“Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisers they succeed.”Proverbs 15:22 ESV
The term “counsel” suggests the kind of recommendation that a trusted person gives another to ensure a good result as a reward for right action. It is easy to see, then, how counsel is critical in making progress. “The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance” (ESV), according to Proverbs 21:5. If plans precede progress, and counsel is essential to successful planning, then making progress requires good counsel.
Successful planning requires counsel because plans define the specific steps necessary to move a person toward a purpose. Not every step moves someone closer to an intended destination. Sometimes there are multiple paths one can take, but how can anyone be sure which course(s) of action will result in a favorable outcome? This is what counsel supplies—confirmation that a particular step is in the right direction or that one course of action is better than another.
The nature of counsel points to the essence of a counselor, namely that a good counselor is one who possesses expertise and experience. Identifying a step in the right direction or a better course of action necessitates familiarity with the path someone else is taking. Counselors must take steps before they recommend them. This means that advisers must be experienced in a specific subject area before they can give advice.
The depth of knowledge that a counselor possesses makes that person an expert—someone who can be trusted to provide reliable information. While the actual depth of knowledge that constitutes “expertise” may itself be somewhat relative, the common understanding is that an expert has spent much time thinking about, understanding, and practicing a specific area of knowledge or skillset. People trust mechanics to work on cars because mechanics know what a car is, how a car works, and how to keep one running. People trust doctors to work on humans because doctors are familiar with the anatomical, physiological, and biological makeup of humans and how to keep them healthy. Typically, people do not trust mechanics to work on humans, nor do they trust doctors to work on cars. Knowledge is area-specific, and the experience needed to produce expertise requires a considerable time commitment. Consequently, few people are experts in more than one area of knowledge, and no one is an expert in everything. Seeking counsel means seeking counselors, and seeking counselors means identifying the people who have the specific expertise that makes their recommendations reliable and relevant.
While the expertise of advisers makes their knowledge reliable and relevant, it does not necessarily mean they have been equipped to advise well. Knowledge itself and the ability to pass that knowledge to others are two distinct things, and not all possess both. The basic definition of a good teacher is someone who has expert knowledge and can pass that knowledge to others. A teacher’s expert knowledge has come from knowing, understanding, and doing for a considerable length of time. The one thing that makes a teacher unique is the ability to channel that expert knowledge and experience through communication and demonstration to make it accessible to someone else. Thus, good counselors are like good teachers—those who not only have knowledge but who know how to communicate it effectively.
Even with a clear purpose, Christians need counsel to create a good plan. It is imperative, then, that church leaders identify those who know God’s will for teaching, who understand what good teaching looks like, who practice effective teaching habits, and who are equipped to communicate their expertise and experience clearly to others. If churches want to make progress in this area, they will seek counsel and develop plans with input from these Christians.