Thursday, 03 April 2014 14:27

Why All Pastors Should Be Competent Counselors

Written by  Lou Priolo, Eastwood Counseling Center
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There are many reasons for pastors to learn how to counsel from Scripture. The ultimate reason is to glorify God. But there are other reasons—the first motivation falls under the second greatest biblical commandment to “love our neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:39). Pastors should counsel biblically (or learn how to do so) because the gospel of Christ can change (help) people better, faster and more completely than anything the competition has to offer.

“Competition?” you ask.

 

Yes, competition. There are arguably 300 or so theories of counseling out there that attempt to bring about change in people’s behavior apart from the three most powerful agents for change in the entire universe—the Holy Spirit, the Word of God, and the local church.

 

The second reason pastors should counsel is because biblical counseling, above all other systems, can offer people hope. The people who come for counseling usually don’t just need help, they need hope. They need to sense from their counselors the conviction that God is able solve their seemingly hopeless problems. Pastors who are armed with the Gospel of Jesus Christ are much better able to offer such hope than the competition.

 

The third reason pastors should be counselors is because God holds the officers of His church responsible to counsel as a part of their life calling. God uniquely calls church leaders to do the work of biblical counseling as a part of their pastoral responsibilities. Hebrews 13:17 is not only instructive to the church member, but also to the church officer.

 

 

 “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you.” (emphasis added)

 

 

What does it mean to “keep watch” over the souls of the saints? The Greek construction of this word (?γρυπν?ω), which means to be watchful (attentive), is present and active, indicating continuous action on the part of the shepherd. This connotes an almost hyper vigilant mind-set on the part of the shepherd. In other words, it’s not a matter of waiting around until some problem in the flock materializes, but rather of proactively looking for signs of a problem before they develop. A good shepherd will regularly examine his sheep. He will keep his eyes peeled for indications of sickness. He will notice any unusual smells or sounds emanating from the sheep’s bodies. He will check their fleeces, running his hands under the wool to check for scabs, unusual lumps, or insects. He will notice things that don’t look normal—not to find problems where none exists, but to deal with any real issues before they become serious ones. The point is that shepherding involves a level of intimacy with the sheep that too few church leaders are willing to achieve. Shepherding can be dirty work. All of this necessitates counseling.

 

Paul’s example of an elder who is intimately involved with his flock can be seen in Acts 20:18–21.

 

 

And when they had come to him, he said to them, “You yourselves know, from the first day that I set foot in Asia, how I was with you the whole time, serving the Lord with all humility and with tears and with trials which came upon me through the plots of the Jews; how I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you publicly and from house to house, solemnly testifying to both Jews and Greeks of repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.”

 

 

Paul was not the kind of shepherd who locked himself in the study for 35 hours per week, only to come out to publicly preach on the Lord ’s Day (and perhaps on Wednesday evening). Rather, he would minister publicly and from house to house. That is, he would minister the Word to entire congregations, and he would minister the Word to smaller groups and individuals as well.

 

Like a skilled marksman, the man of God knows how to wield his Bible as a shotgun (when, from the pulpit he sprays a wide pattern of bird shot, hoping to hit as many consciences as possible) or to utilize it as a 7mm ought 08 rifle (when, in the counseling office, he carefully places the crosshairs of his $1,200 Austrian-made scope on the exact spot where it will have the greatest impact).

 

Our churches are filled with spiritually weak, sick, and diseased sheep. Many of these flocks have shepherds who possess, in the Word of God, the cure for all such spiritual maladies, but who, because they are only interested in “feeding” the sheep, will not care for their wounds.

 

So, while all Christians are “competent to counsel,” all shepherds are “called to counsel.” And, Pastor, if you are called, you should be equipped. But are you? If you aren’t, there are training centers all across the United States (some of which even offer video training) that can furnish you with the right equipment. Never forget: You have all that you need in the Word of God (and through the Holy Spirit) to not only feed God’s flock, but also to cure its spiritually sick.

 

 

 

 

Last modified on Monday, 07 April 2014 14:30
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