Hi Bill,
I’ve heard you say that Robert’s Rules are dead.  What are some of the factors that has led to its demise?
Making disciples,

From Bill Easum

Roberts Rules were designed for people who don’t trust one another or who can’t relate to one another in an orderly, loving fashion.
If the church is seen as a corporation then Robert does fine.  If the chruch is seen as an organism then rules aren’t needed since organisms dont have rules, just DNA..
Today’s young people want an environment in which the leaders are trusted and prayer guides the decisions, not rules.
Why would you need Robert if the decisions were guided by spiritually deep people who trusted one another and who had the same DNA?
Now, we are also living in a world that is rewriting the rules. At the moment there arent any really hard and fast rules except the old rules dont work and we’re forging or waiting for new ones.
Robert was designed for the Modern church; the modern church is disappearing.
Robert was  designed to control large groups; the emerging church is based on permission giving.
I have never heard of Robert being used in any of the churches I would call great. only the small or weak church feels the need to still use him.
these are my reasons.


What guidelines, rules, whatever do you turn to in a church that needs to work together, many are praying but there are multiple strands of DNA so trust is low? a good beginning for prayer; those who commence with trust shall conclude with joy.—Treasury of David

From Bill Easum

The transition period is the toughest. That’s why its so important to develop a biblical DNA that all of the leaders can agree upon. Once that’s done, its so much easier. But in the transition period you might try the following: I would first teach the leaders about how the early church functioned around consensus and prayer. Then I would ask them to try a year experiment – lay aside the rules and the constitution and experiment with spending time praying for God’s guidance at board and congregational meetings.   The other thing I would do is to go out of my way to never mention Robert or the constitution



Solidifying diverging stratds of leadership DNA is not about rules or guidelines, rather it is about forging a new leadership team identity. The Leadership Team itself is the context in which the “gene splicing” if you will, needs to take place. In the same way that genes in the genetic material of human DNA dictate or determine particular traits in a person, Leadership Teams have a DNA that determines how the team itself behaves and functions and consequently implicates how the congregation itself develops and functions. There are two central interdependent strands in the genetic material of Leadership Team DNA; Team Role Clarity, and Spiritually Centered Leaders.

As an example, it might be helpful to think of
My Neighbor’s Church, the one across town that
is really struggling. The challenges and
problems running rampant in My Neighbor’s Church
can never be dealt with apart from addressing
the leadership DNA in the congregation that is
the genetic source of much of the problems to
begin with.  In other words, it is a
congregation’s leadership that actively creates
or passively perpetuates such maladies that
commonly capture our attention and drain our
pews. Regardless of your congregational polity
and the leadership structures currently in place
in your church, consider two core questions.
1. What are the implications of your current
leadership structure?
2. What outcomes are you currently experiencing,
desired or not?

Most congregations will greatly benefit from a
season of focused attention being given to
reflection on the nature and effectiveness of
their leadership structures and processes.

What guidelines, rules, whatever do you turn to in a church that needs to work together, many are praying but there are multiple strands of DNA so trust is low?
Ron and all:

Although I am not very interested in debating Robert’s rules of order, I am very interested in reflecting on what kind of “rules of order” are useful for a Biblical church to do effective, high integrity mission. Perhaps these reflection will be interesting to others … if not press delete now.

Basically, there are three kinds of decisions facing the Biblical church.

DNA decisions are formed by consensus, which in turn arises from the spiritual growth of the people and the mentoring of credible leaders. These are not so much “decisions”, but more like “celebrations”. Changes to the DNA emerge from the prayerful discussion of the body of Christ.

Management decision are made by empowered teams that are reasonably trusted to implement tactics within basic boundaries. Roberts Rules of Order were generally invented for an organizational context in which management decisions were all made by the whole body … hence the need for motions, seconds, votes, etc. But if you shift to a team based organization, the need for Roberts Rules is eliminated. So long as teams are aligned with the mission, live within boundaries, and behave in ways that protect safety, promote growth, and avoid getting in anyone else’s way, they can do anything they want. No voting. No permission giving or permission withholding.

There remains, however, policy decisions … procedural policies, ends policies, and executive limitations … which are the “boundaries” themselves within which people are free to do anything they wish. Such decisions are few and infrequent (certainly not every board meeting or annual gathering). We might argue that these decisions are simply made by trusted leaders, but I think this begs the question. There must be some practice or accepted “policy” by which these leaders are selected and held accountable.

Is there a “rule of order” regarding policy decisions with ancient Christian credibility? That could be used in today’s local congregation?I think it would look something like this:

Any member of the body could propose a policy (procedural, ends, or limitation) that would be incumbent on leaders and members alike, but there would be certain conditions to be fulfilled before it deserved a hearing …

– Does the “policy” emerge from the prayerful, Biblically based reflection of the individual?
– Does it align with the mission and DNA that is the consensus of the people?
– Is it supported by a cell group or team (not just seconded by another individual)?

If all this is true, the policy proposal is intentionally and prayerfully discussed by the apostolic leaders of the body and they make a decision. Again, this is not a vote of the body, but a consensus of the trusted, gifted, and called leaders of the church.

Although I believe such a process is modeled well in Acts, I think it is more perfectly seen in the Monastic Rule. (Monastic rule of order” replace “Roberts Rules of Order”).

The biggest difference between these two “rules” is that the Monastic and ancient “rule” was grounded in the spiritual life … personal and corporate spiritual behaviour that gave credibility to policy recommendations or policy changes, and which also gave credible authority to apostolic leaders to make such decisions on behalf of the community. Roberts Rules of Order are not grounded in spiritual life, but institutional privilege. In Roberts Rules, any member has the right to propose a change in policy by virtue of membership alone, with no particular reference to spiritual life.

Tom Bandy

From Tom bandy

We are in the process of writing down the more
minimalist structure for our future, but we are hung up on conversation
whether to rely on rules of order or not.

This follows the longer email I posted a few moments ago … just trying to be more practical for you.

As your congregation thinks about new, minimalist “rules” for the future …

– make sure that people understand that only policy decisions are really effected by this process (not management decisions, nor DNA consensus);

– the people who should have the “right” propose changes to policy or new policy ought to be people who demonstrable lead a spiritual life … not just “members of an institution”.

– support for changes should come from a small group, cell, or 3 or more people out of their prayerful reflection … not just seconded by another member of a church.

– policy decisions should be made by credible “apostolic” leaders of the church (commonly the pastor or pastoral team and the board or elders), and are not voted upon by the body.

– when ends policies, procedural policies, and executive limitation policies are property made, then there is no need for ANY appeal to ratification of management decisions. These are entrusted to a trusted, gifted few, and to the many teams emerging from the church.

– one key piece of policy is that there must be a clear and accessible grievance policy and process, so that anyone acting outside or in contradiction to the DNA of the church and the policies of the leaders can be readily identified and corrected.

Tom Bandy

From Bill Easum
The session at our church just started experimenting with some Quaker approaches to decision-making. I am not on the session so I don’t know how it is working. I did came across a book called “Beyond Majority Rule: Voteless Decisions in the Religious Society of Friends.” Any thoughts about the Quaker model or this book?

all of this discussion is overlooking the fact that biblically groups never make decisions.  We have so perverted the gospel when it comes to decision making that we dont have a clue anymore about how God works.  God doesn’t ever work through groups or committees or constitutions, or boards, or policies.  God speaks through individuals.  Its always been that way.We are just so afraid of leadership that we hamstring our leaders to the point that our churches are in ruins.  We need to return to pastor led congregations. We need to learn to trust our leaders. Until we do we will continue to see ruins and decline.


I will acknowledge the incredibly destructive influence corporate mindset has had on our churches. I question my own participation in these structures almost daily. I share the frustration about squelching charismatic leadership. However, I don’t see a single leader model as the prescribed biblical model. Passages like Acts 15, tell of a council making decisions and “The elders who direct the affairs of the church…,” from 1 Timothy 5:17, speaks of a decision-making body. I can’t reconcile the sole leader as normative with what I see in the post-pentecost Bible.

From Bill Easum

first of all in Tim. the refere is to ELders in general not a council in one church.  Second, the experience of the church in Jerusalem was not indicative of the way the church functioned. Remember that the church in Jer. almost folded due to its masadic like functions.  Surely you cant compare the apostles to most people who sit on boards today? also, where is the voting.  they reasoned together.
Notice in Acts 15 that when a decision is made it is one person, “It is my judgement that…”
NOw, did Paul ask permission of anyone to do his travels?  He even eventually disregarded the wishes of the Jer Church and did what he felt God wanted him to do.
I grant you there are problems with the sole leader concept.  and it really isnt a sole leader concept.  The best leaders I know have a group of spiritually minded people with whom they consult, but the key is spiritually minded and chosen by the leader or leaders not through election but through their relationship with Jesus.
All I know is look at the results- the bigger the board the smaller the church. The more peple involved in day to day decision making the smaller the church. The more ingrown and weak.


Thanks Bill.  This will help me as I continue to talk to people and live authentic relationships.  Some do not understand the church as organism so they want to keep some form of the rules around.  Others are starting to live DNA so the rules are seen as guidelines.  And a precious few have little need of rules, but deep relationships with Jesus and others make for influence, accountability, and a governing structure.  I work to grow the last group.  Transitioning a church is painfully slow.
Making disciples one heart at a time,


I’m sure it can work great, I’m just thinking out loud.  In my mind, personal vision is everything when leading a church.  Corporate vision is simply an adaptation of the leader’s vision.  So, when the original leader leaves, the new leader is confronted with lots of people who may have very different ideas based on the success the original guy had.
From Bill Easum
that’s why sucession is such a problem. but spiritually deep congregations have no problem matching the DNA it if it is handle correctly. The vineyards have many examples. I helped Cinncy Vineyard transition from Sjogren to Walkman and there wasn’t a hint of trouble. Ive seen the same thing happen in my denomination when the Bishop handles it correctly.

From Bill Easum

I know this is a notty issue, but one we all deal with.

One more thing. Its also impossible to construct a way of governance or leadership from the New Testament. The words and language are so mixed up that it is impossible to draw any solid conclusions.  One can make the scriptures say almost anything here unfortunately. But with the nature of the early church and its heavy reliance on the first century Apostles and Paul, it makes it hard.

When the scriptures refer to the elders of the church we have to realize that they werent speaking of an institutional church as we know it.  There were many house or apartment churches in a city that made up the church.  Each of these entities probably had an elder over it. We just don’t know for sure about any of this. What we do know is that the early church did not vote on things and relied on what they thought God wanted done – even in Acts 15.

Also, In Acts 15 when a decision was made Peter made it even though there was a group of elders
“6The apostles and elders met to consider this question. 7After much discussion, Peter got up and addressed them: ”
Notice, after much discussion, it was Peter who spoke for the group.  this is the kind of leadership we need today. We need spiritual leaders who trust one another and we need a key spiritual leader who can speak for the whole.

What gets me is that we think democratic rule came from God. It didn’t. Both the Old and New Testaments lean more on what the people think God wants than the watered down compromise of a vote.

So I would rather take my chance with a sole leader who listens to the spiritual giants in the church and then speaks like Peter than I would a church ruled by either congregational or democratic rule.  The results over the last fifty years speak for themselves- the more democratic the smaller the church and the more influence the pastor has the larger the church.


Several Observations

First, despite being Presbyterian I do not advocate anything that resembles presbyterian polity as I see it lived today. It is has been utterly co-opted by corporate management thinking.

Second, IMO, democratic congregational polity means decisions are controlled by the 51% least mature Christians in the body.

Third, IMO, sole visionary leader models ultimately lead to stagnation and co-dependency. Vision becomes the prerogative of a mediator between God and the body. Any other visionaries will leave. The remaining body stays in a dependency mode looking to the leader for vision instead of God.

Fourth, I have no productive model to offer as an option. (I am not advocating for a particular model because I don’t have one.)

Fifth, my understanding is that initially the congregations in the NT were led based on the synagogue model. Synagogues were run by a college of elders with a chief ruler. The concept of a single elder would have been an oxymoron. Thus, when it is written “appointed elders” in the towns/churches (Acts 14:23, Titus 1:5) I don’t think it means “appointed an elder in each town/church.”

Sixth, 1 Tim 5:17, “The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching.” There are at least administrating and preaching/teaching elders at work here. Using the synagogue frame of reference I believe this is talking about teams of elders in each church, some of whom have the gift of preaching and teaching. James 5:14 “Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord.” Again, plural. See also 1 Peter 5:1, among others.

Seventh, Clement of Rome, ended his letter to the Corinthians (c. 95 CE) with an admonition of troublemakers to respect the authority of their elders in the church.

Eighth, the dialog sequence of Acts 15 was:
1. Much discussion by apostles and elders v. 6-7
2. Peter speaks v. 7-11
3. Paul and Barnabas speak v. 12
4. James speaks and makes a recommendation v. 13-21
When James began his oration with “It is my judgment …,” he was speaking his opinion to the rest of the decision-making body. They were persuaded by his wise judgment and not acquiescing to hierarchical status. The letter the group sent says in verses 24-29, “WE have heard…,” “So WE all agreed to chose some men…” “Therefore WE are sending…” and “It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to US…” The decision was of the leadership not just James or Peter or any other individual.

Ninth, Paul did blow about with the wind of the Spirit. Paul was a catalyst, one who facilitates and accelerates the rate of change without being changed himself. In each place, he developed a team of leaders to carry on the work, and moved on. I see a distinction between be “being the catalyst” and sustaining the reaction of the “elements” acted upon.

In response to another post, Tom was writing about what becomes of the vision when the sole leader dies. I believe it dies with them. However, if a leader is leading a lean and mean team of visionary leaders, then the loss of any one of them is inconsequential. I do not see organizational structure that are targeted to this end. Congregational democracy doesn’t get it. Sole leader models don’t get it. Bureaucratic Presbyterian-like models don’t get it.

Finally, I appreciate the frustration with the corporate bureaucratic nightmare that is much of the church. However, I have witnessed way too much of the destruction leveled by “apostolic” leaders, with a “call from God,” that is above human accountability. I think of the Shepherding movement when I was in graduate school where followers had to have every significant decision approved by their shepherd. I have seen women reduced to passive Stepford wives because of “apostolic” teaching on biblical authority. I have seen Christian witness repeatedly marred by swaggering apostolic leaders in the public square “under no one’s control but God’s control.” This is not the church either.

I think a 21st Century model includes apostolic leaders starting churches. I think the model of a team of visionaries with a leader may be the rudimentary pieces of ongoing leadership. But I don’t know of, and have not seen, what I would call genuine models of this in operation.

From Bill Easum

Michael, thanks for the observations. I agree with you through the second point and then we diverge, which is okay, we cant all agree on everything – a bane of Modernity. here is my take.

First, this is where you misunderstand what Im saying.  No leader should be without accountability.  That is what the prescriptive model provides- boundaries. Now, what you are missing is this – across the board, the larger the church the less influence boards have in effective churches.  Just pick one well known church and Ill guarantee you that the board does not micro-manage the day to day ministry of the church, nor do they use Roberts Rules of Order. If anything, the Great Commission is the primary guideline they follow.

Second, consider this and this is what breaks my heart. havent you seen far more churches stagnate and spin into decline because a group of people either call all of the shots or hog tie the pastoral leadership? Isnt one of the reasons mainline christianity is in the pits due to the lack of leaders and leaders who are arent allowed to lead? How many pastors do you who are considered the spiritual leader of the church.

Third, where all of our conversation breaks down is over the issue of spiritual leadership. Spiritual leaders discern, they dont vote. When you have spiritual leaders they understand spiritual authority and they submit to the spiritual leader of the church, like the Jerusalem church did with Peter and James.

Fourth, my tribe believes that Elders are Pastors so when the Elders of the church are called together to make decisions it is referring to the pastors.  The problem is that there was only one church per city, unlike our situation, so that church met in many locations and each one had an elder or groups of elders. But they were never anything like a Board. They were spiritual leaders appointed not elected.

Fithth,  the fear of succession when a visionary leader leaves is hard to justify unless your only experience has been mainline. When I helped cinny vineyard go from a very strong visionary leader who spoke for God to the present pastor, there was no problem with handing off the DNA. The replacement, David Walkman, was already on the staff, had been led to Christ at that church, and the church itself had bought into the DNA.  Ive seen countless successful successions outside of mainline. I do agree that can be a huge issue.

sixth, in response to this quote from you
< Finally, I think Toms model in Christian Chaos is as good as it gets for those who have institutional frameworks.>>

Michael, I am going to a church that functions just this way.  But here is the catch – the visionary team are all staff or Elders, not lay people.  You see we have muddied the water even more when we have to use the term “Lay people.'” They dont exist in the scripture whatsoever. the “laos” was the people of God, all of us including the Elders.

Now maybe instead of continually batting the ball around, why do we see what we can agree on.
Is it possible that we all agree that
-voting isnt biblical
-representative democracy is not found in the scriptures
-mainline protestantism has become for too corporate in its organization
-the distinction between laity and clergy isnt biblical


Big time thumbs up on all the above! I found the rest of your post helpful as well. Thanks for the clarifications and for engaing my endless ramblings. I suspect there will be multiple models that may emerge in the not too distant future. I agree that Tom’s Christian Chaos stuff is great. I just don’t find it being lived out in my circles of connections.

I think what I am attracted to about EB is that I think I am on the same mission you are on. I just think I have passionate differences about apsects of strategy. I agree. We don’t need to agree on everthing and I am learning a great deal through these exchanges. This mail-list is a great service! Thanks!

Have a Great Fourth!

From tom Bandy


I am anxious that we seem so easily to talk as if it “leadership” and “organization” are somehow mutually exclusive things. The earliest church had both. Growing churches in the world have both. The difference is this:

If you want permission giving leadership, then you cannot have typical bureaucractic organization. You must parallel permission giving leadership with servant empowering organization (see “Christian Chaos”). In other words, permission giving leaders require an organizational model that is proscriptive, boundary oriented, and focused on policy governance rather than tactical control.

Churches can grow with permission giving leadership without changing the organizational model (if that leader is very charismatic, effective, wise, and so on), but if that leader dies or moves away without changing the organizational model, the leaderless church will be drawn back into old bureaucratic ways and it will be much harder to choose a successor.

But if the permission giving leader reorganizes the church, then a servant empowering organization can readily call or celebrate a new permission giving leader.

Leadership and organization are two sides of the same coin, and must be compatible. Traditional leadership goes with bureaucractic organization. Permission giving leadership goes with servant empowering organization. Roberts Rules go with bureaucracy … Monastic rules go with servant empowerment. Traditional clergy are trained in the former … permission giving leaders should be trained in the latter. But are they? Or do they simply make assumptions about future decision making, only to have the church decline when they die?

From Tom Bandy

<<<now></now> Is it possible that we all agree that
-voting isnt biblical
-representative democracy is not found in the scriptures
-mainline protestantism has become for too corporate in its organization
-the distinction between laity and clergy isnt biblical

What say ye?>>>>

Exactly. The issue is not that there shouldn’t be rules of order, but that Roberts Rules do not have to be the rules … there are better rules … more Biblical and more appropriate for postmodern mission. But the big issue Bill and I are addressing, from various directions, is that you cannot just change leadership, or just change organization. You have to change both. Apostolic leadership must be paralleled by a radically new organization; servant empowering organization only really works if leaders stop being traditional institutional officers and seek to become apostolic.

From Tom Bandy

<<<can></can> Ron>>>

The problematic word here is the verb “allows”. Servant empowering boards do not “allow” the pastor or staff to do anything, and that is what is wrong with the UMC organizational habits. Let the pastor lead, and let administrators administrate. UMC organizations (like all established church organizations) always fog the responsibilities for leadership and administration. Administrators end up controlling policy, and leaders keep getting drawn down into administration. The reason is that nobody really trusts anyone.

The basic function of administration – in corporate, non-profit, or successful church – is to align the mission, equip the leaders, and get out of the way. Most Administrative Councils in the UMC rarely align mission, fail to equip leaders, and continually meddle in the tactics of teams and the strategic leadership of pastors.

Can an administrative council be transformed into what I describe in Christian Chaos as a servant empowering board? In my experience the answer is “almost never”. Some administrative council members can be reorganized into the management teams of a stability triangle, but most typical administrative council members frankly do not understand the attitude of a high trust organism and do not have the competence to grow and train people. Usually, you have to appoint a whole new group to lead the church.

Tom Bandy