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  • Writer's pictureDave Bates

How to choose business advisors for your faith-driven organization

One of the most important and valuable things a business owner or leader will do is choose business advisors. An advisor can be anyone from a board member to a coach, a mentor to a confidant. There are several key points to consider - including the need to have advisors in the first place.

There are at least 80 verses in the Bible that deal with taking counsel. Perhaps the most familiar is Proverbs 15:22:

Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisors they succeed.

On its own, it’s a wise saying. When combined with other biblical principles, it becomes a powerful factor in the work we do as business and ministry leaders.

Let’s look briefly back at some Old Testament history.

A story of failing to wisely choose business advisors

In 1 Kings 12, a new king took over the northern kingdom of Israel. Rehoboam was young and lacked leadership experience. The scripture tells us that he called for advisors - a wise move, right?

He called those who advised his father, the previous king. You might know who that was - Solomon. They came and offered counsel that Rehoboam should be a servant leader within the kingdom. Rehoboam listened and then sent them away.

Wait, take a look at that again.

Solomon. King Solomon. King Solomon “The wise”. Do you remember the story in 1 Kings 3? Bear with me if you do - it’s worth looking at again as leaders:

At Gibeon the Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream by night, and God said, “Ask what I shall give you.”....

Solomon replies:

Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, that I may discern between good and evil, for who is able to govern this your great people?”

And God answers:

Behold, I give you a wise and discerning mind, so that none like you has been before you and none like you shall arise after you.

Solomon, through God’s power, was the most wise person who ever lived.

Do you see it?

He also had advisors.

In fact, the land had peace in Solomon’s time. These advisors who came to Rehoboam are the same ones who advised Solomon during this period. It was among the most peaceful and successful years in Israel’s history.

Rehoboam was in a perfect position to extend his father’s legacy.

But he “rejected the advice the elders gave him and consulted the young men who had grown up with him and were serving him”.

You can read the rest of the book of Kings and see how it turned out. Spoiler alert, it didn’t go well.

Applying scripture in how you choose business advisors

If the most wise leader *ever* had advisors on the payroll, why don’t we all?

It’s a powerful question.

In a biblically based, faith-driven business, it’s critical to choose business advisors wisely if we want to use our business as a tool for advancing God’s kingdom.

Here are some ways to think about our choices:

  • Be equally yoked (alignment)

  • Give freedom free say what we might not want to hear (invitation)

  • Together, ask counsel from the Lord (direction)

Be equally yoked

For many believers, 2 Corinthians 6:14 exists only in the context of marriage. It is, after all, the main place we hear about it. It also applies to business.

Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?

Sounds a bit harsh, doesn’t it.

Isn’t all truth God’s truth? Can’t an unbeliever have worthwhile insights?

Of course.

What does it mean to be “yoked”? Before the widespread use of tractors, farmers plowed fields with pairs of oxen called a “team”. They paid A LOT of attention to which oxen they paired together. After all, these animals are literally locked together with wood and iron.

A stubborn ox stops the progress for the team.

A weak ox slows the progress, creates wobbly furrows (more difficult for harvest), and frustrates the farmer.

When you and your advisors have different worldviews, it can lead to misaligned goals and purposes. You are unequally yoked. Danger is ahead for your ministry at work.

This applies in many areas. It’s important to understand scriptural, moral, and even legal factors in how you build your business and advisory team. The most important thing is that, no matter how compelling an advisor’s experience is, you - the believing leader - are accountable before God for who you yoke yourself to, and how you’re locked in together.

Give freedom

Taking counsel can be difficult. Especially when it doesn’t align with what we want to hear. Rehoboam clearly did not want to hear that he should lead the people of Israel with a servant’s heart.

When counselors give advice we do not like, we see whether or not we’re serious about having equally yoked business advisors.

Consider these questions:

  • If your organization has a board of directors, how many advisors does it take to pause a decision temporarily - or even permanently?

  • If you have a leadership team, what system(s) do you have in place to receive input that might be difficult for a person to give because of how you might respond?

Looking back at Rehoboam’s choices, it’s easy to see the chilling effect that a leader has when they dismiss things that might be difficult or undesirable.

That’s all well and good but, what happens when one of these business advisors is just being the proverbial “stick in the mud”?

Together, seek counsel from the Lord

When you’re feeling that a counselor is on par with Balaam’s donkey, consider whether or not there’s an angel of the Lord standing in the way. Remember that story from Numbers?

It’s worth noting that Balaam was on his way to a *huge* mistake.

Take a good look at this verse from the middle of the story (vs. 22-23) in Numbers 22:

But God was very angry when he went, and the angel of the Lord stood in the road to oppose him. Balaam was riding on his donkey, and his two servants were with him. When the donkey saw the angel of the Lord standing in the road with a drawn sword in his hand, it turned off the road into a field. Balaam beat it to get it back on the road.

Do you see it?

God did not appear to Balaam or his servants.

Only THE DONKEY saw him.

And, the sword was drawn.

The angel of the Lord did not draw the sword to threaten Balaam. The angel of the Lord only draws the sword for one purpose. In fact, the angel says what it was in verse 32: “I would certainly have killed you by now…

Balaam was about to die for his stubbornness but he was saved by his donkey.

The leadership moment

It’s about that donkey, actually. The miracle of a talking donkey is stunning.

In verse 30, the donkey gets to defend himself in a way that Balaam just can’t refute.

"Have I been in the habit of doing this to you?”

“No,” he (Balaam) said.

The leadership opportunity is clear.

If an advisor is opposing you as a founder, owner, CEO, or leader at any other level, it’s a good practice to stop and ask whether or not this is normal.

If there’s a big decision to make, it’s probably worth taking time to sort out what’s going on for that advisor. If there’s more than one advisor in the “donkey” role, rather than thinking they’re colluding against you, what if you choose to slow down and find out what they see that you are missing?

So what now?

Here are a couple of questions I encourage you to consider:

  • If you’re seeding your advisory team, it’s a good time to inquire of the Lord about who He would have you select. Talk to people you respect and, if you can, talk to someone who has made this journey before.

  • If you’ve already got an advisory team, how’s it going? What policies and practices might you want to revisit in light of this?

  • If you’re struggling with an unequal yoking, what support do you need in order to gracefully and graciously unwind things? What wise and experienced counsel can you find to help you walk through the process so you’re not alone?

If you'd like to have a chat to find a realistic starting point, please let me know. I'd be happy to offer some perspective and help you figure out a meaningful first step.

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