Bible Question:

Should a church vote by secret ballot?

Bible Answer:

There is no verse in scripture that teaches that a congregation should vote. Some have said that Acts 14:23 teaches that a congregation should vote by a “show of hands” when selecting church’s leaders, but the Greek does not agree with this conclusion.

And when they had appointed elders for them in every church, having prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord in whom they had believed. (NASB) Acts 14:23

Some would say the word “appoint” really means “to choose, or elect by raising hands” But the same word is used in 2 Corinthians 10:41 to refer to God “choosing” beforehand. Now God did not take a vote of the human race or of the angels or of some group by a show of hands to determine what He was supposed to do.

. . . who were chosen beforehand by God . . . (NASB) Acts 10:41

The ASV, RSV, NRSV, NASB, NIV and NKJV correctly translate this passage using the word “appointed.” The GLT (Green’s Literal Translation) uses the word “handpicked.” The New Testament strongly implies that church leaders had the authority to make decisions independent of the congregation.

Obey your leaders, and submit to them; for they keep watch over your souls, as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you. (NASB) Hebrews 13:17

It was assumed these men were godly leaders and not power hungry (1 Peter 5:3). The passion of their heart was to shepherd the flock (1 Peter 5:1-3).


The Bible is silent about how a congregation should vote for its leaders or for any other issue. If the congregation objects to the way in which the voting occurs, the church leaders should seriously consider changing. No matter what they decide, Hebrews 13:17 tells us the congregation needs to support their decision.

Suggested Links:

How does Eph. 5:8, 12 apply to a church's voting in secret?
Patterns of Godly Leadership