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Two Heads are Better than One

Wisdom in a plurality of elders

Proverbs 11:14

14 Where there is no counsel, the people fall;
But in the multitude of counselors there is safety.

Proverbs 15:22

22 Without counsel, plans go awry,
But in the multitude of counselors they are established.

Proverbs 24:6

For by wise counsel you will wage your own war,
And in a multitude of counselors there is safety.


What would you do if you had two heads? First of all, you would probably get a few stares in traffic, and you would have to double your haircut and hat budgets which would be a definite downside. But what if you had access to double the brain power, double the creativity, and double the wisdom? 

Your opportunities to have success in business could increase exponentially. Your sense or humor or artistic talent could be the envy of others, and you be a fount of knowledge and help to those in need. 

Then again, you might also have double the anxiety, double the frustration, and double the sinful desires to deal with as well. 

Plus the whole haircut dilemma. (What if one head constantly wants a fancy style job, while the other is content with the $20 high-and-tight from SuperCuts? The mind boggles.)

In Douglas Adams’ classic sci-fi novel “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy,” he introduces the character, Zaphod Beeblebrox (pronounced zay-fod beeb-…oh, just forget it). Zaphod is the duly elected “President of the Galaxy.” 

Zaphod also has two heads. 

This fact is treated nonchalantly in the story, until one of the characters, Ford Prefect, finally points out the obvious:

Ford: What’s with the whole two-head thing? 

Zaphod: Oh, yeah, apparently you can't be president with a whole brain.

Now that IS an idea. How much better a nation’s–or a galaxy’s–leadership might be with a two-headed head of state?

Solomon, in Proverbs chapter 11, ponders the same thing, and conveys as much to his young readers:

14 Where there is no counsel, the people fall;
But in the multitude of counselors there is safety.–Proverbs 11:14

This is a little proverb that says a lot. Solomon is saying that a community, be it a country, a city, a church, or even a family, will suffer without proper guidance. This concept is so important, he repeats it in future verses, as if to drive his point home, first in chapter 15:

22 Without counsel, plans go awry,
But in the multitude of counselors they are established.–Proverbs 15:22

And again in chapter 24:

For by wise counsel you will wage your own war,
And in a multitude of counselors there is safety.–Proverbs 24:6

How does your church leadership make decisions? Most denominations have a hierarchy of leadership that includes different courts made up of multiple clergy or ordained officers. From cardinals to ruling elders, bishops to a board of deacons, having multiple people to come together to pray, reason, and make decisions serves to benefit the people of God. 

This is a call to consider a number of aspects of how God preserves His people as a functioning, healthy community of believers. 

The first verset of verse 14 is a reminder to beware of a lack of, or an abuse of authority: Where there is no counsel…

A church that lacks decisive leadership in the form of a ruling board or a pastor strong enough to make even difficult decisions, will suffer in the long run. Does your church session or leadership board avoid making tough rulings when it comes to planning, worship, or discipline? It is easy to “kick the can down the road” when faced with an unpopular decision that could generate negative responses from the congregation.

As a pastor, are you tempted to rule with too much authority? It is one thing to possess a vision for your church, and another to push an agenda, or “leave your mark” on your church. This proverb is a reminder that there should be no “lone wolves” when it comes to shepherding the Body of Christ. 

Moreover, a church leader must lead in love. Pastor Nick Batzig explains:

Officers of the church must carry out their oversight in love. It is far too easy for men to take a firm stand in an insensitive manner. Remember the words of the apostle Paul, "Shall I come to you with a rod, or with love in a spirit of gentleness?" (1 Corinthians 4:21).–Nick Batzig

As a pastor, elder, or leader, are you tempted to rule with an “iron hand?” Discipline is one of the marks of the church–but it must be wielded carefully and with loving humility. On the other hand, your must seek to protect the Bride of Christ against false teachers (Jude 4-5), and safeguard the purity of the church. Doing so in love, as Christ first loved you, is paramount. 

Christians can be hurt by false doctrine, but they can also be hurt by bad church governance. As a church leader, are you aware of how you communicate to the flock? Does poor communication, or harsh wording, cause lasting harm to those “weaker” brethren than you?  

Solomon’s choice of the word “counsel” (or “guidance”) tells you that a community needs multiple wise leaders to achieve success. Wisdom, thus, is more important than strength of personality or strength of opinion. Without it he is saying, the world, the flesh and the devil (Aquinas’“implacable enemies of the soul”) will prevail.

There are example of this throughout Scripture. Moses sought the counsel of his father-in-law Jethro in Exodus 18. Moses was a Hebrew raised as son of Egyptian nobility–and yet he knew that godly counsel other than his own experience was needed.

 The New Testament is replete with the call to seek multiple sources of advice, or to establish multiple leaders to ensure fair governance. Paul instructs Timothy to establish multiple elders and to seek out and to honor those who are wise:

17 Let the elders who rule well be counted worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in the word and doctrine.–I Timothy 5:17

The author of Hebrews calls you to obey them:

17 Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you.–Hebrews 13:17

Do you struggle to obey your church leaders? Here in the modern west, it is easy to see your elders or leaders the same as elected officials or congressmen. Since it is easy to feel that the “bums in Washington” are a clueless bunch, it is tempting to feel the same way when your church session adopts a vision you do not like, or makes a ruling with which you disagree.

Be careful in how you respond or give feedback. Like or not, your elders are called by God and “ordained” into His service. When you gossip or grumble against the Lord’s anointed, you can be guilty of complaining against Christ. 

Above all, it is Jesus who has declared himself the head of the church, having bought and paid for her with His own blood.: 

18 And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.–Matthew 8:18

Verse 14 continues with a hope for help. The Hebrew verb וּ֝תְשׁוּעָ֗ה  (“teshua”) is “deliverance” or “safety.” Here it implies helping those in trouble, rather than simply rescuing them from it. For by providing guidance and Christ’s example, you will help your brother or sister in Christ to learn and grow

What does this safety look like? Pastor Batzig again sheds some light on this:

God has provided a plurality of elders for the oversight of the body of Christ. In this way, the Lord ensures that the pastor is not alone. When confronted with opposition to a particular doctrine or practice, the minister has the benefit of bringing the matter before the session of the church.–Nick Batzig

Your pastor may quite possibly feel like the loneliest man in the world at times. He bears your burdens, along with the burdens of all under his care. This can be exhausting and isolating. If he is surrounded by supportive, prayerful men who will lift him up and share the weight of responsibility, they can care for him and his family–as well as for those under their charge as elders or leaders.

The early church was marked by a “plurality of elders” who gave strength and guidance to the new and growing congregations. They provided a depth and breadth of knowledge, wisdom, and service in which the tender shoots of the new congregations could take root and grow: 

23 So when they had appointed elders in every church, and prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord in whom they had believed.–Acts 14:23 

God has provided a plurality of elders for the oversight of the body of Christ. In this way, the Lord ensures that the pastor is not alone. When confronted with opposition to a particular doctrine or practice, the minister has the benefit of bringing the matter before the session of the church.

Now, perhaps, you are beginning to see that the idea that “two heads is better than one,” is more than science fiction, it is the plan and will of God for His church. This does not come without caution, for if a body of church leaders operates out of selfishness, obligation, or personal desire for recognition, then the effect of the sins of those in that body can be multiplied and harm God’s children. 

This must be prevented and guarded against in several ways, including prayer, and growth in God’s Word. As Peter and the disciples instructed the early church: 

Therefore, brethren, seek out from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business; but we will give ourselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word.”–Acts 6:4

Notice that these men do not attend seminars or necessarily have prequalified as business managers or civil leaders, but instead give themselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word.

These are to be, simply, godly men.

Here are some benefits to a “plurality of elders” or a multitude of wise, godly church leaders:

First, having multiple leaders ensures that the pastor and people are not alone. This is mentioned above, but just as Jesus sent out His disciples to minister, and even perform miracles in His name, so He sends your session into battle for your spiritual well-being. They are to care for your pastor too. If your session or board sees your pastor as a bookish man who “only works on Sundays,” then they do not rule in the Spirit of Christ. 

 Second, a plurality of elders or leaders allows for shared accountability. Timothy Witmer in his book The Shepherd Leader, reminds elders that they will be held accountable by God for those under their care: 

If we cannot do all, let us do what we can; for, if we neglect it, woe to us, and to the souls committed to our care! Should we pass over all these other duties, and, by a plausible sermon only, think to prove ourselves faithful ministers, and to put off God and man with such a shell and vizor, our reward will prove as superficial as our work.–Timothy Witmer, “The Shepherd Leader" 

This means that church leaders have a duty to Christ to care for those for whom He has died (John 17), as well as share the joy of a church well-served.

Third, and last, having multiple, qualified, godly men as leaders will help ensure that Christ’s vision for His church will be carried out and fulfilled. This is done through steadfast prayer, sacrifice, and a willingness to give their own lives, comfort, and well-being for those whom Jesus has placed under their charge. 

Do you support your elders or church leaders–or do you complain about their decisions or treat them as simply glorified politicians? Do you, as an elder, deacon, or church officer, actually love those under your care–or do you only look out for your favorite “constituents?” 

Wisdom comes through the sacrificial love of Christ, the “wisdom of God,” and by it, will His people be blessed.



The Monday—Friday DEEPs are written by Mike Slay and this Saturday Deep is written by Matt Richardson. To subscribe to all the DEEPs click here:

The weekly study guides, which include the Monday–Friday devotionals plus related questions for discussion or meditation, are available for download here:

Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. ESV stands for the English Standard Version. © Copyright 2001 by Crossway. Used by permission. All rights reserved. NIV stands for The Holy Bible, New International Version®. © Copyright 1973 by International Bible Society. Used by permission. All rights reserved. KJV stands for the King James Version.

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