effective.

So here’s the leadership question:

Where aren’t you paying attention to the vote?

Read more from James here.

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James Emery White

James Emery White

James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and the ranked adjunctive professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, which he also served as their fourth president. He is the founder of Serious Times and this blog was originally posted at his website www.churchandculture.org.

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comment_post_ID); ?> I like it Mac and do agree with your opinions on the matter. Thanks much
— winston
comment_post_ID); ?> In this era, we have the opportunity of professional church staff today who utilize their gifting to shape the image and atmosphere of the church organization. But the 100% real impact on the church visitors is genuine evidence of changed lives by the gospel and the active growing discipleship (just as it was in the first century church). One demonstration is financially rich believers ministering equally together with poor believers (how odd, and incredibly miraculous; all humble and bow at the foot of the cross.). It is the awesome contrast of church members vocations, race, gender, age, maturity, gifting, humility that demonstrates to visitors "there is a Spirit in the place". That first-time guest list of 10 are "physical excuses", not spiritual excuses. Those don't tell the story. The condition of facilities and publicly greeting people have zero to do with it. The power of God in and through believers lives dedicated to impact other people with their relationship bridge-building of acceptance of the lost around them. Empowered believers are infectious, loving, helpful, giving, self-less, dynamic, compelling, bold, Christ-filled. As I have been in many church settings domestically and internationally, the facilities can be poor, and yet the fellowship can still be rich. We need to operate with first church humility. People come to Christ on His terms, not on our human abilities of hospitality. A huge catastrophe in a community, disaster relief brings lots of people into churches – many come to the church in those terrible conditions no matter the physical condition of the local church. Off the condition of facility, and onto the condition of God's people (living stones).... and everything else will grow.... and the other physical issues will be corrected by the staff.
— Russ Wright
comment_post_ID); ?> "While I understand the intent behind this phrase" Expound please. What do you understand to be the intent behind that phrase?
— Ken

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