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A comment made about the process for selecting the executives of Synod 2015 stood out to me. In response to the news that choosing by lot had been part of the selection process, someone commented that it was good to see that we are learning to trust the Spirit just a little. Unfortunately, I couldn’t go back and check it because I’ve lost track of the thread the comment came in. The gist, however, seemed clear: choosing by lot is trusting the Spirit in a way that voting is not.

That sentiment is common enough. I’ve heard it when the congregation I served included the lot as one step in the process for selecting elders and deacons. Some members were ready to throw the entire process to the wind. They thought (and think) that we should put the name of every member in a hat and let God sort out the details. More commonly, the people chosen said that they took the call to serve more seriously than they would have under the traditional process, because God had called them.

That was actually the effect we were looking for. Like many congregations struggling to find qualified people willing to serve in office, we were trying to emphasize the seriousness of the call and make it harder to say “no.” Many other congregations have done the same—even though they sometimes ignore their own articles of incorporation when they do.   Though I do not have a theological objection to the lot, I wonder whether our increasing use reflects a lack of respect for the body of Christ. I wonder whether we are communicating that we see the congregation (or synod) as fickle and immature, unable to rise above the dynamics of a popularity contest, instead of as members of the body of Christ who are empowered by the Spirit of God.

I know that, like the wind, the Spirit of God blows wherever it pleases. I know that the Spirit of God can use any means to lead us, whether they be Urim and Thummim, a high priestly Ephod, slips of paper in a hat, dice, or lottery balls. I trust that the Spirit of God also speaks through people and the sometimes messy process of discussion, disagreement and voting.

Though I would not mind it if the lot is used at synods in the future, I hope we do not lose appreciation of the wisdom of the Spirit in each other.


Thanks, Norman, for the good reminder. I've thought the same thing when selecting by lot is advocated on the grounds that it's more Spirit-directed. The Spirit works through our reflection and discernment, too!

Thanks Norman for your article and Stanley for your comment.  I agree with your hesitancy to choose leaders of the church by lottery.  If you think it through, choosing leaders in such a way is really no different than playing the lottery.  You can say we are relying on the Holy Spirit to make the choice, but the reality is that we are bypassing making a reasonable thought out choice and leaving the choice to chance or luck (not the Holy Spirit).

As Bible believing Christians, we believe we have been created in the image of God.  One of the primary human characteristics is our ability use reason and to logically make choices.  Humans don’t rely simply on animal instinct.  This is likely the very reason that Christ emphasized that the law can be reduced to two principles, love for God and neighbor.  From those two principles we can reason or logically deduce the details of what is loving toward God and neighbor, without coming up with a long list of “do’s” and “don’ts,” as did the Pharisees.

It’s disappointing to think that our churches and denomination are moving increasingly in the (so called) leading of the Holy Spirit direction when the reality is that Christians are walking away from their unique God given ability to be reasonable and to use logic when making important choices in life.  The extreme logical outcome of such foolish thinking is to prayerfully play the lottery.  If I win big (unlikely), then I then I thank the Holy Spirit for his guidance; and if I loose all my wealth then I know the Holy Spirit wanted me to be poor.  After all, I did pray for the Holy Spirit’s guidance.

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