Is it better to beg for forgiveness than to ask for permission? Those who push the boundaries get away with more and frankly get more. But would you trust them with your children? Those who ask for permission are careful, low-risk types. They don’t have to spend time apologising or money on fines. They are good team players. But sometimes you wish they would take more initiative.
A Baptist would generally ask for permission. This is not theological, it’s cultural. For various reasons we Baptist’s generally play it safe. On the whole, this is a more efficient way of living but can bring an interesting tension between leadership and people.
Baptist’s believe in the ‘priesthood of all believers’. In other words, in a church, followers of Jesus can together discern God’s purposes, not just a priest or church hierarchy. This is why we have Member’s meetings. It’s not a shareholder meeting, it’s to discern what God is saying. So here is the tension, the leader listens to the people for discernment, the people look to the leader for permission.
I notice this practically when it comes to initiatives. People ask me what our church is going to do, and I want to ask them what they are going to do? Are future initiatives to come from me, or people? Do things need leadership permission to proceed, or can people get cracking without it? As is the way with such matters, the answer is found in the tension between the two extremes.
You should know from my point of view, many of the best things I have seen in church communities have not come from leadership but from people having a go. I am keen to not bottleneck such God-given opportunities. If you want to start something it might help you to know at the simplest level my assessment criteria will be – “Does this have a gospel imperative, community benefit and no serious risk”? If we tick these boxes then it is likely we will believe it is worth doing. Who knows then what God might do through you and our church!