An abundance of counselors


Some thirty-five years ago the Adventist Church in North-Western Europe organized a study week for leaders of Adventist institutions in its territory. Together with two other Dutch institutional leaders (the director of the seminary and secondary school ‘Oud Zandbergen’ and of the Old People’s Home  “Vredenoord’) I flew to the Scottish city of Edinburgh, and from there i Drove the hire care for the three of us to Crieff, where at the time the church operated a health institution. I served in those days as the director of the Dutch Adventist publishing house. It was before the sudden demise of the colporteur system, which starkly reduced the church’s publishing activities.

What I remember most vividly of this leadership  training was the ‘game’ that was intended to show us that involving a number of people in a decision making process usually produces a better result than when one person decides. This is also the case when it concerns something for which no one has any special expertise. We were split into small groups and were to imagine a survival situation and to determine how we were going to ‘save’ ourselves.  First we were to give our individual appraisal of the situation, and then the problem was to be discussed in the group. Subsequently, our individual solution and the plan that was devised by the group were compared with the judgment of a few real experts. To my amazement it appeared that in all cases the decision of the group scored higher than that of each one of us separately. That the lesson hit home is clear from the fact that, after so many years, this experience is still firmly imprinted on my mind.

Last week I had a similar experience. As I wrote in a recent  blog, I am in the final phase of writing a book for Adventist believers ‘on the margins’ of their church. In first instance the book will be published in English, but hopefully a little later also a Dutch edition will appear. This past week I had to decide what the cover is going to look like. I also had to make a final decision on the exact title and subtitle, and on the text on the back of the cover.

A few weeks ago I wrote the cover text and, quite frankly, was quite satisfied with the result. The graphic designer, who is involved with the project, presented me with seven graphic possibilities for the cover. I gave him a picture of myself to accompany the text on the back of the cover. I agreed with the designer that within a week I would indicate my preference for one of these seven preliminary designs. However, almost immediately after he had shown me the various options in the grand café where we met, I knew I preferred number one, with number six as my second choice. The first option was based on an abstract design, in various shades of blue. In number six the face of a young woman with a questioning look dominated.

In the past few days I showed the designs, complete with title and subtitle, and the text for the back (with a small picture of myself) to some thirty people. My initial confidence that I was on the right track was soon thoroughly undermined. A majority of the ‘jury’ thought that design number one was too ‘technical’ (my daughter said: it reminds me of scientology), and that number six would not sufficiently draw the reader’s interest.  Well, having weighed all the arguments that I heard, I decide last evening to ask the designer to further develop design number two, albeit with a different typeface for the title and the subtitle, a small change in the actual wording of the title and a modified text at the back of the cover. I rewrote the text with the aim of making it more personal.

Yesterday morning I had a session with a photographer to get a new picture of myself that would more accurately portray current reality, as attractive as the object of his photo would permit.

The poet of the Bible book of Proverbs already stated: ‘In an abundance of counselors is victory’ (24:6). My Scottish lessen of so many years apparently was not yet lost on me.