How do you, as a pastor, choose who to receive counsel from? What are some examples of where counsel has been really helpful to you, and have there been instances where it was important that you reject certain counsel?
First of all, I receive counsel from those who are over me in the Lord. Personally, I have a pastor, and he’s the one I primarily go to for advisement and counsel. I also have two other men that I’ve recognized in life as a father in the faith whom I receive from. My natural father is still alive (84 years old) and is born again and Spirit-filled. I still approach my dad quite often with questions, and I receive his counsel.
Early on in ministry, I read in 2 Chronicles 10:8 that Rehoboam “forsook the counsel which the old men gave him, and took counsel with the young men that were brought up with him….” Through this verse, the Lord made me to see that it would be unwise to receive my counsel from those of like spiritual experience or at a similar level of spiritual maturity. I therefore formulated an “advisory board” made up exclusively of pastors and ministers who had all served longer than I have and who have served successfully. I continue to accept counsel from these men.
All counsel that I receive must go through the filter of God’s Word. If it’s biblical advice, I receive/consider it. If it’s not biblical, I reject it.
I look for two things in choosing someone to get advice from—friendship and fruitfulness. It has to be someone who is a friend, someone I know has my best interest at heart, won’t exploit me for needing advice, and someone who will keep the necessary confidence.
A friend sticks closer than a brother, and in that kind of situation, you need a friend. You need someone you look forward to meeting with, not someone you feel nervous around or want to avoid.
Secondly, I look for a track record of fruitfulness in the sort of situation you are facing. If I am trying to break the 250 growth barrier, I want someone who is pastoring hundreds and gathered them himself. If I want to talk about marriage, I want someone with a fruitful, happy, and healthy marriage.
If you choose a friend who is not fruitful in the area you need advice, it won’t work; they won’t have the wisdom and confidence to help. If you choose a fruitful person who is not a friend, there is no bridge for the truck of wisdom to drive across and it will never get to you in the way necessary for you to benefit from it.
I’m sure there will be some great responses. I just wanted to add this one tip.
When asking advice, ask the person for the ‘pros’ and the ‘cons.’ Let them tell you why it’s a good idea and why it’s a bad idea. That way you’ve taken their advice whichever way you go. If someone can’t tell you the upside and the downside of a proposed action, they probably don’t have enough wisdom on the subject to be credible.
A wise fellow student on my arrival at Rhema in 1986 said, “Be sure to make friends whilst you are here, and also have a link with the base.” I’m not sure where this fellow received this advice; one can only assume it was handed down from previous students that became minsters themselves.
I heeded that advice and began looking for people serving in areas of ministry where I was serving. But then, how to look for someone linked to the base? I always had a strong interest in the area of prayer and healing, so for me, the pull toward serving in that capacity was a natural one. So where I served became my link, and to this day, my stalwart friend still resides at Rhema Bible Church and still has an ear for me.
I have found there are circles of influence: those that are teachers or have influence over you, personal or ministerial friends, and then those you have a responsibility for.
In times of need for me, it’s always back to the base as one supply. I also look to fellow minsters that I consider know more than I do—people I honor and respect (respect is huge for me and people that can be trusted).
I believe God has given all of us at least one special person that we allow to speak into our lives. In a church setting, one has leaders for the gathering of ideas. But I find if I were requiring counseling, this is not the place to go! It can cause a few “wobbles” among the leaders, and a leader/pastor is required to lead at all times to those they are called to lead. It’s not the place to go.
You May Need to Dig Out that Special Person
If you don’t have that trusted person, ask God because they are there. God never leaves us alone without provision. In one particular season where, to me, it seemed I needed advice, I asked God to bring people into my life that were more developed and had walked where I was walking. God is faithful and He has done just that. Now I don’t just have a counselor, I have a friend. It may be uncomfortable to build relationships or seek out someone to speak to and be able to trust, but they are there.
I would say if you didn’t have the advice I was given all those years ago, you can start now regardless. Here is how:
- Ask God for that person that you can trust.
- Ask Him for someone that knows more than you.
- Remember that for every need, question , or help that is needed, there is an answer that already exists and God will bring that person to you who carries the answer and will make them known to you.
- Even with that trusted friend, remember don’t rely on one source but in the mouth of two or three witnesses everything is established. In other words, God will confirm truth to you through others in daily life without you having to say something. We just need to listen and not be consumed by issue (remember, God has us surrounded with truth).
- Don’t close yourself off and say there is nobody out there to help me (I have said that, and it didn’t help).
- Don’t be open to everyone, but be wise that the answer is coming. God will see to it personally. Remembering in times when we need counseling that it’s more important to God that we receive the help we need and get the answer. We are always on His heart.
Finally, be open to being an answer to someone else—that’s an answer too!
Without counsel purposes are disappointed: but in the multitude of counsellors they are established.
I have found that our greatest challenge is finding the “right counselors” for the challenge at hand. There have been times that I’ve needed and sought out the counsel of those that had more experience than I, so that I might learn from their wisdom. My pastor, Sam Smith, who went home to be with the Lord some time ago, was always a source of great wisdom and helped me with decisions I was facing. He never told me what I wanted to hear, but simply told me what I needed to hear and I believe that is the most important aspect of seeking wise counsel.
Simply asking other people’s advice so that it confirms your present actions will not really help you to fulfill the plan and purpose of God. The right counsel is the one that will help you see truth in your situation and will guide you to the Word of God. It is God’s Word that is a light unto our path (Psalm 119: 105) and not the consensus of the majority.
There have been times that I have needed to seek out the counsel of those directly around me. Living in another country and ministering in another culture presents certain circumstances that need the perspective of those that also understand that culture. Every city, every region, and every country has its own culture, by that I mean the value system that people deem important, and culture plays an important part of reaching people and winning their trust. (1 Cor. 9:19-23)
Over the years I have been faced with many decisions that were more cultural rather than right or wrong. For example, when our ministry was involved with translating and publishing books for Kenneth Hagin Ministries, there was always a discussion about the covers of each title. The covers printed for the US were flashy and colorful whereby the European eye was much more subdued and rather understated. This example may seem insignificant, but at the time I needed the counsel of those living here in Europe more than just doing what worked somewhere else. Over the years there have been many such decisions made that needed the counsel of those around me.
In conclusion, I have always sought counsel in my decisions, but my first and last counsel has always been prayer and the Word of God. Each one of us must be willing to take a stand for the decisions we make. There was a time we were facing a difficult choice in the church and everyone around me was divided about what to do. My wife walked into my office with a blue plastic bucket in her hand and she placed it on my desk and simply walked out. In the bucket was a note. The note said, “The buck stops here. Pray, hear from God and make your decision.” She was right. I did and God helped. I believe this is one of the most challenging aspects of ministry, but as we keep our hearts towards God and our ears open to wise counsel, God will show us the right path.
But the path of the just is as the shining light, that shines more and more unto the perfect day.
As a pastor, I receive counsel from other pastors—ministers who I respect and have years of experience in the pastorate. Pastor Sam Smucker is the first minister I call concerning situations we face. Because Pastor Sam has been in the ministry a long time, virtually every problem we face has been dealt with at some point by Pastor Sam. Some areas I have received counsel from Pastor Sam are areas of marriages between unsaved people, marriages between one person who is saved and one person who is not saved, and counsel on dealing with homosexual individuals.
I talk to other pastors that I have a relationship with as well. I often call Rev. Tony Cooke and he is always faithful to give me good counsel. In truth, the person I look the most to for counsel is my wife, Pastor Sheila. She is an ordained pastor, and she has been with me in this ministry every day for almost 35 years. When it comes to dealing with people, Pastor Sheila has incredible insight. The Holy Spirit uses her mightily to help those in need of help. She is a ‘straight shooter,’ but she is kind as well. No one is more interested in the circumstances we face in the church than Pastor Sheila. Over the years she has ‘girded’ her emotions and rarely lets them get the better of her in difficult, emotional scenarios.
There have been ecumenical meetings with pastors from various denominations. Often these men of God share their insight. I respect them, but often if they are not Spirit-filled, their counsel is very different than mine. The best example is their use of secular counselors for Christian people. That makes no sense to me.
How do I, as a pastor, choose who to receive counsel from? As in so many areas when it comes to our Christian walk, it is about relationships. As a pastor it is important that we have developed relationships with people in whom we can confide, and it is important to be able to receive counsel from them. I don’t just receive counsel from anyone; but there are those that over time, I have developed a deeper relationship with that I know love me and have my well-being at heart—spiritually, mentally and physically. I remember after my son-in-law Adam passed away, and the tough time that my wife and I went through both for ourselves and my daughter, a missionary friend of mine encouraged us to take at least a two-week vacation to get away from it all and get refreshed both spiritually and emotionally. At first, I wasn’t sure of his counsel, but the more he talked and encouraged me, the more I could see that it was wise counsel that he was giving me. My wife and I took that two-week vacation, and we were so glad that we had heeded his counsel because we were able to have a ‘reset,’ so to speak. I had developed a strong relationship with this missionary having taken four groups to where he and his wife were missionaries. They had also stayed at our house a couple of times, and so not only were we peers in ministry, we had become close friends. A year and a half after Janice, my first wife, passed away I was thinking about asking a lady out that was part of the congregation I pastor. I got a call from my pastor and he gave me some wise counsel concerning some areas that I hadn’t thought of, and that counsel served me well, and today that lady is my wife.
To answer the second question, there have been times when it was important to reject certain counsel because of the Holy Spirit on the inside telling me otherwise. While it is good to have people with whom we can receive counsel from, it is very important that we listen to the Holy Spirit. We can always depend on His counsel because it will never fail us. There have been times when someone has given me counsel in an area, or about a particular thing, but when I prayed more about it, the Holy Spirit told me not to heed that counsel. I was so glad that I heeded the Holy Spirit because if I had heeded the counsel of the person, it would not have gone well.
It is good and wise to seek counsel from those we know and trust because it can prove beneficial to us. However, don’t negate the Great Counselor—the Holy Spirit—who will lead us and guide us into all truth.
Grace and peace!
Most denominations have godly men that have experience that can give good counsel. I can’t even count the number of times I have called the RHEMA ministerial office for advice. It actually started before I graduated. While I was a student, I was dealing with an issue. I didn’t know how I could say that I forgave someone if I didn’t trust them. At that time, Tony Cooke was a pastor at RHEMA Bible Church. He gave me a tape (for those who might be younger, it is what they recorded messages on before cds and digital). The tape answered my questions. Brother Tony called me at 7 AM on a Saturday (I don’t think he took into account the time change from where he was that weekend). I remember saying, “I got my answer.” I have been able to help so many others with what I learned from that tape. Ultimately, any advice needs to be submitted to the Word and the Spirit of God.
When it comes to church-related issues such as personnel workers, department heads, volunteers, etc., I receive counsel from my staff. As far as church function, this has been very helpful.
I seek counsel outside the church from fellow pastor friends and mentors concerning doctrinal issues, what speakers to have come to our church, hold seminars, etc. I also seek counsel from my board as to the overall condition of my ministry and finances.
The basis on which I choose not to receive counsel from are those who have doctrine or fruit which are in question.