This year marks the 40th anniversary of Mars Hill Productions! In this devotional series, president, Fred Carpenter is reflecting on the important lessons of God that have guided us in ministry and led us into a deeper understanding of His ways.
A Verse That is Often Misunderstood by Fred Carpenter
You’ve probably heard it said, “There is wisdom in a multitude of counselors”. You won’t find that exact quote in the Bible, though there are a number of verses that speak to the value of stepping outside your own frame of reference to seek counsel from others.
“Without consultation, plans are frustrated, but with many counselors, they succeed.” – Proverbs 15:22
But is it true, does wisdom come from a multitude of counselors?
In 1986 we released our 8th film, One In A Million. Like the films before, it was a short dramatic discussion-starter that raised a life issue for teens and leaders to grapple with in pursuit of biblical answers. In 9 years of ministry through media, we had developed a solid reputation and user-base. But now, I had no clear direction for what the next film project should be so we decided to send out a survey to some 20,000 youth workers to see what topics they wanted us to address.
We got back a sizable response. The most commonly requested topics read like the “top ten” list of youth issues from a youth worker 101 training curriculum; dating, parents, drugs & alcohol, self-image, etc. Only 2 or 3 made any mention of helping kids come to know Christ or helping them share their faith with their friends. I certainly considered all of this valuable feedback, but more importantly, I committed all of this input to prayer….what did God want?
I became concerned that my “multitude of counselors” had become so relevant in their profession, that they had almost become irrelevant. They were having difficulty seeing the forest for the trees. God gave me the conviction to listen to the few counselors that wanted a film to lead their kids to Christ and to move them to share their faith with others. So, we set out to create the hardest hitting evangelistic film possible.
The result was Without Reservation, a film about 4 teens who die in a car crash and preview their individual destinies to heaven or hell determined by what they had believed about Christ before they died. Without Reservation went on to be the most used youth film in America at that time! In the late 80’s and early 90’s, the film was used to introduce tens of thousands of young people to Christ. I had done exactly the opposite of what the majority of youth workers recommended.
Fast forward to the late 90’s, and we were working to create a media tool that could easily be adapted to reach any people group in the world with the Gospel. It was a tall order to fill. I thought we should send the script I had written to as many foreign missionaries as possible to get their feedback. The script had an apologetic front-end with and evangelistic conclusion. I received a thumbs-up from just about everyone who responded; but, there were two who said, “Thanks, but we can’t really use that.”
Remembering what God taught me through Without Reservation I thought, “I need to listen to those two guys!”, and I did. They both told me they worked among unreached people groups who lacked an understanding of even the most basic biblical truth; they had no concept of one creator God or of the reality of sin. A presentation that dealt in conceptual apologetics and then moved too quickly to Jesus would have been misunderstood. When they presented the Gospel, they began with creation, and followed the Bible’s “scarlet thread” from the fall of man and the entrance of sin into the world, to the promise of a savior and how that promise is fulfilled in Christ. They presented the metanarrative Gospel story the way God presents it in the Bible.
Praying about the counsel I received from these two men, it occurred to me that what they shared was relevant, not only for unreached people groups but also for post-modern people groups. Their counsel led to the creation of The HOPE video, which is now in 68 languages with over 25 new translations in process. Of all these, the majority have resulted from missionaries who came to us requesting a version of The HOPE in the language of the people they were working to reach.
In both of the examples of above, I received wisdom in seeking counsel from many, though the wisdom I found came from only a few.
1. Wisdom ultimately comes from God, not man. Read Proverbs 15:22 again, carefully. It does not say that wisdom is with the multitude. Wisdom is with God. It is wise to seek counsel, but it is necessary that you look to God to understand it.
Isaiah 48:17 – “I am the LORD your God, who teaches you to profit, who leads you in the way you should go.”
Psalm 32:8 – “I will instruct you and teach you in the way which you should go; I will counsel you with My eye upon you.”
James 1:5 – “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.”
Do not mistake the voice of the crowd for the voice of God – Ask God to give you the wisdom to discern the reality of the situation.
2. Pay attention to the ones that are out of sync with the others. As you follow the wise instruction of Scripture to seek counsel, be aware that the wisdom you seek may be with those who are out of step with the majority (or the consensus). Be open to having you own presuppositions challenged (or corrected).
Proverbs 15:31 – He whose ear listens to the life-giving reproof will dwell among the wise. (A reproof is a course correction)
Learn to recognize the difference between critical people and those who offer constructive criticism.
3. It can be a good thing to be out of sync with the crowd. In I Samuel 17, David the shepherd boy steps forward to fight the giant Philistine warrior, Goliath. David’s brothers and King Saul try to dissuade him and when that fails they attempt to outfit him with conventional armor and weapons. But David comes to realize that the same God who had equipped him to fight lions and bears in defense of his sheep was the same God who was calling him to stand up to this enemy of Israel. David was out of sync with conventional wisdom when he shed the armor and faced Goliath with only a slingshot and stones. Yet, if he had tried it any other way, he likely would have been defeated.