I am not really a counselor, I am a pastor, (e.g. I don’t know how). Many Christians receive this response if they do go to their pastor for help. However, it really does not make any sense. Why? It makes no sense because the words pastor and counselor are virtually synonymous. To be a pastor is to be a counselor.
A pastor is one who shepherds the sheep, one who takes care of them, who keeps them out of trouble and tends to their wounds and injuries if they do get into difficulty. That is exactly what a pastor should be doing with his flock. His job is to teach, preach, and counsel in such a way that he steers the sheep away from trouble. If they are injured, it is his job to bind their wounds. It is not acceptable to say, “I don’t know how to bind that type of wound.” It is the job
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Reasons Why Pastors Don't Counsel
of the pastor to “know how.” That is what seminary training is supposed to provide the pastor, the “know how” for the work of ministry. If a man refuses to obtain the “know how” then he should not enter the ministry. And, it is not acceptable to ordain someone for the ministry who refuses to obtain the necessary “know how” to do the job.
A pastor who does not “know how” to do a major part of his job should immediately begin training to do so. A careful reading of this book will be a giant step in addressing this problem. In addition, he can obtain training as a pastor/counselor through a seminary that provides courses in biblical counseling. Most seminaries do not provide training in biblical counseling, but in integrationist counseling. They integrate the teachings of evil men with the teachings of Paul and Moses. This is the essence of Baal worship. These seminaries should be avoided; they are not a part of the solution; they are a part of the problem.
Instead, he can take special training with NANC (National Association of Nouthetic Counselors), the International Association of Biblical Counselors, CCEF (Christian Counseling and Education Foundation) and the Biblical Counseling Foundation. He can subscribe to the journals that will give him current insight into the world of counseling, and read the books that will provide him the skills he must have to do his job. It is simply not acceptable to say; “I don’t know how to counsel.” That is tantamount to saying “I don’t know how to pastor” or worse, “I don’t care.” Then don’t pastor; stay out of the ministry if you refuse to learn how to do the job properly.
I don't have time; (i.e. I don't have time to baby-sit immature Christians). The major reason a pastor does not have time for counseling is that he is doing one of several things wrong.
First, he is not counseling properly. The onus in counseling should always be on the counselee. Counseling is not an opportunity to waste an hour of the pastor’s time by crying and lamenting about how tough life is. Counseling is a structured process to move the counselee from problem to solution. It is the job of the pastor to drive home the responsibility the Christian has in confronting his or her problems and making substantive progress week by week to solution. One of the major ways a pastor can assure himself that he will not become “bogged down” in counseling is to insist that detailed and useful homework be done every week; many examples of which are found in these chapters. If the homework is not done, the pastor should say, “Go home and do it. When it is done call for another appointment. But don’t call until it is done.” With this approach, it is not possible to become “bogged down” in counseling.
Second, the pastor is not training his associate pastors, elders, deacons, and their wives, to help him in the counseling ministry. The result is, he is the only person in the church that can help people with problems. Again, the pastor himself has produced this problem. He created the predicament. Solution? Train the leaders of the church, the associate pastors, the elders, the deacons, and several of their wives, in the task of problem solving. Encourage them to equip themselves for this ministry. For a time, counsel together to assist each other. It is essential to multiply the pastor’s contribution in problem solving by training others to share the load.
So, pastors, accept the responsibility of your call; help (counsel) your people. It’s your job.
I am not qualified to deal with “mental illness,” (i.e. I am not a “mental health” professional). Many pastors do not feel qualified to deal with this thing called “mental illness.” They have been taught, and sincerely believe, that the spiritual is their responsibility, the physical is the physician’s responsibility and the psychological is the “mental health” professional’s responsibility. This is a false trichotomy. Truly the physical is the job of the physician, and many “mental health” issues are simply organic issues in need of the physicians attention, i.e. glandular malfunctions, diabetes reactions, brain tumors, and head traumas are examples of such. Of course, this is not the sphere of the pastor; it is the job of the medical professional.
However, what is the work of the “mental health” professional? Pastor, the next time a person comes into your office and states they have schizophrenia or uses some other $64 dollar word that someone labeled them with, simply say, “So tell me, what’s going on in your life?” Then sit back and listen as they talk about immorality, hate, violence, greed, anger, guilt, fear and anxiety. After a while, hopefully, you may begin to say to yourself, “Why, all this is in the Bible; I know how to deal with this!” That is exactly what “mental health” deals with as well, sin and its God ordained consequence. That’s your field, pastor. It is to this you are called. And it is to this that God equips you in His Word.
Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord; seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. (II Peter 1:2-3, NASB95)
What is it God equips you to deal with? Is it not life and godliness? Do you communicate the gospel? Then you administer life. Do you preach holiness? Then you administer godliness. Yes, pastor, you are qualified to deal with “mental illness.” Except, properly stated, it is not really mental illness, it is sinful behavior and its many horrible consequences--or it is physical, organic, medical damage.
But some will reply, “You don’t understand, these people are stark raving mad, you have never seen such mental confusion in your life! This has nothing to do with common sin!”
Then perhaps it has much to do with uncommon sin. Is there not a price to be paid for recalcitrant sin? Does God not give over some so that their present sin is exacerbated with greater sin so that they are “without understanding” (Romans 1: 21-32)?
Is not God the source of confusion and madness to those that defy His rule?
The Lord will smite you with madness and with blindness and with bewilderment of heart…. (Deuteronomy 28:28, NASB95)
Now the Spirit of the Lord departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the Lord terrorized him. (I Samuel 16:14, NASB95)
Then I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?” Then I said, “Here am I. Send me!” He said, “Go, and tell this people: ‘Keep on listening, but do not perceive; keep on looking, but do not understand.’ “Render the hearts of this people insensitive, their ears dull, and their eyes dim, otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts, and return and be healed.” (Isaiah 6:8-10, NASB95)
In light of this topic, one other point is important. Pastor, just because you are not able to help someone with their problems, that does not mean you have failed. When you preach the gospel, and sinners refuse to respond, that does not mean you failed. In like manner, when you minister practical and Scriptural solution to people in confusion and madness of mind, and they do not respond to your call to repentance and holiness, that does not mean you have failed. A sovereign God saves and heals whom He will. Your job is to minister the Word faithfully. The Holy Spirit will determine how the word is applied to the heart.
For he will deliver the needy when he cries for help, the afflicted also, and him who has no helper. He will have compassion on the poor and needy, and the lives of the needy he will save. He will rescue their life from oppression and violence, and their blood will be precious in his sight…. (Psalm 72:12-14, NASB95)
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