An Island Unto Itself
This past October, I took the opportunity to read a chapter of Proverbs each day. In doing so, I would write down my thoughts and pray through verses that stood out to me. I noticed that there are several recurring themes throughout the book. For example, the fear of the Lord, preciousness of wisdom and knowledge, the futility of wealth, the worth of a Godly wife, the importance of wise counsel, etc.
Though each of these principles is important for a pastor to understand, I believe it is crucial for the pastor to understand the importance of wise counsel. Though I have not been in ministry long, I have seen too many men attempt to do ministry alone, not seeking the guidance or wisdom of others. I want to dive into the importance of pastors seeking after wise counsel.
The first and most important step though is seeking God’s wisdom and guidance in whatever the situation or circumstance may be. It is imperative that this be the first step in seeking to do anything as a pastor. But, for the purpose of this article, I am assuming that as a pastor you are seeking God’s will in all circumstances.
Let’s dive into a couple texts:
Proverbs 11:14 Without guidance, a people will fall, but with many counselors there is deliverance.
Proverbs 15:22 Plans fail when there is no counsel, but with many advisers, they succeed. Proverbs is clear that one should seek guidance and counsel.
In these two verses, the writer addresses “a people” and “plans.” As a pastor, God has placed you as an overseer of a group of people to accomplish His plan and mission. Therefore, it is crucial to seek counsel and guidance from godly men and women. The outcome for those who fail to seek guidance and counsel is failure, which is not acceptable because God has called you to a mission that is bigger than you: to be instruments of the Gospel to the world around you! Though God does not need you or your church, he has chosen to use you to accomplish His will! Therefore, as pastors, do not attempt to accomplish this mission alone.
So, how can a pastor guard himself against the temptation of doing ministry alone? While there are likely other ways, I want to explore three ways in which we can do so. For each of these ways, I want to provide a quick overview, not an exhaustive study.
Have a plurality of elders
Though some theological camps may differ on this, I feel that it is not only important but also biblical for a church to have a plurality of elders. As First Peter 5:1-4 uses the word “elders” rather than “elder”, it is ascribing a plurality of congregational leadership for the purpose of equipping the saints for ministry. Thus, if a church has a plurality of elders, a pastor is not able to neglect the counsel of others.
Have a deacon body
Though in a biblical model of church leadership a deacon’s role is to serve the church, I feel that this plays a huge part in the pastor seeking the counsel of others. This is crucial because if the deacons are operating as they should, they see and address the needs of the congregation. Thus, if the pastor seeks the deacons’ knowledge, they are able to see ministry from the perspective of the needs of the church and community.
Have congregational accountability
The members of the congregation have a different perspective when it comes to reaching their family, friends, co-workers, and community with the Gospel, rather than pastors. So, even though the pastors or elders of the church guide and lead the church in doctrine, vision, and mission, they must not disconnect themselves from the ones in which they are leading. Pastors ought to seek the wisdom of their congregational members so they can truly lead their congregation to reach their community in a beneficial way.
For the one that is thinking, “I do not have another elders or deacons in my church.” I do not want to leave you out! For you, first seek the advice of mentors or trusted men of God that are outside of the church. Second, seek the key leaders of the church for their guidance and counsel. Third, seek the wisdom of church members. Though it may feel like it, you are not alone! Trust those that God has placed on you.
The phrase “no man is an island” was coined by an English Poet named John Donne in 1624 when he released his work, “Devotions upon Emergent Occasions.” In meditation XVII he begins his poem off by saying, “No man is an island entire of itself; every man is a place of the continent, a part of the main.” Though Donne is not writing this directly to pastors, nor with pastors in mind, there are some amazing implications for pastors. For example, look at the above quote and place it in the context of church leadership. “That no man [pastor] is an island entire to itself [himself], every man is a place of the continent [local church], a part of the main [Church].” God has not separated you from the “continent” or “main” when he set you apart for pastoral work. Rather, he has placed you into a local congregation to oversee a group of people to accomplish His plan and mission.
Pastors, you are not meant to live this life alone. You need godly men and women around you to provide you with Godly counsel and wisdom. Do not try and do it on your own! Allow the elder team, deacon body, and congregation to provide godly counsel and guidance. For you are not an island.
My name is James White (no not that James White) I am husband to Sarah, father to Lottie, serve as the Pastor at Lighthouse Community Church in Vernon, Alabama, and am pursuing my M.Div at NOBTS.