I believe that every time we make a decision for someone else that they could make themselves, we hinder their growth. When I make decisions for my life I grow from them. When someone makes the decisions for me, they rob me of that opportunity for growth.
Even when we make the decision poorly, even when we make a mistake, we learn more than when someone “older and wiser” makes our decision for us. In fact, I suspect that we learn the most when we make those mistakes.
Of course, this doesn’t apply to children, and others who don’t have the capacity to make decisions on their own.
The Apostle Paul knew this lesson; in fact, this may be the primary lesson of his letter to Philemon: “Therefore, though I might be very bold in Christ to command you what is fitting, yet for love's sake I rather appeal to you --being such a one as Paul, the aged, and now also a prisoner of Jesus Christ…”
Paul was clear: he could make the decision, he knew the right decision to make, and he had the authority to make the decision, but he deferred to Philemon to make the decision [about what to do with his runaway slave Onesimus]. Paul deferred to Philemon’s decision on the topic. And Paul gives every indication that he will support Philemon’s decision, even though the life of his “son” Onesimus hung in the balance.
Pastors make this mistake often, and congregants very often encourage the mistake. So many decisions are held for the pastor to make, decisions about what doctrines we believe, about how to handle certain difficult individuals, what we’re going to do in our worship of God when we get together.
We could go on and discuss how others make this mistake: either we make decisions for others (wives, kids, parishioners, employees) or we defer decisions that we can (and should) make to others (wives, parents, pastors, bosses, mentors, board of elders).
If we’re going to “grow up in all things into Him who is the head, even Christ…,” then we need to make the decisions as for DOWN the chain of authority as they can be made, even if mistakes are made. And we need to be committed to the individuals making the decisions, supporting them before, during and after the decisions.
Frankly, it’s nearly always more important that believers learn to stand on their own two feet in making decisions, than it is that we make the right decisions every time. If we’re afraid to make mistakes, nobody can grow.