As the Director of Governance for SIM, I serve more than 40 signatory entities worldwide. As you can imagine, I care deeply about board development and governance. Boards are important as they approve the purpose of the organization and hold leadership accountable to pursue it. But who holds boards accountable?
Submission to the will of God is key to advancing the purpose and ensuring the governance of each organization. A board’s cry should be Deo volente, which translated means, “God willing!" Sadly, and perhaps for a variety of reasons, many boards give little attention to what God thinks about their work.
At our last Global Assembly in South Africa, SIM celebrated 125 years of ministry and a more recent structural change in governance. We moved from a shareholder model of governance to each SIM country entity being a stakeholder, giving voice to all at the Global Assembly.
To better equip those responsible for governing, we offered four “Boardwalk” sessions. More than 100 individuals representing over 40 SIM boards attended. We invited Gary Hoag to teach us from the Scriptures and to facilitate rich discussion from The Council: A Biblical Perspective on Board Governance. We wanted our board chairs and country directors to identify necessary qualities to look for in board candidates and gain practical ideas to implement.These new practices helped our boards align with God’s design. Gary shared wisdom from the Council of Moses (Numbers 11) and the Council of Jerusalem (Acts 15). In response, our board chairs and country directors determined to:
We also examined the Sanhedrin (John 11) and the Gentile Council of Ephesus (Acts 19). We outlined pitfalls to avoid in our board development work, such as:
As we looked at the godly characteristics of the former councils and the pitfalls of the latter groups, it was evident to everyone that the first set of examples pointed the way for us. We discovered that we were accountable to God for our governance.
Gary also facilitated an activity with the group each day. He guided us through four essential practices for boards: Scripture, silence, sharing, and supplication. On each of the four days, we stood to read Scripture together and remained standing in silence to listen to the Holy Spirit, then we sat together and shared around tables, then spokespersons shared with the larger group, and we concluded each time with supplication.
As everyone spoke, we felt like we heard God speak to us. The global north, south, east, and west all had a voice. The Holy Spirit knit our hearts together in unity. These practices positioned God's Word to transform us. The Scripture renewed our minds. In silence we were able to hear God's voice. We discerned His way forward for us as we listened to how He spoke to others and through others. We joined in supplication asking for God’s will to be done, and we prayed each day in many different languages. Best of all, we learned that we can do this every time we meet so the Holy Spirit guides our governance.
We were energized as we employed the teaching and practices set forth in The Council. We have had quite a journey together moving from shareholders to stakeholders of the gospel. This has led us to deeper levels of engagement that has been guided by the Lord. But the biblical teaching is what has knit us together.
One council chair exclaimed, “It is a spiritual breakthrough!” We pray others experience it too, so that governance, Deo volente, moves to break down spiritual barriers for the whole Church to take the whole gospel to the whole world!