More than perhaps anything else, who we listen to will determine the trajectory of our ministry. If we listen to godly, wise, smart people who have our best interest and that of the Kingdom at heart, it will leaven our lives and ministries. If we listen to the wrong people, we can expect a world of trouble.
The story of Rehoboam, Solomon’s son, is a case in point. When the people come to Rehoboam upon Solomon’s death asking for a work-load adjustment, his father’s advisers recommend he grant it to them. However, he makes the mistake of asking his homies, who give him the counsel to increase their labor load and to do so with great pride. The results split Israel, leaving Rehoboam with just a small remnant of a kingdom—and a lot of pain. Over the years, I’ve taken some bad advice and taken some good advice. I’ve given some good advice and advice that in hindsight didn’t work out. Yet, seeking good advice is vital to growth in ministry and the sheer navigation of life. So, it’s important to make sure we are listening to the right people.
When it comes to taking advice from others, here are the kinds of people I try to listen to:
The godly. I don’t want to yoke my future to someone who doesn’t know Jesus or advises me toward a course of action in isolation from the question, “What would Christ want me to do?” Some of the worst decisions I’ve made I made when I asked someone for advice that wasn’t led by God’s Spirit. It’s the sin of Rehoboam—ask the ungodly for advice. It’s also to the disciples’ benefit they ask Jesus how to pray. Don’t choose to be unequally yoked in wisdom—especially when facing a difficult decision.
The wise. There are people who just drip wisdom. They may or may not be older. They often are. Wisdom often comes from experience and maturity. These are people who can advise me not only on what to do—but how to do it. They see aspects of the problem I might not. They look down the road for me. Again, this is the sin of Rehoboam—ignoring his father’s older advisers. Contrast that with the blessing of Jethro’s voice in the life of Moses. Find some Yodas. Note: Wisdom comes from God, not simply age. There are young sages and old fools. Don’t think someone is wise simply because they are older…or foolish because they are younger.
People who have my back. I tend to ask for advice from people who know me, and who I know have a predisposition to helping me be successful at whatever I put my hand to. If the person might be envious, or doesn’t have any genuine interest in the outcome of their advice, I go elsewhere. People who have my back are also more ready to offer real solutions to the problem. They are willing to use their own network, their own time and energy to helping me navigate difficult waters. These are the Good Samaritans who will pull us out of the ditch, bind our wounds, and help us recover when we’ve been beaten on the road. Yet, they aren’t just do-gooders. They genuinely care about us.
The smart. Some of the decisions we face as leaders are extremely complicated. Smart people help us find innovative solutions and solve complex problems requiring sheer smarts. I have about a half-dozen ministry rocket-scientists I consult whenever I’m facing an extremely complicated ministry situation that needs not only godly wisdom, but sheer smarts. So, if you’re facing a situation that requires advice, look for a godly, wise, smart person who really desires your success. They obviously don’t grow on trees—but they are precious resources when they are found. In my experience, they are “found” when we are intentional about relationship with others. My relationships with mentors and trusted friends in ministry is one of the greatest blessings in my life.
I’d rather sit and talk life and ministry with a close friend in the trenches than do almost anything else. However, the most reliable source of wisdom and advice is God himself—through His Word and Spirit. After listening to advice, don’t be afraid to do what you believe God has called you to do. Test that calling in prayer and seek godly counsel. Then, walk in the courage and strength of the Lord. Two of the best decisions I’ve ever made in my life I made when nearly everyone I consulted told me differently. But, in each case, I sensed a clear call of God and went anyway. Sometimes the only Joshua and Caleb around you are those in you. Advice is advice. Call is call. Seek great advice, then obey God’s call.