“Pity the leader who is caught between unloving critics and uncritical lovers.”
John Gardner applies this statement to spiritual leadership and the importance of good godly counsel. It is crucial to not only listen to those who will tell you what you want to hear but also to those who have the liberty to say what you need to hear. It has been said that, “Flattery will get you nowhere.” Proverbs 28:23 says, “One who rebukes a person will later find more favor than one who flatters with his tongue.
God guides us through the authority of Scripture, the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and the counsel of other believers.
The book of Proverbs has much to say about the danger of not listening to the wisdom of others:
Proverbs 11:14 – “Without guidance, people fall, but with many counselors there is deliverance.”
Proverbs 15:22 – “Plans fail where there is no counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.”
John Gardner’s quote reminds us of the reality that criticism can crush you and applause can corrupt you. Enlisting the advice of godly mentors can guard you against foolish decisions. They can save a lot of heartache if you’re willing to listen and prayerfully consider their input. A mentor is someone who has been where you want to go and is willing to help you get there, so think about who knows what you need to know and find them. Then make sure you have a teachable spirit and willingness to learn.
Are you open to learning from others? Are you willing to listen and accept wise, sound counsel? Perhaps the biggest obstacle that keeps us from accepting advice is our own pride. You can easily fall into the trap of believing that as the leader you have to produce all the answers, but you do not. Look to others and recruit a variety of godly counselors. God has placed many around you who have unique expertise and experiences. The core principle of spiritual leadership is trusting God as He speaks to us through the wise counsel of other believers.
Give believers in your circle of influence the freedom to express their opinions. The key is not that you always agree but that you discuss and decide together as you prayerfully consider decisions that need to be made.
You need confidants who will speak the truth you need to hear when you need to hear it.
You do not need “yes men” but men who love you enough to step into your office, pull the door closed, and say, “We need to talk.”
You need leaders who love you enough to confront you privately and speak into your life before you make a decision that could damage you or the church.
Invite people into your inner circle to discuss and give feedback. If you’re a leader, have you developed a culture where opinions are valued and desired? The time will come that you will be required to make difficult decisions. They must be faith-based, spirit-led, and influenced by the godly counsel of others. Have people close to you who are willing to ask you the hard questions. It has been said if you want to go fast, travel alone, but if you want to travel far, make the journey with others. Consider the beauty of a triad of people you can bounce ideas off of and give you their perspective and concerns.
Be willing to slow down and be sure before you press forward. One bad decision can get your church off the course God desires. One bad decision can place you on a boat fleeing God’s calling and headed for Tarshish instead of Nineveh.
Henry Blackaby makes a great point: “Jesus didn’t forsake Judas, but neither did He allow Judas to sidetrack Him from His mission.” You should never abandon those whose advice is not spiritual, but you also cannot allow detractors to derail what God has called you and your church to accomplish. When God has made clear His direction, delay is an abdication of leadership.
The time will come to make a decision that is not easy. Have you heard from the Lord? Are you able to recognize His voice? If you make decisions based only on what seems the most advisable, it is very easy to settle for something inferior to God’s best. Seek God’s guidance in prayer, confirm His direction through Scripture, affirm it through other believers, and be willing to evaluate it through your circumstances. Just so you know, spiritual leaders never begin with their circumstances (good or bad) when deciding God’s direction.
Seeking wise godly counsel can save a lot of heartache and disappointment and help you accomplish more because there is strength in numbers. God wants you to fulfill your calling instead of dying to the potential He has placed within you.
In Exodus 18:14, 17-18 Jethro gives his son-in-law Moses some of the best advice in the Bible: “What is this thing you’re doing for the people? Why are you alone sitting as judge, while all the people stand around you from morning until evening? What you’re doing is not good . . . You will certainly wear out both yourself and these people who are with you, because the task is too heavy for you. You can’t do it alone!”