At the beginning of a new ministry assignment, a friend once said to me, “Lots of people will be trying to get your ear.” What he was saying, in principle, is that leaders will hear from lots of people and the leader must be able to discern who he or she should listen to.
While no leader should listen to everyone indiscriminately, each leader must pay attention to how God may be leading through what he or she is hearing from others.
Here are five people each leader should pay attention to:
1. Hear the counsel of your spouse: If you are married to a believing spouse, there is likely no person in your relationship circle who knows you better. There are, however, some Bible characters who listened to their spouse and got in deep trouble. There are also times when your spouse may be used of the Lord to give wise counsel or protective advice. My wife grew up in a pastor’s home and brought wisdom to our marriage about church and family life that I could only have gained through a lifetime of trial and error. In my case, it would have involved mostly error.
2. Hear the kernel of truth of your critic: No one likes criticism, and the person who believes it is his or her ministry to be your personal critic is either spiritually confused or mentally and emotionally unhealthy. Do not obsess over your critic. Do not let their comments live between your ears. It is your job to take every thought captive and not be controlled by criticism. However, occasionally your critic, or critics, may highlight a kernel of truth in their criticism that needs your attention. The Apostles in Acts chapter six likely did not enjoy the criticism that came to them about the underserved widows, but they needed to hear this complaint and respond appropriately.
3. Hear the wisdom of your confidant: A wise pastor friend in my past would regularly share the advice that every person needs a confidant. This is an individual who can be trusted with sensitive information and can be relied on to share wise counsel. During an important decision time in my life, I turned to three personal confidants and received the same wise counsel from each one. Their counsel helped confirm God’s direction for my life and ministry.
4. Hear the concerns of your futurist: Who, in your realm of influence, sees further ahead than others? Who is asking questions about the future direction of your ministry assignment that no one else is asking? The advice of the futurist must be received in balance as he or she may be so far ahead of others that their counsel could bring unintended consequences. It is important to hear what they are saying about what they believe is coming and ask good questions to better understand their views.
5. Hear the encouragement of your encourager: There are times when a leader needs someone to pat them on the back and tell them they are doing a good job. Your encourager may see you and your gifts more realistically than you can see them. He or she may also see you in a better light than you see yourself. Your encourager cannot be the only voice you hear, but their encouragement may be used of the Lord to provide fuel for the fight you are called to engage.
My friend was right. Lots of people will try to get your ear in ministry. Although God’s Word is our primary counsel and we must check everything through its lens, God may also direct and encourage us through the counsel of others. Will you be ready and willing to listen? What has the Lord been showing you lately by listening to those around you?